For centuries Canterbury has been a cultural icon. Tourists flock to the city to experience this culture, to connect with the buildings and streets that offer a glimpse back to England’s past.
Google ‘Canterbury’ and you will get a page of images showing the Cathedral, boat trips on the Stour and the castle.
Our project, ‘Canterbury Culture’, set out to take this brilliant heritage backdrop and thread through it the masses of contemporary culture that we have in the city.
Canterbury has great theatres showing a huge range of work, it boasts an International Arts Festival every October and a wealth of museums headed by the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge alongside galleries such as the Sidney Cooper Gallery presenting creativity from the past and from the present. There is a wealth of new music being presented by City Sound Project and Beautiful Town Music amongst others, and there are spoken word nights springing up across the city complementing Wise Words Festival which is held each Spring in the stunning Blackfriars Garden.
I have missed out loads, including the wealth of creativity generated at our three Universities, and through the great work of the Canterbury Arts Council, the Canterbury players and on and on….
Canterbury Culture exists to celebrate all of this creativity, to shout about them and to work with heritage & tourism partners to present a rounded view of Canterbury to visitors.
We are doing this in two main ways:
We created http://www.canterburyculture.org which is an event listing and blog. The site highlights events that are ‘Unique to Canterbury or a surprise to see in Canterbury’. This could be Glyndebourne touring to The Marlowe Theatre, or local band Syd Arthur playing Gulbenkian.
The blog has a remit to feature lifestyle that includes culture and the arts – not just bang on about arts events. So we will do a feature on great coffee shops in town, alongside an item about open mic gigs.
The website is supported by Facebook and Twitter social platforms.
Working with Canterbury based creative agency Dodgems & Floss, we have developed the Culture Tellers. Based upon the origami-tastic fortune tellers we used to do at school, the Tellers invite users to choose numbers and colours, taking them to a character and a secret Canterbury location
The Tellers have been placed in key tourism spots including The Canterbury Tales, The Marlowe Theatre and The Beany House of Art and Knowledge.
This project would not have happened without Culture Kent. The brief to reach Canterbury tourists was written by Sarah Dance at Culture Kent, and all we as a group decided to do was pitch to take on and deliver the pilot project.
Through Culture Kent we accessed funding, but also expertise of the Audience Agency for seminars on research and digital audiences, plus evaluation from Canterbury Christ Church University. There is also a great feeling of being given licence to experiment – this is a pilot, a test and we are all trying out new things. The ethos that everything we learn is to be shared with the wider Culture Kent partnership.
It has been massively beneficial working together as partners. We still have to evaluate the real outcomes of the project in terms of increased audiences and awareness of arts events, but all those involved feel we have created something that can improve and develop over time.
So we are now searching for funding from April 2017, so the pilot project can become just what we do….