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.

Thinking ahead is something we should all  try to do, and it is an essential requirement for running a Festival;  it’s sometimes necessary to plan events several years ahead.

We always have the future of the Festival in mind  but in these financially difficult times, ensuring we have sufficient funds to put on our annual Festival whilst keeping ticket prices down as much as possible, is a delicate business.  Although we hold fundraising events throughout the year, receive subscriptions from the Friends and Vice Presidents, plus kind and generous donations from many of our supporters, it is always good to know that there will be funds for the future.

To this end we have arranged a special seminar on 16 May for Friends who are interested in continuing  to support the Festival by leaving a legacy in their wills. It will be a relaxed and informative evening with advice from experts and ending with some light relief from the former Head of Forensics at Scotland Yard regaling us with anecdotes of his long and eventful career.

Further details may be found on page 3 of the Friends’ Newsletter or by contacting the Festival office.  If you would like to attend please contact Tina at [email protected] or by calling 01227 452853.

Stepping out!  We have started organising some of our fundraising events for this year and you will be hearing about our Step into Spring walking weekend.  This was a great success last year so we decided to do it again, but in the hope that the weather will be kinder; last year there were gales and rain resulting in a very precarious start on top of the Dane John Mound for one walk, and an awful lot of mud to trudge through on some of the others.

The walks for the weekend have been kindly donated by organisations and walk leaders who also do our Festival walks, and this gives everyone an opportunity to enjoy a Spring walk rather than an Autumn one.

We have some rather interesting literary walks this year including an A-Z of the city’s literary connections, Chaucer and Christopehr Marlowe. Besides these there are also walks on royalty,  public art, Canterbury in war and peace, and the Old Park area  from pre-history onwards. Lastly, for the brave hearted, we end with a spooky ghost walk. Details will soon be on the website and Box Office.

Happy New Year. 2024 is upon us leaving memories of the marvellous Festival we held in 2023, including the astounding Renaissance sound and light experience in the Cathedral.  It was a landmark year with the retirement of Rosie as Festival Director after 20 years at the helm.  Rosie’s legacy is an all-embracing Festival which covers every aspect of the performing arts (and a bit more) from medieval sacred music to Sophie Ellis-Baxter, from a cocktail laboratory to Joyce Grenfell.  Quite an act to follow but  we are in the safe and experienced hands of Acting Director Amanda MacKean who is even now using her expertise programming some amazing events for this year.

In addition to the Festival, we are planning our year-round events, both community and fundraising.   Amanda Sefton Hogg is working with various organisations, schools and universities on an eclectic mix of community events, and the Festival is organising another Step in Spring walking weekend in April, plus our popular Summer in Barham mini-Festival in July.  The Friends are also planning some fascinating fundraisers, but more information about these in due course.

It’s been a while since we added the last news bulletin because we have been so incredibly busy preparing and running the Festival.

In September we had Renaissance which was the most incredible sound and light show, very difficult to describe as you really need to be there to understand its effect.  The images were beautiful and varied reflecting many aspects of the Renaissance from beautiful  botany to serene Madonnas.  The moving images, in particular, were mesmeric.

The Festival itself was very, very busy.  Some days we had 12 or 13 events, and there was certainly variety.  Highlights were the big concerts – Gabreille, Ruby Turner, and the Cathedral concerts such as the Tallis Scholars and Armonico Consort.  Great reports have come back to us about the Peatbog Faeries, Jazz at the Movies, Elegie and Slapstick presents Scherzo.

Of course, the talks were as popular as ever, especially Masquerade with Oliver Soden and Michael Wood In Search of the Dark Ages.  We certainly had something for everyone.

Now we have the big clear up and the big count up, and it can be safely said that Rosie’s last Festival as Director, was a triumph.

At the end of July we held two fabulous concerts as part of our Summer in Barham mini Festival in the gorgeous grounds of Barham Court, courtesy of Dr Kate Neales and Mr Peter Cox, to whom we send enormous thanks.

These late afternoon/early evening concerts are a real joy. Our customers bring a whole variety of different types of picnic from sandwiches and chocolate bars to complete meals, constructed in all sorts of clever ways, and with matching wine. Portable chairs and tables abound, and it is so good to see everyone enjoying entertainment al-fresco.

Things do not, however, always go to plan. The weather on Saturday was terrible but our wonderful hosts had arranged for everything to be moved into the Church. The Beard Conspiracy were a tremendous hit and, in fact a perfect fit for the Church with accordion, tuba, guitar and vocals. Their style can’t really be defined but is a mixture which definitely works.

We were luckier with the weather on Sunday when Rubber Biscuit performed a fabulous mixture of R&B, Soul, Motown, and several other genres in a style all their own. With four vocalists and a seven-piece band their infectious music got most of the audience up and dancing.

Watch out for our picnic concerts next year, they’re really worth going to.

Although Canterbury Festival isn’t a summer event, we can’t help taking advantage of the good weather to arrange some fundraising events that take advantage of the season.

At the end of June we have a special and unusual fundraiser at the oldest recorded house in England, Eastry Court.  The evening will start with a reception and talk about the long, eventful and intriguing history of the house, followed by a harp recital by Camilla Pay, the perfect way the round off a summer’s evening.

July brings our Summer in Barham mini-Festival.  It begins with a pair of walks guided by two of our greatest supporters.  Tony Walder, Trustee and Volunteer, will lead you along the lush and lovely North Downs, and Penny Morgan, Silver Friend and Volunteer, up, down and around the lovely village of Bishopsbourne.

Concert Violinist Alda Dizdari will give a special performance at Barham Church, with a programme of wonderful solo pieces, old and new.

A complete change of pace over the weekend brings two fabulous bands for our picnic concerts at Barham Court, with thanks to Peter Cox and Kate Neales for the use of their fabulous garden again.  The Hot Rats bring Celtic, world and original music, and Rubber Biscuit bring four singers and seven musicians playing a mixture of styles, all their own.  Both are guaranteed to be joyous and fun.

Details of all these events are on the Festival website – book soon and we’ll see you there.

Though Spring if officially here, the weather seems determined to contradict the season. We work all year towards the Festival, but this is the time when things begin to come together and we are all busy in our different ways.

Programming is ongoing with a lot in place but more for Rosie, Amanda M and Lauren to finalise. Venue requirements for lighting and sound, technicians and Stage Manager are all being coordinated by Lauren, Rob is working hard on the brochure cover design, layout and text along with preparing the Box office for all the events, and Amanda M is very busy with our sponsors and Vice Presidents.  Meanwhile Alison keeps the accounts and budgets in order and now the end of the financial year has passed, is arranging the annual audit.

Besides all this Amanda SH is energetically engaging with lots of organisations and schools for our outreach and community work, and fundraisers are being organised including our Summer in Barham Mini-Festival.  The usual round of Board and Committee meetings continues as well as updating Friends’ memberships, registering entries for the Bursary Competition and usual day-to-day running of the office and Festival.

This year, however, things are little different as it will be Rosie’s last Festival as Director.  It will be so very strange without her at the helm, but at least we have her until the end of the year. The process of appointing a new Director is underway and will be announced in due course.

Canterbury Festival stretches out its arms many directions to include as many people as possible in as many ways as possible.  The Friends organise the Poet of the Year Competition which is not just open to local poets but to anyone worldwide.  The Bursary Competition for Young Musicians is open to students of classical music in Kent schools, and we have around 70 Volunteer Stewards who help with Festival and other events throughout the year.

During the Festival we hold the Beautiful Noise Community Day showcasing local musical talent of all kinds – choirs, solo artists, bands, schools – performing all kinds of music.  It’s a day of people enjoying themselves all over the city, both in performing and being entertained.

In addition to these, our Public Engagement Manager is launching some fabulous new projects to reach out even further including events and workshops with the dementia charity Forget-Me-Nots, Catching Lives, schools, colleges and universities, and the creation of a Beautiful Noise Orchestra made up of musicians from local schools who will perform during Festival.

I hope that within the reach of these long arms there is something to interest you and yours.  The Bursary and Poetry Competitions are both open for entries now, full details can be found on the website.  If you are interested in taking part in Beautiful Noise, please contact the Festival Office and ask to speak to Amanda Sefton Hogg.

In the last Friends’ News I referred to our mini-Walks Festival and am pleased to say that these events are now up and running on the Box Office.  Lauren, our Programme Coordinator, has done a magnificent job in combining a mix of subjects, places and durations that will interest just about everyone.

For the historically minded Doreen Rosman will lead tours of Georgian and Victorian Canterbury, there is an intriguing history of the Dane John Gardens with Karen Emery of the Kent Gardens Trust, and a walking biography about controversial 18th century Alderman, James Simmons, with Julian Waltho.  We are also delighted that former Director of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, Paul Bennett, will be guiding us around Worthgate and the Castle area which will be benefiting from the Levelling Up grant.

For those interested in flora and fauna, or in longer walks, you can wake up with the inhabitants and experts of Wildwood, search for beavers on the Stour with a former member of the Environment Agency’s National Beaver Project Team, walk through the woods from Fordwich with Penny Stevens of U3A,  through farmland and forest at Harbledown with Babs Golding of the local RSPB, or round Tyler Hill with Jenny Keaveney of the Canterbury Ramblers.  More artistically inclined?  Learn about Christopher Marlowe with Franki Gray of Canterbury Guided Tours, and even more about Marlowe along with Aphra Behn with David Reekie of the Ramblers, or how about the stories behind those public artworks we pass every day with Kerstin Muller of the Blue Badge Guides.

That’s a superb choice of walks to choose from so do come and join us to improve both mind and body.  Details are on the website and you can book through the Festival Box Office.  Happy walking.

A very Happy New Year to you all from the Festival Team.

What do we have to look forward to in 2023?  Well, work has begun on programming this year’s Festival of course, and you may have seen that we have the wonderful Gabrielle appearing as part of her 30 Years of Dreaming Tour, tickets for which are already on sale. Besides Gabrielle there will be our usual mix of music, drama, comedy, science and family events; something we hope that will appeal to everyone and maybe tempt you to come along to an event you wouldn’t usually consider; you will almost certainly be pleasantly surprised.

Before then, however, we will be holding a number of fundraising events.  Just now we are organising a mini Walks Festival entitled Step into Spring over the weekend of 31 March – 2 April.  Knowing how popular the Festival walks are with the Friends, I recommend that you look out for the release of the schedule ready to book as soon as they are available on the Box Office.

Plans are ongoing for other events through the year and we will keep the Friends updated on this page and by e-news, so look out 2023, it’s going to be busy.

I hope that each and every one of you enjoyed this year’s superb Festival.  We had two wonderful weeks of eclectic events ranging from a talk about Josiah Wedgewood to Argentinian Tango, Giant Balloons to a Bach Mass. We then followed this with three evenings in the Cathedral with Shine; Let There Be Light, the most amazing son-et-lumiere event – do, take a look at the pictures on facebook.

What next?  Well, we are holding our Christmas event on 2 December.  Instead of a Carol concert, this year are very pleased to welcome Good Gnus.  David Flood, Chris Price and Jon Williams will be performing a collection of satirical songs by such wonderfully witty writers as Flanders and Swann, Noel Coward, Tom Lehrer and Stilgoe and Skellern.  It is bound to be an incredibly entertaining evening of clever words and music, something to make you smile and set you up for the forthcoming festive season.  To assist with this, we are also offering mulled wine, or a non-alcoholic alternative, and mince pies to round off the evening.

So, do come along ready to relax, have a giggle or two, and begin your Christmas in style

With less than a week to go before Festival begins, here’s a quick review of what’s going on behind the scenes getting ready for three hectic, but enjoyable, weeks of entertainment.

To begin with, venues need to be set up so all the technical requirements must be finalised;  things like lighting and sound which will need to be adjusted for each event.  Mark, our Production Manager, Matt our Technical Manager and Steve our Stage Manager all work together on this to ensure everything runs smoothly and seamlessly.

The Production Team, Programme Coordinator and Business Manager sort out the Artists’ requirements which can vary from a bottle of water to specialised throat lozenges, full meals to tiny amounts of honey. Travel and accommodation are all in place but, of course, might be changed at the last minute.

Signage needs to be prepared and displayed in conjunction with the venue, and arrangements made for the positioning of Box Office with Wi-Fi connections if needed.  Box Office is usually busy the week before Festival as well as when it is actually happening, so we need to be prepared for a late rush or customers arriving with, or without, tickets.  Floats, seating plans, customer lists and ticket printers all need to be arranged.

Stewards have been recruited and allocated to their various duties; we have a marvelous band of Volunteers who give so much time to the Festival, we really couldn’t do it without them.  The Team create a schedule of who is Front of House at each event, what they need to know about the venue, artist and that specific performance.

This just gives an idea of some the things that will be going on in the Festival Office so that we will be ready to welcome you to our wonderful events.

Julius Caesar has some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines, from “Beware the ides of March “ and “Friends, Romans, countrymen”, to “The Noblest Roman of them All”, yet, although we know these phrases, how many of us have seen the play itself?

Dealing with great themes such as politics, power, conspiracy, public opinion and integrity, the play is not just relevant to its time and place but can be seen as reflecting many other times and places, including our own .
The extraordinary Globe on Tour’s production brings these events and themes into stark reality. A wonderfully performed, modern yet faithful, production of this powerful play portrays these important, fascinating events, and the struggles that surrounded them.

We are delighted to bring Julius Caesar to the Great Hall at Kent College this month. If you have never seen it this is a superb opportunity to enjoy Shakespeare’s tragedy, and put into context all those famous lines.

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.