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Our plans for Canterbury Festival 2020

Canterbury Festival has decided that  ”The Show Must Go On” this year between 17 – 31 October.

With the landscape for live events seesawing daily, the Festival was faced with the option of shutting down for a year or rethinking its plans entirely.

The team has decided to take the plunge and commit to a reduced Festival with small-scale events, social distancing and limited capacities. The Festival is under no illusions – the situation could change dramatically, the easing of measures could be slowed, reversed or a local lockdown imposed. However, in these turbulent times they feel that hope is important and that whilst these events will not even cover their costs, it is important to do something for Canterbury.

Festival Director Rosie Turner acknowledges, “We realise that all our efforts may come to nothing, but we felt we had to make preparations in the hope that live events will be able to go ahead indoors with social distancing. We were not ready to give up – nor were our performers – so come October (if we get the green light) there will be a Festival to enjoy.”

This year’s Festival will launch with award-winning vocal ensemble Tenebrae – who will perform a dramatic programme centring on the winter and summer solstices with works by Maxwell Davies, Francis Poulenc, Joanna Marsh, Ēriks Ešenvalds, Holst and John Rutter. With the addition of Canterbury-born harpist Camilla Pay, audiences can expect an emotional journey from dark to light – resonating in stunning confines of Canterbury Cathedral.

Canterbury celebrates Beethoven’s 250th birthday with a tour de force by one of the world’s most innovative pianists – Joanna MacGregor. Over three days Joanna will perform all 32 of Beethoven’s life-affirming sonatas across 8 concerts – bringing to life the love, faith and courage of his works.

Show-stopping acrobatics meets the punch of theatre with Bromance – the international award-winning hit from the Barely Methodical Troupe. Prepare for an adrenaline fuelled performance where handshakes become handstands and backslaps become backflips. Live circus is back and it’s incredible!

Stand-up is made for live audiences and the Festival is thrilled to welcome one of the top (and hardest working) comedians in the UK today, Hal Cruttenden. A regular on Live at the Apollo, Have I Got News For You and Mock the Week – Hal’s razor-sharp wit guarantees a great night for comedy lovers.

The Festival is delighted to welcome an array of speakers discussing everything from history to national security. Highlights include historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes who will unpick the history of Venus and Aphrodite; former government minister Oliver Letwin reveals the potential risks to the UK’s tech dependent society; Kadie Kanneh-Mason reflects on what it takes to raise seven classically trained musicians in a Britain divided by class and race; and broadcaster, author and physicist Jim Al Khalili presents this year’s Kent College Lecture, The World According to Physics.

Festival Director Rosie Turner says, “It’s not exactly business as usual but we are trying to produce the next best thing. Of course everything might change, but we are hopeful that Canterbury Festival will be part of our City’s recovery from Covid-19 rather than its casualty. Safety comes first, and I expect it will feel strange to be sitting at distance, but we felt it was important not to let down our loyal customers. I hope people will take their own precautions – wear a mask – and enjoy some respite from the stress that we’ve all lived with in recent months. For those not up to venturing out, there will be a few events online – but, as I always say, “I hope I’ll see you there!”

The full programme will be announced in late August with priority tickets for Festival Friends available from Thursday 3 September and general bookings from Monday 14 September. Keep up to date with the latest news and events by signing up to the Festival mailing list, or by following the Festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @canterburyfest.