We are delighted to welcome you to our new dedicated Festival Friends’ News page, bringing you news, views, and a little gossip, about all that’s going on with the Festival and Friends. We’ll update this page about once a month and keep you informed about things like fundraisers, participation projects and lots of other news, as well as sneaky peeks of what will be happening at this year’s Festival.

No doubt you are aware that Friends priority booking for this year’s Festival is open and we are delighted to see that many of the Friends are taking advantage of these two special weeks.  It is always interesting to see what is popular with the Friends and the range  of events booked so far is evidence of what varied and interesting tastes our Friends have.

Of course, in addition to priority booking Friends also get discounts on five events this year which again cover a wide range of tastes.  The special one is Carismático Tango which the Friends are sponsoring and promises to be a stunning show.

I do hope that you are taking good advantage of the Friends benefits and, if you are not a Friend, do take a look and consider joining us; you’ll not only be reaping the benefits but also supporting the Festival.


The end of May and beginning of June brought the deadlines for two of our competitions: The Young Musicians’ Bursary and the Poet of the Year.   

The Bursary Competition has been in existence for 12 years now and we are very proud of the help we have been able to give the winners over the years.  The competition is open to music students from anywhere in Kent and is divided into Junior and Senior classes.  The shortlisted applicants are invited to auditions from which a few are chosen to play in the final which is held during Festival.  Each year the standard is incredibly high and the judges have the difficult job of choosing between very accomplished singers or instrumentalists .  The winner receives a cash prize which they may spend on anything that helps toward their musical development, and they also become a Festival Ambassador, performing throughout the year and encouraging other young musicians.  

The Poet of the Year Competition has truly flourished.  From small beginnings we now receive entries from all over the globe as well as from our wonderful local poets.  Each year the judges have a mighty task reading, considering and discussing several hundred poems in order to choose a longlist, then a shortlist, and then the winners.  Besides becoming the Poet of the Year the winner is asked to become a judge the following year and the anthology cover is based on the their winning poem . 

Watch out for details of the competitions and results on the Festival website news page and Friends newsletter.  

Valuable Volunteers

The Festival has a wonderful team of Volunteers who take on stewarding and other duties during the Festival and for our year-round fundraisers. Every year we tell them “we couldn’t do it without you” and this is absolutely, totally and utterly true.

During Festival we use a number venues all of which have their own quirks and procedures. The Festival Team are in charge of Front of House and need help with things such as ticket selling and checking, showing customers to their seats, setting and clearing up, car parking, raffle ticket selling and many other odd (and not so odd) things. Our Volunteers are always very accommodating and willing to take on whatever we ask of them with good grace and a great sense of humour. They were amazing in 2020 and 2021, our Festivals during the time of Covid, with sanitising, social distancing, one-way systems and the like.

Our Volunteers are a great mix of people, some have been helping us for many years – our longest serving Volunteer has been with us for nearly 40 years – and all of them give their time and energy to support the Festival for which we are so very, very grateful.

If you are interested in becoming a Festival Volunteers, click here.

If you’ve never been to one of our Tea and Talk events may I recommend that you come along to St Peter’s Methodist Church on 26 May and enjoy a genteel afternoon with a Georgian theme.

Many of you will know Dr Doreen Rosman, popular local historian, lecturer, guide and author, who we are pleased to say will be giving a talk for us on Georgian Canterbury. Canterbury’s great history has been the subject of many talks on the Romans, Anglo Saxons, Middle Ages, Tudors and Victorians, but there seem to have been fewer about Georgian times. A thriving city, Canterbury was subject to great changes during this period and Doreen’s lecture will take us through these, putting Canterbury in context within the fair county of Kent.

Before the talk begins, tea and delicious homemade cakes will be served in the Church Hall so do come and join us for a lovely afternoon of beverages, sweetmeats and fascinating information.


Canterbury Festival is a two-week arts festival held in October, isn’t it? Well, yes, but there’s much, much more. We have events all year round. Some are fundraisers, others community events, and sometimes we assist other organisations with their events.

We do all kinds of things during the year to raise money towards creating those two wonderful weeks. Last year for example, despite Covid, we held a History Day, a mini-Festival called Summer in Barham with four fabulous outdoor concerts, a harp recital and two walks, the Poet of the Year Competition, and our Christmas concert.

Naturally, community events were curtailed last year, but in 2020 we had the Beat This drumming workshops, the Schools’ Poetry Competition and our annual Bursary Competition. As for assisting other organisations, you may remember The Globe on Tour at Chilham Castle a few years ago, and, more recently, the Medieval Pageants in Canterbury which we were delighted to help with. We also now offer Box Office services as well.

This year we are planning some truly spectacular events throughout the year including: a festival for and by young people in June, a Talk, another mini-Festival in Barham in July, a Cricket Day in September and a Cabaret in October. Details of these and more, will be release through the Newsletter and e-news

So, when people ask (and they do) what do you do for the rest of the year, we can truthfully say ‘ever such a lot’.

Now January is over it is time to think about our annual Poet of the Year Competition.  We are pleasantly surprised with the way our competition has grown from small beginnings, thanks to email we now receive entries from all over the globe.  Last year we received 598 entries from 20 countries, including from every corner of the United Kingdom.  I am also delighted that we receive so many from our very talented local poets, some of whom enter every year.

Not being a poet myself I am amazed at the range of formats and subjects.  From Haikus to ballads, Limericks to free verse, every aspect of life is addressed, sometimes comically, sometimes candidly, sometimes movingly, but always in a very personal way.

Of course, reading all those poems is a mighty task for our judges and I so appreciate the long hours and hard work they put in.  One of the judges is always the previous year’s winner so if you enter, bear in mind that if you win you may have to read several hundred poems the following year. I am, however, assured that this is a real joy to anyone who loves poetry.

So, calling all poets; send your verses to me and enter the competition.  No matter if this is your first ever poem or if you are a long-standing writer.  The judging is done anonymously; the poems are sent to the judges with just a number, no clue as to who the poet is –  I am the only person who knows who wrote what.  The competition is launched on 1 March so I look forward to receiving your entries after that date.  Full details will be on the website.

Good luck.


The short answer is loads! Marketing sounds like a simple job but there is so much involved.  Rob, our Marketing and Box Office Manager, is constantly busy with the many different strands of his job.  To start with – advertising. Rob deals with all the promotion of the Festival in print and digital. He gets our details into newspapers and magazines, radio and TV, all types of social media and makes sure it’s all updated. He sends out email news and updates the Festival website.  He is responsible for the Festival brochure – its design, pagination, proofing and printing, not a small task by any means, and you have probably seen the wonderful window vinyls and big street bollards we having during Festival which are all down to him.

Rob also manages our Box Office. He sets up all the events with their details, ticketing and seating plans on the Box Office system, along with the customer records,  Friends memberships, discounts and anything else needed. He sorts out any glitches which crop up and, indeed, he’s our office IT guru; whenever something goes wrong with the techy stuff he’s our first port of call. Alongside all this Rob is always researching new ways of promoting the Festival and has close liaisons with local organisation.

So, it would seem there is certainly enough to keep a Marketing Manager busy all day.

It’s hard to believe that Festival finished four weeks ago. I trust you enjoyed everything you went to this year?  I felt it was excellent, especially in view of the rather ambiguous situation we all feel we are in Covid-wise just now. A little bigger than last year’s Festival, the variety and quality of shows, concerts, talks, and everything else was so good, I especially enjoyed Matt Ford and the Chris Ingham Trio, and the Dad’s Army Radio Show.

Now we look forward to Christmas which is surprisingly close. To begin Advent we have our Christmas Concert – A Christmas Offering – with the fabulous Bourne Consort.  You may that remember they performed for our Christmas event a few years ago and sang a delightful and eclectic mixture of songs and carols. They sing a capella and obviously enjoy themselves, revealing a sense of humour and they include some songs for everyone to join in.  So do come along and start Christmas on a real high note (no pun intended).  Tickets available from the Box Office.


Canterbury Festival 2021 is nearly upon us and, here in the office, last minute preparations are being made ready for the arrival of artists, technicians, stewards and customers – it’s an anxious but exciting time.

Last year was a very different Festival with low capacities and lots of protocols to be followed, but it all went smoothly, and we send our thanks to everyone involved for doing that little bit extra. This year the Festival is a bit bigger and things are more relaxed, though we are still practising some Covid precautions such as asking our customers to wear face coverings.

The programme has something for everyone;  music – history – science – comedy – family. When I was asked “What sort of thing does the Festival do?” – I said “Everything from Baroque to Burlesque” which I think should cover it all.

My recommendation to everyone would be to go to something you wouldn’t have thought of going to before. So often I’ve been amazed at how much I’ve enjoyed a show, a talk or a concert, which I would never have normally chosen to go to. Why not take a leap in the dark and try it, you may be pleasantly surprised.


Enjoy the Festival.


September is nearly done which means Festival is getting perilously close with much still to do.  Although the programme is in place, all the logistics need to be organised and refined. Luckily we have a great team here who take everything in their stride and get things done. It’s amazing what goes on behind the scenes but so worth it when everything works and the show does go on.

Lauren, our Programme Co-Ordinator, looks after the overall organisation of arrivals, meetings, set-ups, requirements and departures of the artists, liaises with the venues and our Production Manager, Mark, to sort out the technology for sound and lighting, as well as organising the students who help out and gain work experience with us. In addition, this year Lauren is also coordinating our special Beautiful Noise Community Celebration on 23 October managing 26 artists or groups performing in six venues throughout the day –  a triumph of  scheduling and organisation. Much to do but Lauren is very organised so it will all be fine.

Meanwhile, tickets are still available for many Festival events and prior to that we have the Poet of the Year Awards Evening on 7 October at Chilham Village Hall from 8pm. Entry is free and everyone is welcome.

We are delighted to see that so many Friends have taken advantage of priority booking over the past two weeks. Tickets are now on general sale and we’re pleased to say that business has been brisk, keeping the Team on their toes with telephone calls and in-person bookings at the Box Office. With the exciting and eclectic programme we have this year we are feel we have something for everyone so don’t forget to spread the word.

Besides the Festival itself we also have a fundraising History Day in September with two fabulous talks. You will probably recognise Egyptologist Prof Aidan Dodson from TV documentaries such as Egypt’s Lost Pyramid and Tut’s Treasures: Hidden Secrets. We are delighted that Prof Dodson is giving a talk for us about Nefertiti, Queen and Pharaoh: Her Life and Afterlife  in which he investigates what we know and what we don’t know about this beautiful, iconic woman. There will also be tea and homemade cakes served beforehand to tempt you even more.

Jumping forward two and a half millennia, popular local historian Dr Sheila Sweetingburgh is giving a talk entitled To Move the Mind; Reading Salvation in the Late Medieval Parish Church in which she explores how parishioners understood the wall painting they saw and how these images might help with their salvation making use of examples such as at Faversham.

Knowing that so many of the Friends have an interest in history this is a splendid opportunity to indulge in a day of pure enjoyment. Full details are on the website.

I hope you have received your Festival brochure and have acted upon it, taking advantage of the Friends’ priority booking. Sales went live at 11am on Monday and we were very busy at the Box Office and on the phone, not to mention the on-line sales going on behind the scenes. Thankfully, all went fairly smoothly with just a couple of glitches that Rob, our Marketing Manager and computer wiz, put to rights nice and quickly. As some of the smaller events such as the limited numbered walks have sold out, it certainly demonstrates the advantage of being a Friend.

General sales open on 16 August so if there’s something you want to go to make sure you book soon. In the meantime don’t forget the Friends’ fundraisers: Vines, Wines and Valuations – a delightful combination of expertise in wine and antiques – and our two history talks – Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh on medieval church art and Prof Aidan Dodson on Nefertiti. Full details are on the ‘What’s On’ page.

I’m sure you’ll agree we have a great Festival programme this year, a truly eclectic mix to suit all tastes. If you haven’ already done so, please do pass on your second copy of the brochure and tell everyone about the Friends. Should you want any extra copies just let us know, we have plenty in the office for distribution as far and wide as possible.

Our fundraising mini-festival, Summer in Barham got underway on Saturday with the wonderful Gentlemen of Few performing in the lovely garden of Barham Court. Their opening this week of fundraising was very appropriate as they were the closing performance at last year’s Festival. On Sunday we were treated to some great Swing by the superb KD Jazz and Dance Orchestra with sizzling vocalist Ginger Bennett which certainly got people up and dancing. Two awesome evenings of first-class entertainment and such a great way to start a very special week.

Still to come we have two walks, a delightful harp recital with Camilla Pay, and a talk by Dave Parker of the Canterbury Auction Galleries about Hogarth’s foray into Kent.

We finish this weekend with two more big and rather special events in Barham Court: Saturday sees Good Gnus offer gentle satire through the work of Flanders and Swan, Tom Lehrer, and Stilgoe and Skellern, not to mention a few well- crafted interpretations of their own, and on Sunday we have Back to Broadway, a celebration of all those great songs from the musicals that you’ve always know and probably sing in the shower.

The weather was kind last weekend, so we are keeping everything crossed for the same this week.  There are still a few tickets left for both walks, Good Gnus and Back to Broadway so now is your last chance to book. It’s a great way to support the Festival, and to have a really good time.

I trust that you have all received and had a chance to look at the Friends Newsletter.  As you can see we have a number of super events lined up for the Summer and leading up to Festival itself, not the least of which is our Summer in Barham mini-festival. Tickets are going fast so don’t delay booking.

You may have noticed that one of our events is the Poet of the Year Awards Evening.  Each year the Friends run this competition as a fundraiser and it has become internationally popular, with entries being received from just along the road in Canterbury all the way to Australia, and many, many places in between. There is a strong community of poets locally and, indeed, last year’s winner was Charlotte Cornell from Whitstable. The year before, however, it was Mara Adamtiz Scrupe from Philadelphia, which goes to prove that poetry is popular and thriving everywhere.

The deadline for entries has just closed and all 598 poems received this year have been sent to the Judges who have a mammoth task reading, discussing  and eventually agreeing which poems will be longlisted. These poems will be compiled into our annual anthology and from them the shortlist will be chosen.  Keep a watch on the website for the announcement of the longlist, the shortlist and for when the anthology goes on sale.

The Festival’s in-house musicologist and multi-instrumentalist, Dr Alan Payne, recently contributed to The Canterbury Sound in Popular Music: Scene, Identity and Myth, a book by Asya Draganova, Shane Blackman and Andy Bennett. Having hosted bands including Caravan and more recently Syd Arthur over the years, we asked Alan to give us his thoughts on the Canterbury Sound.

Whether you are a long-term Canterbury resident or a comparative newcomer, the chances are you may not know that there is a brand of popular music associated with the area. Its name and notoriety have spread throughout the world; its devotees share memories of gigs and reviews of new bands on many online sites. Why, then, is the city not teeming with blue plaques and memorabilia?

The problem may be one of definition. At roughly the same time that Liverpool spawned the distinctive and driving Mersey Sound and declared itself a thriving scene, a phenomenon never associated with Canterbury, ex-Langton pupils formed The Wilde Flowers, part-covers band, part-experimental jazz combo. Sharing gigs with local bands now long-forgotten, but never recording commercially, The Wilde Flowers produced their own fusion of pop and free jazz in continuous sets designed never to give the audience the chance to stop dancing!

The music gathered momentum as Caravan, still performing today, formed with some of the same musicians but a more folk-based whimsical style on albums that, to many, anchors the Canterbury Sound. Caravan, like Soft Machine – a band that, to date, has endured more than twenty lineups and despite its constant Canterbury labelling formed in Dulwich – found recognition in London clubs and rarely played in East Kent.

Interest in the bands which, to some, formed a Canterbury Sound faded in the 1980s, subsumed within mainstream rock but revived with the creation of a specialist fan magazine, Facelift, towards the end of the decade. It was published in Manchester. Contemporary Canterbury Sound aficianados celebrate the success of the bands and their considerable legacy with no sense of place or, particularly, time. Fans will travel to hear Caravan; the musicians’ names remain well-known to those who support the band and their heritage. Canterbury itself rarely finds a mention.

Alan Payne

You may know that besides the single, couple and family memberships, the Friends also have special Silver and Gold Members. We cherish all our members and greatly appreciated all their subscriptions, but our Silver and Gold members philanthropically give us a little extra, all of which goes towards supporting the Festival. As a thank you for this extra support the benefits for these special memberships have recently been increased.

Silver Friends now receive all the usual Friends’ benefits along with two tickets to one of the Friends’ fundraising events, a free concert programme and invitations to the Festival Launch ,where you will have the opportunity to have a drink with the Festival Team and Trustees, and hear what’s coming up during this year’s Festival from Festival Director Rosie Turner.

Gold Friends receive the same as Silver Friends plus two tickets to the Friends’ sponsored event during the Festival. As well as invitations to the Sponsors’ and Supporters’ Reception, a very special gathering where you can meet, have a drink and chat with not only the Team and Trustees, but our wonderful supporters, sponsors and Corporate Members.

Silver Membership is £100 and Gold is £300, so why not consider upgrading your membership and supporting the Festival and Friends that little bit more.


Did you see the events on our website?  The wonderful Festival Chamber Orchestra’s set of concerts ranging from Baroque right through to Motown – fabulously diverse.  They are glorious to listen to and were such a hit with Musical Magnificence during the Festival last year.  Definitely worth going to.

Plus, there is our fabulous Summer in Barham mini festival.  A great mix of bring-your-own -picnic concerts, walks, a talk and a harp recital, it looks like summer really is on its way.  Do come along and bring your friends, family, neighbours, acquaintances, I’m sure they’ll all enjoy it.  They may even become Friends themselves and help support the Festival besides getting those great benefits.

Work goes on apace here with programming the Festival, launching our Bursary Competition and registering entries for the Poet of the Year. I’m also preparing our Gift Aid claim so, if you qualify and haven’t done so already, please tick our Gift Aid box on the website or complete and return a declaration to me. Being able to claim an extra 25% from the Tax Man on your subscriptions and donations makes such a difference to us.


Yes, we’re all back and working hard, almost as if we’ve never been away.  We are lucky that our office is big enough to socially distance and we are all so happy to be back working together – we’re not called the ‘Festival Team’ for nothing.

Programming for the Festival is underway and as we can now talk to each other in person we can bounce ideas and suggestions which is great, something we really missed. Fundraising goes on apace and we’ll soon be able to start advertising some of our forthcoming events, so watch out for them.

Meanwhile, all the usual administration goes on and I am beginning work on the Friends’ Newsletter.  You may have noticed that we didn’t issue our usual Spring Newsletter. With lockdown, working from home and being unable to hold fundraisers at the end of last year and the beginning of this, we decided to issue one Newsletter for 2021 containing all the news, views and information you’ll need.   It’ll be coming out in June!

Welcome back to the Friends’ news page. I do hope you enjoy reading these little bits of news and gossip, keeping you updated with how things are going with the Friends and Festival.  Just at the moment we are all still working from home, but plans are afoot to get back into the office soon, there‘s so much to do. 

Both the Friends and Festival are very busy organising the Festival and some fabulous fundraisers.  Once lockdown is eased and we can meet again (even if it is still socially distanced) we have some of our old favourite events, and some rather special new ones, all planned for the second half of the year. As soon as we are able details will be put onto the website and you will be able to purchase tickets in all the usual ways.   

In the meantime, may I refer you to our What’s On page and the superb concerts at Kent College on 23 May, 30 May and 20 June. A wonderful start to our cultural year. 

Lastly, please don’t forget to renew your Friends’ membership. Unless you pay be standing order or direct debit, please check how to renew on the ‘Become a Friend’ page.   If you have any problems, contact me at the Festival Office.   


Friends Secretary

Following last year’s, small but beautiful, Festival, we have been taking a look at what we learned from it and how we can best use that knowledge. One of the things we certainly learned was how wonderful the Friends are. Many of the limited tickets were bought by Friends and we received some truly warm-hearted comments from you which we so very much appreciated.

In order to say thank you, and in the hope of recruiting more Friends, we have revised the Friends’ benefits, do click through to our Become a Friend’s page for more details.

I hope you enjoy this innovation for the Friends and will join us every fortnight, becoming friends as well as Friends.


Friends’ Secretary.