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Talk about the Luck of the Irish…

Festival Director Rosie Turner reflects on the immediate aftermath of this year’s event.

The 2020 Canterbury Festival finished its annual programme on Saturday 31 October – the day that Boris announced a second national lockdown. After a nail-biting summer when the staff and Trustees took the decision to press on with a live event, it was simply incredible timing that the fifty or so events which were planned all took place in a safe and socially distanced manner.

Audiences turned out in unexpectedly large numbers making competition furious for the reduced numbers of tickets available. The opening concert by Tenebrae “sold out” in only 20 minutes – a Festival record – but not unexpected, given there were only 200 seats available.

For many of our performers, the Festival was their only live appearance since March. They overcome their nerves, travel challenges, and “bubbling” to put on their shows and bring joy to us all.

The Festival attempted live streaming for the first time which proved a creative solution when Bettany Hughes was unable to attend in person. Reduced budgets meant there was no Spiegeltent, but audiences thrilled to the physical charms of Bromance/Barely Methodical Company – as much for the marvellous surroundings of the Malthouse Theatre as for the talents of the performers.

Headline Sponsors Kent College saved the day with free access to their flexible, comfortable, and acoustically perfect Great Hall, with Headmaster David Lamper taking to his own stage to interview Kadie -the fluent, fascinating mother of the Kanneh-Mason musical prodigies.

Headline Sponsors The Canterbury Auction Galleries supported Talks in both the Cathedral Lodge and Shirley Hall, with Dave Parker from the Galleries orchestrating an amusing and irreverent conversation on stage with Antiques Roadshow’s Andy McConnell.

Headline Sponsor Paul Roberts drew the line at joining Bromance on stage – a wise move as due to Canterbury being the only performance in months, even the seasoned performers felt the strain but never let it show in their stunning performances.

Huge thanks to Arts Council and Canterbury City Council for their Emergency Covid funding. This will help the Festival cover its overheads until tickets start selling for 2021. Massive gratitude to the Sponsors and Corporate Members who were able to keep supporting us, despite facing challenges themselves during this extraordinary year. To the Festival Friends and Foundation for their grants and to the Vice Presidents for generosity and support year after year, plus funding from Trusts and Foundations listed in full on our website. We couldn’t do it without you.

My final praise goes to you –  our audiences – who turned out to some of the only live events in the South East, masked up, sanitised and socially distanced and overcame all that to enjoy yourselves and express your excitement, gratitude and support to our wonderful volunteers and hard-working staff team.

Together WE DID IT …and with the luck of the Irish we might do it again next year.

See you then!