Canterbury Festival

Canterbury Festival ia a fabulous mix of music, drama, cinema, literature and visual arts.

Canterbury has a long history of Festivals, which dates back to the 1920s and 30s.

In 1929, the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, George Bell established the first Festival, which was closely linked with the newly formed Friends of Canterbury Cathedral organisation.
Over the next ten years, the Canterbury Festival continued to flourish with plays commissioned from John Masefield, Laurence Binyon, Dorothy Sayers, Christopher Fry and notably T.S. Eliot in 1935 with 'Murder in the Cathedral'.
After the interruption of the 1939 - 45 war years, the Festival retained its connections with the Cathedral and in 1970, with the anniversary of Thomas Becket's martyrdom the Dean & Chapter and the City Council worked together for the first time to create a Canterbury Festival. The true renaissance of the Canterbury Festival came in 1984 when the Canterbury Theatre and Festival Trust campaigned to build a new Theatre following the demolition of the old Marlowe Theatre. It was decided to hold the first Festival to co-incide with the opening of the new theatre.
The newly-revamped Festival featured all art forms - music, drama, dance, cinema, literature and visual arts. It lasted for three weeks and the theme for 1984 was British art. Highlights included a performance of Tippett's King Priam by Kent Opera at the Marlowe in the presence of the composer himself; a specially commissioned schools' opera based on the tale of Dr Syn; Ballet Rambert; Alan Howard in War Music based on Homer's Iliad and a performance by the Julian Bream Consort. Also in the 1984 Festival a young Nigel Kennedy appeared as solo violin at the Marlowe with the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Festivals in the rest of the '80s included themes of Italy, France, Telling Tales, Sea Pictures and Relationships and brought such personalities as Jonathan Miller, V.S. Pritchett, Fay Weldon, Alan Bennett, Richard Stilgoe and Judi Dench to East Kent.
The 1993 Festival highlighted the 400th anniversary of the death of Christopher Marlowe, one of Canterbury's most famous and infamous sons, with a programme full of variations on the theme of Faust, including a play by Graham Clarke written specially for the occasion and a performance of Berlioz The Damnation of Faust by Canterbury Choral Society. Throughout the 1990s the Festival continued its commitment to high quality programming as well as continuing to broaden its appeal. As a result of this policy, the Festival's turnover has increased by 90% over the past 6 years.

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015