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Gulbenkian Theatre books Canterbury Scene bands Caravan and Soft Machine to mark 50th anniversary

By Anna MacSwan

Two bands from the 1960s Canterbury scene will reunite on stage to mark the Gulbenkian Theatre’s 50th anniversary.

Paying tribute to the University of Kent art venue’s radical roots, classic Canterbury Sound bands Caravan and Soft Machine will perform in a two-week series of events announced this week, alongside some of the city’s newer bands.

The evening of music, curated by award-winning musician John Harle, will take place over the summer and celebrate five decades since the theatre opened to the public on June 10, 1969.

Soft Machine
Soft Machine

Gulbenkian director Oliver Carruthers said: “One of the things we are really keen to explore in our anniversary is what the world was like in the late 1960s.

“We wanted to look back at what was going on. Things like the Vietnam War were happening, the first lunar landing, and the student rebellions in Paris the year before.

“It was a politically interesting time to be alive. It was about free thinking and young people being able to change the world.

“What we wanted to do with our anniversary is talk about how that connects to 2019, to things like Brexit and climate change.”

Gulbenkian director Oliver Carruthers. Picture: Beth Roo. (7583024)
Gulbenkian director Oliver Carruthers. Picture: Beth Roo. (7583024)

The Gulbenkian, which today runs a number of projects to support aspiring young artists, opened just four years after the University itself at a time when traditional conventions were being challenged and when Canterbury was the scene of a thriving progressive and psychedelic music scene.

Also among the programme of events, sponsored by Canterbury Auction Gallery, is a battle of the bands competition seeking to find Kent’s next sound icon, and a one-day music festival of new artists including Nelson Parade, The Selkies and Evil Usses.

Throughout its anniversary year, the theatre is hoping to raise £20,000 to support its work with young people in Kent, which ranges from drama and dance groups to projects for unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

“The 50th anniversary is about looking forwards as well as back and so it seemed right to us to balance the great sounds of the Canterbury Sound era with contemporary bands,” Mr Carruthers continued.

50 Years of Gulbenkian will run from June 8 to 22. For more information or to donate, go to www.thegulbenkian.co.uk/50-years.

There is the option to name a seat in the Gulbenkian Theatre for donors giving £250 or more.

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