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Canterbury Festival opening parade and events including pottery throwdown, theatre, music and family friendly fun

By Angela Cole

From pottery to theatre and sciences to cabaret – the Canterbury Festival is a celebration of culture in its many forms.

Kent’s international arts festival brings a rich mixture of performing arts from around the world to surprise and delight audiences for three weeks each autumn.

Running from Saturday, October 14 through to Saturday, November 4, there will be more than 200 events with music, performance, talks, science, visual arts and walks.

The opening parade of the Canterbury Festival
The opening parade of the Canterbury Festival

It kicks off this weekend with an opening day parade of drummers, musicians and dancers taking over the High Street, starting from the Cathedral Precincts from noon, winding through the town and ending at Whitefriars.

Also on its opening day will be the chance to make a pot for free during the great Canterbury Throwdown, a community-driven pottery project during the first two weeks of the festival, with the first being on Saturday, October 14, at 11am with Keith Brymore Jones, potter and expert judge from the BBC’s Great British Throw Down.

The Canterbury Throwdown will be part of the Canterbury Festival
The Canterbury Throwdown will be part of the Canterbury Festival

Among the live music of a variety of genres will be Newton Faulkner on Wednesday, October 18, at the Marlowe Theatre, comedian Tom Allen at Shirley Hall on Tuesday, October 31, plus creative writing and silk painting skills workshops.

For a taste of something a little different, enjoy a vintage 1930s cream tea while watching a performance of Agatha Christie’s rarely-seen mystery The Rats at Bramleys Cocktail Bar at 2pm from Monday, October 16 to Saturday, October 21.


The festival is supporting an exhibition of a new artwork, the Tapestry of Light: Intersections of Illumination – a neon illumination, on show during the festival at the Cathedral Chapter House.

Designed by London-born Australian artist Irene Barberis, the project has taken more than 10 years, and resulted in the largest neon tapestry ever known. It has been created out of glowing thread and consists of 14 panels, and is 36 metres long and three metres high.

It is a recreation of the 14th century Tapestry of the Apocalypse, a medieval French set of tapestries commissioned by Louis I, the Duke of Anjou, which is now on display at the Chateau d’Angers. She said: “When I stood in front of the tapestry in Angers its scale, complexity and poetry were overwhelming. In that moment I imagined a new work of art, one that would be radiant and glowing, a massive new articulation of the Book of the Apocalypse also in tapestry.”

The Tapestry of Light
The Tapestry of Light

Her recreation also emits in darkness for up to eight hours. She said she wanted it to “envelope and immerse people in light” and to be a work which would be experienced in multiple ways.

It will be on display from Saturday, October 14 to Saturday, November 4. The exhibition is free to enter, but normal entry charges to the precincts will apply.

Barberis and curator, Dr Michelle Brown, will be discussing the making of the tapestry, its context and the challenges of exhibiting art in sacred places on Saturday, October 14 between 7pm and 9pm. Tickets cost £10.50. For details visit no1cathedraltalkoct2017.eventbrite.co.uk


From high-brow to hare-brained, the festival has something for all ages, no matter how young.

Running through half term, it has a host of family-friendly events throughout. They include its biggest ever offering for children – including the first Canterbury Festival-commissioned children’s cabaret.

Baby Loves Disco at the Canterbury Festival
Baby Loves Disco at the Canterbury Festival

For three weekends mainly in the Spiegeltent, a 1920s vintage travelling dance hall, there will be flexible seating, a buggy park area and space for smaller siblings to crawl and toddle.

Highlights include slapstick comedy circus Trash Test Dummies bringing skilled circus performers with jaw-dropping acrobatics, juggling and stuntwork on Saturday, October 28 at 3pm.

To warm you up for the ceilidh, there will be a family dance party with Baby Loves Disco on Sunday, October 22 at 2pm, when resident DJs will mix feel-good chart fillers with nostalgic classics with face painting, balloons, a dress-up area, selfie booth and a licensed bar for parents.

Oliver, Joseph and Rosie at last year's festival Picture: Chris Davey
Oliver, Joseph and Rosie at last year's festival Picture: Chris Davey

The Family Friendly Ceilidh on Sunday, October 29 from 2pm offers the chance for family and friends to get up and dance to local band Swing the Bridge.


This year’s Canterbury Festival runs from Saturday, October 14 to Saturday, November 4.
Canterbury Christ Church University is the principal sponsor of the festival. For a full programme of events and to get tickets visit canterburyfestival.co.uk

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