Canterbury Festival aims to find, develop and showcase local emerging and mid-career talent. Our year-round programme includes work with young people, artists, educators and our audiences; encouraging engagement with the arts for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Click the links below to find out more about our past and ongoing projects.

The exciting launch of our new annual youth music project, to showcase local instrumental and choral talents was a spectacular success. The project brought together 44 young musicians aged 14-18, performing an eclectic programme of film music. Over 200 primary school children attended the afternoon rehearsal and the orchestra performed to a Festival audience in the evening.

“It was a wonderful evening – the coming together of local young musicians sharing their talent and love of music in a non-competitive, inclusive event.” Jane Birt, Festival Volunteer

“The concert showcased the power of bringing young people together with music to produce a concert of professional standard.  A delightful evening for performers and audience.”  Becky Parker, SLGGS Visiting Professor, School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary, University of London

“We really enjoyed the Beautiful Noise Orchestra afternoon it was lovely to sit and listen to the pieces of music in beautiful surroundings. Our pupils were highly engaged and very interested in the different instruments, especially those that they had neither seen nor heard before – and the event allowed the children to listen to music played in ways they don’t often get a chance to hear.” Clare Pearson, Teacher, Bridge & Patrixbourne CEP School

On Monday 23 October the Canterbury Festival 2023 Young Musicians’ Bursary Competition was held at The Great Hall, Kent College.

As always, this event was fiercely competitive and a challenge to the talent, technical brilliance and musical poise of the performers. They played in front of a panel of distinguished judges; Dr Susan Wanless (Chair of Judges and Former Director of Music, University of Kent), Alastair Hume (Founding Member of The Kings Singers) and Emily Renshaw-Kidd (Director of Music, Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys).

Dr Susan Wanless acknowledged the wonderfully “varied selection of instruments and pieces” from the 10 finalists. Sadly, there could only be one winner.

After much deliberation this year’s senior Young Musician Bursary Competition winner was announced as recorder player Cora Hewitt. She played two pieces – ‘Music for a Bird’ by Hans Martin Linde and ‘Tico Tico’ by Zequinha de Abreu, both accompanied by her teacher, Debbie Poro. Cora began playing recorder at the age of 7 and enjoys performing as a soloist and partaking masterclasses. She is passionate about everyone having the opportunity to access and engage with music. A huge congratulations to Cora and to our other participants who all demonstrated amazing technical talent and passion for their artform.

Cora will become Canterbury Festival Foundation Ambassador for the arts 2023-24, as well as receiving a £1,000 bursary to help develop her music studies; training opportunities or fund equipment. Canterbury Orchestra will also offer Cora the opportunity to perform with them as a soloist at one of their public concerts in Canterbury in 2024.

She would love to use her role as Ambassador to show that “anyone can learn to play an instrument, enjoy making music and develop skills which extend beyond music – listening, sharing experiences, learning, improving memory and developing self-expression and emotional empathy.”

We would like to thank all the amazing musicians who took part and look forward to next year’s Competition.

“Congratulations on a very successful and smooth-running evening. As ever, it was a delight to be involved and the evening flew by – so nice to have such a varied selection of instruments and pieces.” Dr Susan Wanless, Chair of Judges & Former Director of Music, University of Kent

“Cora really enjoyed the whole experience last night, and to be awarded the Bursary prize was the absolute cherry on the cake! Cora is very grateful to the Canterbury Festival for the opportunity to perform alongside other such talented young players […] Thanks again to you and your team for all your efforts in making the Bursary Final such a positive and memorable experience for all the competitors and junior players involved.” Louise Goodger – Parent of Cora Hewitt

The Schools’ Poetry Competition Showcase was held on National Poetry Day, Thursday 5 October, 5.30 – 6.30pm, Gulbenkian Art Centre (FREE). The event was hosted by Charlotte Cornell and John Hegley, who performed a poem he’d written celebrating the event.

  • 28 young poets presented their shortlisted poems, representing 16 Kent schools.
  • Blean Primary School were awarded Most Poetic School for submitting the highest volume of poems.
  • John Hegley selected and awarded the overall Poet’s Prize to Shanaya Choudhury, age 14, Dartford Grammar School for Girls.
  • Charlotte Cornell selected the Gold, Silver and Bronze winners in each of the four age categories. Prizes and certificates were awarded to winners by Stagecoach representative, Susan Horn (event sponsor).
  • Gold Winner schools were: Wincheap Foundational Primary School, Blean Primary School, Towers School and Sixth Form Centre, Barton Court Grammar School.
  • The Anthology Cover Art prizes were awarded to two pupils from Pilgrim’s Way Primary School and Bridge and Patrixbourne CEP School.
  • Canterbury Christ Church University Digital Media students attended with Jo Samuel (Course leader) as an R&D field trip for the project to re-design the poetry anthology as a professional skills module.

You can download and view the 2023 Schools’ Poetry Anthology here

“Best National Poetry Day – ever!” John Hegley

“Thank you so much for organising such a lovely evening. It was a real pleasure to attend, and Zemzemma has gained so much from the experience, both from attending the workshop two weeks ago and from having the opportunity to recite her poem this evening. I hope that the competition will be running again next year – we would very much like to be involved.”  Kane Tugby, teacher, Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School

This year’s winning poem

A Mother

By Shanaya Choudhury

Most mothers

when they have a child

express their love for the child

scold them only when needed

are sweet and accept the child for who they are

are patient and take time to understand their child

are open to talk and will change topics for their child

accept all their shortcomings and apologise to the child

will try her best to better herself for herself and the child

will always take advice from others, including her child

will always listen to and hear out her child

…and is her child’s refuge from the world.

But some mothers

when they have a child

rarely express their love for the child

constantly scold and berate their child

are harsh and will not forgive their child for their “flaws”

are stubborn and will not take the time to understand the child

refuse to talk things through in favour of staying on topic and not

“ruining the mood”

will never accept any wrongdoing on their part, as they are doing everything right

worsen with each passing day with no care for how the child feels,

only how they feel

will never take advice fully to heart, especially from her kid

will never hear out the child,

as there are always more urgent matters at hand

…and the world is the child’s refuge from her.

Age 14, Dartford Grammar School for Girls,

Teacher Wendy Mackenzie

A poem for the Schools’ Poetry Competition by John Hegley

These Young Gulbenkians


Here, with the University of Kent

I’m pleased and proud, to help present

the poets being heard and seen

from five years old, to seventeen.

Pupils from all over Kent

by teachers had their poems sent:

from Canterbury, Tunbridge, too

and Dartford schools, to name a few

and Whitstable, is on the list

and schooled-at-home have not been missed out, either.

For this The Canterbury Festival,

induced and produced by Amanda Sefton Hogg,

Charlotte Cornell, took the poems, made the choice;

when she could hear a clear voice

she knew the piece had passed the test – 400 poems!


You’ll sample some upon the stage

with more appearing on the page

of a volume, which will be

a home for Kentish poetree.

This Thursday evening, we present

this cluster of the keen of Kent

preparing to employ their jaws –

the chorus line, the rhyme, and pause

they’ll step up here and make it yours.

So, in anticipation

of this young people’s Stage Coach sponsored Poetry Day of the nation

presentation please muster now, Kentish applause


As part of the amazing Kent College Arts Week, our incredible colleague Amanda held several workshops in book-making for an extremely talented and imaginative bunch of Year 8 students.

These fun and engaging workshops focused on children’s fiction, using several published books as a source of inspiration for Kent College’s innovative new book-makers.

In the workshops, students got the chance to expand and engage with their creative talents, learning how to develop book themes, how to come up with book titles, and how to design book covers. As well as this, students were able to learn several great practical skills from scratch, such as how to sew book spines, and how to piece together book covers.

Amanda was extremely impressed by how creative and talented the Year 8 pupils were, and hopes that they will continue to use their skills and talents to make more fun and innovative books in the future.



The Canterbury Festival Foundation supports exceptionally talented young musicians and vocalists in East Kent, helping them to pursue their musical training through its annual bursary of up to £1,000, the opportunity to perform at the Canterbury Festival and be a music ambassador to children and young people in Kent.

The Bursary Competition has grown in popularity every year since its inception in 2011, and each year, showcases the outstanding talent of Kent’s young musicians.

The competition exists to support excellence in talented young musicians across Kent, and has two categories. The Junior category offers professional performance experience for musicians aged 12-14, and the Senior musicians aged 15-18 are eligible to compete for a cash bursary of up to £1,000 which they can put towards new instruments, tuition, courses or international trips. We also encourage applications from individuals aged under 25 with special educational needs.

The winner, announced each year at the annual Bursary concert as part of the main Canterbury Festival programme, also becomes the Festival’s Ambassador for the Arts, developing skills in leading workshops alongside performing in various Festival events throughout the year.

Our 2023 Young Musicians’ Bursary Competition is now open for applications.  For more information click here or contact Lauren Woodrow at [email protected]


Young Musicians’ Bursary Winners

2022: Thomas Hall – Trombone: Saint Saens’ Cavatine | Bernstein’s Elegy for Mippy II. Find out more here.

2021: Eliza Ruffle – Piano: Shostakovich’s Prelude and Fugue A minor | Rachmaninov’s Etudes Tableaux op 39 no 6. Find out more here. Watch the full 2021 final here.

2020: Jessica Yuen – Piano: Haydn’s Sonata in C major no.60 | Rachmaninov’s Prelude in D Major op.23 no.4. Find out more here.  Watch the full 2020 series here.

2019: Siena Barr – Clarinet: Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto | Bernstein’s Sonata Grazioso. Find out more here

2018: Timon Staelher – Piano: Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano no 3 in C major, op 2 no 3.

2017: Harriet Tubb – Marimba: Lorrick’s Odessa.

2016: Ellen Pearson – Voice: Handel’s Piangero La Sorte Mia | Mozart’s Non So Piu Cosa Son.

2015: Emily Hopper – Harp: Handel arr. Beon Passacaille | Hasselmans’ Chanson de mai | Mathias’ Improvisations for harp, 3rd mvt.

2014: Jessica Meakin – Violin: Affetuoso’s Sonata No 4 in D Major: 1. | Handel’s 2. Allegro.

2014: Sabrina Curwen – Voice: Tosti’s Ideale | Poulenc’s ‘La Reine de Coeur | Bernstein’s Tonight from West Side Story.

2013: Matt Roberts – Cello: Suk’s Ballade in D Minor.

2012: Summer Alp – Recorder: Handel’s Affettuoso and Allegro Sonata in F major.

2011: Caitlin Shaughnessy – Violin: Bach’s Partita No. 3 in E major BWV 1006 Gavotte en Rondeau | de Falla’s Danse Espagnole.

The Under 18s Poetry Competition returned in 2022, inviting young writers from across Kent to submit poems on this year’s theme – Nature Destroyed and Reborn. This year;’s competition received over 150 submissions and from a shortlist of 18 poems, prizes were awarded to first, second and third place in the primary and secondary school categories. Our 2022 winners are:

Winners – primary school
• 1st – Ava Petrovici (Blean Primary School)
• 2nd – Dylan Rajan-Rankin (Blean Primary School)
• 3rd – Mabel Vigar (Blean Primary School)

Winners – secondary school
• 1st – Elspeth Dunlop (Kent College Canterbury)
• 2nd – Lewis King (The Archbishop’s School)
• 3rd – Vinnie Wickham (Kent College Canterbury)

We would like to congratulate our 2022 winners and all of the poets who got involved by putting pen to paper. We thoroughly enjoyed reading this year’s entries and look forward to next year’s competition. We would also like to send a special thanks to our 2022 Under 18s Poetry Competition sponsor, Stagecoach South East.

Click here to download this year’s anthology

Each year Canterbury Festival run a poetry competition which is open to Kent-based children and young people aged 5-18. Last year over 1500 children and young people from across Kent applied.

We shortlist up to 40 poems; all of which are published in an anthology and awarded a book voucher. Shortlisted winners are also invited to read their poems each year on National Poetry Day.

In 2020 we received more individual applications than ever before. Online poetry resources were accessed during lockdown and schools and parents worked with children learning from home. The resulting anthology contains fifteen incredible poems written in exceptional circumstances to conjure the importance of our Earth Tribe – our 2020 theme. Copies of the 2o2o Anthology can be purchased here.

View our shortlisted 2020 poets here

Our 2020 winners were announced on National Poetry Day on BBC Radio Kent’s Dominic King Show, with broadcasted readings. The winners were:

Ages 6 – 10: Alexander Robertson, Age 6

Ages 11 – 13: Sophie Arterton, Age 12

Ages 14 – 18: Anna Hagan, Age 14

You can listen to all of our 2020 shortlisted poems below.


For more information please email [email protected]

Made in Kent Dance

Made in Kent: Dance 2019 was a performance opportunity for early-stage career dance groups or soloists, aged 16-24 from the Kent area.

In 2019 winners of the competition were awarded:

  • £150 development fee.
  • A development day including feedback and mentoring with Ash Mukherjee and Lea Anderson MBE.
  • The chance to perform as part of Canterbury Festival.
  • A feature in Canterbury Festival’s brochure.
  • Support from a technical and stage manager on the day of the performance.

We were delighted to welcome both the hugely talented Ash Mukherjee and Lea Anderson MBE to the Made in Kent: Dance team for 2019. They individually brought a wealth of experience and knowledge across multiple disciplines and provided valuable guidance to the winners.

The 2019 showcase featured as part of the Festival programme and took place at Anselm Theatre.

Made In Kent: Theatre 2019 offered emerging groups and companies the opportunity to perform a show during Kent’s International Arts Festival. The project supported emerging artists pursuing careers including acting, directing and scriptwriting.

The 2019 winners received:

  • The chance to perform as part of Canterbury Festival 2019.
  • Net box office takings, plus £150 towards rehearsal costs.
  • A feature in the 2019 Canterbury Festival brochure.
  • Support from a venue technician and stage manager on the dat of the performance.
  • Rehearsal feedback from the Festival Participation Manager and Festival Director.
  • A development day with theatre professional.

Congratulations to our 2019 winners Alternate Perspective Theatre, who performed Sense of Wonder on Thursday 31 October at Anselm Theatre – an immersive and sensory adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Track Record - Ruben Elbrond-Palmer c.Tim Stubbings

Made In Kent: Track Record 2019 offered musicians and vocalists living in Kent, aged 14-21, the chance to perform at Canterbury Festival, receive feedback from an industry professional, record in a studio environment and develop their creative skills. The 2019 competition prize included:

  • Rehearsal space at Your Music School, Canterbury.
  • Four Hours Recording time with an engineer in a local professional studio.
  • Interview and performance slot on Academy FM.
  • Performance & audition feedback from Industry professionals.
  • Song Writing Masterclass.
  • Tickets to live music at Ramsgate Music Hall.
  • Extended performance opportunities.

The competition was open to all musicians aged between 14-17 (juniors) 18-21 (seniors) and encouraged submission from all genres.

Our 2019 showcase took place on Sunday 27 October at The Ballroom.

Made In Kent Comedy

As part of Canterbury Festival 2019 the Made In Kent: Comedy project showcased new emerging comedic talent. Successful applicants featured as part of the 2019 comedy night, performing their material in front of a festival crowd and facing a panel of judges.

For more information about this year’s events and to find out how you can apply in the future, contact [email protected]