Canterbury may be a small city, but there is no question that it boasts a sense of history and culture far greater than its physical size. People travel from all over the country and across the world to marvel at the inescapable beauty of its cobbled streets and historic buildings; to sample the fine foods and get a taste of the still thriving art, music and literary scene that is such a prominent part of its heritage. Despite the obvious draw of the city, it is only natural that after time we start to take for granted the gifts that surround us.
Taking place between the 28th April and 8th May, Wise Words festival offers us the chance to rediscover Canterbury. This year’s theme for the festival is love, and an important part of that is reigniting the love that locals hold for this city, encouraging the people that live here to pause, breathe and take a moment out of their busy lives to appreciate this quirky place we call home.
The festival programme is bursting with intriguing events that cannot, and should not, be missed. Canterbury Culture takes a look at our festival highlights:
Storytelling and music in Punts on the River
The punts are a staple part of Canterbury’s aesthetic, offering a unique perspective through the tunnels and channels of the river Stour. What better way to explore than by drifting through the heart of the city, chauffered by your very own riverboatman? Yet often it is tourists, not locals, who take advantage of this asset.
Wise Words wants to encourage people to re-discover the magic of the punts by offering unique experiences – intimate acoustic gigs and storytelling whilst drifting along the water, through the historic heart of the city and out into the beautiful meadows.
On Saturday 29th April and Sunday 30th you can enjoy talented singer-songwriters, all of whom have a unique style but share soulful passion in their music, performing forty-five-minute sets to audiences of up to 8 people onboard a punt. As you pass between the ancient banks of the River Stour, the music played (just for you) will become part of the cities diverse soundscape. The addition of music to the punts has come about through a partnership between Wise Words and City Sound Project, another inredible festival that will descend on the city during the bank holiday weekend. The Saturday tour will also offer storytelling for all ages.
The second weekend of the festival, Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th May, brings with it the opportunity to immerse yourself in stories told by Emily Hennessy. Her folktales, myths and legends weave a tapestry of wonderment appropriate for a city filled with such an abounding and mystical heritage. Whether it’s the music or the storytelling that you choose to take advantage of (tickets cost a reasonable five pounds), you will be sure to see life from a new angle from your cosy spot aboard a river boat.
Firewatching – A musical walk through the city
The river is not the only vantage point from which to spy on the forgotten nooks and hidden corners of this beloved city. The winding streets themselves offer a pathway through the ages. Richard Navarro has written a series of songs inspired by places, the culture and history of the city, that can be enjoyed during his hour-long show on the Monday bank holiday in the Festival’s stunning Yurt.
Earlier on Monday, accompanied by fellow musicians Nicholas Thurston and Miriam Gould, Richard is inviting people to join him on musical walks through the city, performing these bespoke songs at the locations that inspired their creation. Even if you have walked these streets a thousand times, you will encounter a new experience and may even come away with a new favourite spot complete with a song to go with it.
Wise Words have co-produced these events in partnership with City Sound Project.
The Midnight Run – A walk through the city at night
If you’re not afraid to take a risk and you’re willing to try something new, then this event is for you.
The Midnight Run embodies the philosophy ‘not all those who wander are lost’. Founded by renowned poet and playwright Inua Ellams, it seeks to encourage a cities’ inhabitants to see the place they live in a completely new light (or lack of it). This year Wise Words has brought the Midnight Run to the city in collaboration with the Marlowe Theatre.
As the name suggests, it occurs at night, running between the hours of 7pm – 1am.
Fear not, there’s no actual running involved.
Over the course of this time participants, or ‘runners’, delve into forgotten or unknown areas of the city. At each spot, they will engage in an artist-led intervention designed to help them not only connect with each other but also to reconnect with the city. It gives people the chance to explore the cobbled streets and beyond under the cover of darkness.
The Midnight Run has brought wonder and connectivity to major cities across Great Britain and Europe; galvanising playfulness and artistic engagement with each other and the world around us.
These are just a few of the events taking place during the ten days of the Wise Words Festival. Other highlights include An Evening with Roger McGough & LiTTLe MACHiNe, comedy with Sophie Willan, and lots of incredible children’s shows. Shane Koyczan has made it his first stop on his UK tour and Lemn Sissay will be appearing throughout the festival.
Check out the whole programme at www.wisewordsestival.co.uk
Written by Henry Madicott