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Canterbury Festival: Kent’s International Arts Festival

Northern Ballet's stage production of The Great Gatsby is just one of the events featured in the Canterbury Festival 2014The West End may be the hub of the UK theatre scene, but it is not the be all and end all of the industry. Good quality theatre can be found anyway. There are hundreds of regional productions running at venues all around the country at any given time, not to mention the many touring shows entertaining audiences on the road, and numerous special events, concerts, cabarets, and so forth. There are also a number of festivals dedicated to the arts, some of which have become theatrical institutions as they’ve grown in success and size over the years. These include the likes of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Latitude Festival, and another which takes place every year in my neck of the woods.

The Canterbury Festival is an annual festival held every October in and around the town of Canterbury, and is one of the most important cultural events in the South East area. It is the largest festival of arts and culture staged in the region, having grown to now host over 200 events across a two-week period, and features a versatile programme of live performances which includes Music, Dance, Theatre, Comedy, Science, Exhibitions, Walks and Talks, all of which can be seen in one of the 25 venues connected to the festival.

The Canterbury Festival was founded in the 1920’s by George Bell, Dean of Canterbury at the time. It was mostly known for its presentation of plays in those early years, showcasing work from the likes of T. S. Elliot, who was commissioned to write Murder in the Cathedral for the festival in 1935. It expanded in 1984 to include a variety of art forms from many cultures, and today holds the name of Kent’s International Arts Festival, attracting an audience of 70,000 people of all ages.

This year’s event was launched on 18th October 2014 with the traditional opening parade, which this year saw eight primary schools and community groups from the Canterbury area participate in creating a Children’s Rainbow with the support of the Espression Arts group, making their way through the streets of Canterbury from the Cathedral to Whitefriar’s Rose Square.

Audiences have enjoyed a wide range of events in the course of the festival so far, with the Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra, comedienne Ruby Wax and Cabaret Fantastique just a few of the programme’s performances to have been seen already. Other highlights have included renowned thespian Simon Callow in The Man Jesus, African music legend Hugh Masekela, Brother Wolf’s performance of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, sci-fi tragicomedy The Pyramids of Margate, and the return of Dyad Productions with The Unremarkable Death of Marilyn Monroe.

These and many more performances have been held alongside a series of art exhibitions, lunchtime concerts, historical tours, scientific talks and creative writing workshops, in addition to further such events.

Today (Thursday 23rd October) marks the sixth day of the festival, and notable events in today’s programme include the European première of Casus’ new show, Finding The Silence, the psychological drama, Inside, which explores the effects of Stockholm Syndrome, and The Shakespeare Experience, a Shakespearean lecture and school’s workshop with the Globe Theatre Education Team which is presented by the English Speaking Union.

The Canterbury Festival runs through until 1st November 2014, and there are plenty more theatrical treats for audiences in that time. The Broadway Choir & Friends, Voces8, Nova Music Opera, Julian Perkins, Mid Wales Opera’s Carmen, the Composer’s Competition, and String Fever are just some of the impressive musical performances waiting to be seen, and there are some theatre-based events still to come as well. Who wouldn’t want to see Bob Kingdom in the critically acclaimed production of Dylan Thomas: Return Journey which marked Anthony Hopkins’ directorial début, for instance? Then there is circus spectacular Flown with Pirates of the Carabina, Simon Evans on his Leashed tour 2014, the Northern Ballet’s The Great Gatsby, Steven Frost’s Improv Allstars, London’s longest running cabaret show, Cirque du Cabaret, and French comedian Marcel Lucont. Throw in a host of specifically family-friendly events, as well as more unmissable moments in the genres of Visual Arts, Science, Walks and Talks, and the Canterbury Festival is the place to be for any fan of the arts this October.

The Canterbury Festival takes place in venues across Canterbury between Saturday 18th October and Saturday 1st November 2014.

By Julie Robinson: Missjulie25

Thursday 23rd October 2014