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'Harry and Meghan's choir' among acts at Canterbury Festival 2021

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Canterbury Festival returns this year with a bigger and bolder programme to put the arts firmly back on the map.

Across two weeks in October, offering unique experiences from the quirky to the sublime, the extravaganza aims to bring people together for a celebration of creativity.

Amanda McKean, deputy director of Canterbury Festival talks about what to expect this year

Events will pop up across the city at venues including Canterbury Cathedral, The Malthouse, Kent College’s Great Hall, Canterbury Christ Church University’s Augustine Hall, Westgate Hall and the Cathedral Lodge.

They will also be held on campus at Canterbury Christ Church University, the festival’s partner and principal sponsor for the 11th year.

This year’s festival will launch on October 16 with a grandiose performance by the Armonico Consort and Baroque Players with Supersize Polyphony at Canterbury Cathedral.

Alternatively, on the same night join Scotland’s best-selling female album artist, Barbara Dickson, for a special acoustic performance of her exceptional back catalogue at The Great Hall.

Having performed at Harry and Meghan’s wedding, The Kingdom Choir also bring their much-loved take on gospel to the Cathedral, performing favourites including Stand By Me and Something Inside.

The Kingdom Choir. Picture: Canterbury Festival
The Kingdom Choir. Picture: Canterbury Festival

Over the course of two-weeks there’s much more music to enjoy including performances by Hamish Stuart (of The Average White Band), folk troubadour Chris Wood, Matt Ford and the Chris Ingham Trio, Karolos performing Mozart, Dreamsailors, ukulele comedy duo Opera-lele and a stunning performance of Mozart’s Mass in C minor by the Canterbury Choral Society.

Music also takes to the streets with Beautiful Noise – a day celebrating east Kent’s community music makers who will perform at locations including the Dane John and Whitefriars.

There will be plenty of laughs as ever, including spectacular circus with a healthy dose of comedy at The Malthouse stage, with Lost In Translation’s The Hogwallops.

The talks series returns with an array of speakers exploring history, climate, politics food and more. Highlights include food critic Grace Dent, author of The Anglo-Saxons Marc Morris, Sir Vince Cable, dog behaviourist Graeme Hall, Second World War Wren Christian Lamb, bomb disposal expert Lucy Lewis, antiques expert Lennox Cato DL and more.

This year’s science series explores our understanding of the universe, what the next half century will bring and the action we can take to preserve life on our planet. Join conservationist, zoologist and BBC Springwatch presenter Megan McCubbin for The Kent College Lecture – Living Wild, Weird and Wonderful.

Barbara Dickson. Picture: Canterbury Festival
Barbara Dickson. Picture: Canterbury Festival

Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford visit with their Guide to Absolutely Everything – a whistle-stop tour of evolution, the cosmos and the head-scratching questions that only science can answer.

The festival also welcomes a panel of speakers as part of Canterbury Climate Action Week and veteran environmental journalist Fred Pearce discussing what is needed to reforest our world.

Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be Canterbury Festival without a wacky week of family fun.

The Medieval Pageant kicks things off with a parade and trail packed full of musicians, dancers, and a Thomas Becket giant.

Then over half-term The Westgate Hall hosts five fab family shows beginning with Mr Pineapple Head’s delightfully silly antics, time-travelling magicians Morgan and West’s Fantastic Family Magic Spectacular and Canterbury favourite - the Comedy Club 4 Kids.

Mr Pineapple Head. Picture: Canterbury Festival
Mr Pineapple Head. Picture: Canterbury Festival

With an extensive programme of walks, visual arts and umbrella events, there are lots of ways to get involved in this year’s festival.

Priority ticket sales for Festival Friends are available from August 2 at 11am, with general sales opening on August 16 at 11am.

For tickets and the full programme of events across October 16 to 30, click here, or call 01227 457568 or go to the festival office at 8 Orange Street.

To find out what’s going on in the county and for all the latest entertainment news click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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