19 October 2019 - 2 November 2019


Blog #4: I support because...

In conversation with Gilly Wadmore


Did you know that Canterbury Festival is a charity? We hope so, but if not, we’re glad to be able to give you an insight into the many ways to support your local International Arts Festival – by interviewing just a few of our current supporters. 



Gilly Wadmore


Gilly Wadmore has been attending events at Canterbury Festival for over 26 years, has been a Festival volunteer and currently supports the Festival 100 Club. Gilly was one of the first people to join when the scheme started in 2014, purchasing a membership as a birthday present for her husband David.  


What do you do & what was your first experience of Canterbury Festival?

Until last summer, I was EAL Co-ordinator at a local secondary school. We’ve lived here for 26 years and we first came to the Festival 27 years ago to see Patricia Routledge. I will never forget that, because it was the day that we saw our present house for the first time. The Festival and The Cathedral are probably the two main reasons we moved to Canterbury. I’ve always been an arts junkie!


If you had worked in another profession, what would it have been?

I did dabble a little bit in the arts and I probably would have dabbled a little bit more. I’ve done a lot of marketing and writing of education packs for theatres. I also have lots of friends and godchildren who are involved in the arts and at the moment, I’m quite involved with Shakespeare’s Globe. Because I was a drama teacher, I love the teaching and imparting of knowledge and directing – that was probably more my style than my performing days!


What is the Festival 100 Club?

It started off as a way to ensure that we had the Spiegeltent each year and really the Spiegeltent is the most marvellous new addition and it’s enhanced our enjoyment of the Festival. People don’t say ‘what’s a Spiegeltent?’ anymore and it was great to have the new central location this year. I give just £5 a month to be a 100 Club member and I’m entered into a monthly draw to win £50.


Regular monthly donations are vital to our work; you choose to donate £5 a month, what would you say to other considering doing the same?

I think that when you speak to people immediately after Canterbury Festival, they regale you with stories of things they’ve seen for the first time, of experiences they’ve had. It's brilliant to watch people's faces and hear how they have loved seeing young people get involved and saying ‘oh, you’ll never guess who I saw doing a talk’ or ‘this was amazing.’ That’s when I tend to say to them ‘well, to ensure the future security of the Festival, it would be absolutely great if you might consider doing what we do and becoming a 100 Club member.’


Why is Canterbury Festival important for residents of Kent?

In the early days, it brought artists and genres that were totally new to the U.K. because Mark was in charge then, and he was mostly a music man. Then Rosie came on the scene and she knew Edinburgh, she knew Brighton, she knew the cutting-edge stuff and brought it here. The Festival is also incredibly important to drama teachers, to students who are doing A-Levels, GCSE’s or BTech because they have to have experience of live theatre which was quite a difficult thing in this area and it’s expensive for students to go up to London. We need things that bring ‘out of the ordinary’ here and I think when Rosie arrived and Amanda with her knowledge of contemporary music, everything came together.

I remember when I was a volunteer, we were introduced to things which were totally unknown and if I had to pick out one moment, it would be stewarding in the Nave of the Cathedral for a musician called Jan Garbarek who I knew nothing about at all; the music started and it soared and my spine turned to jelly. It was just the most wonderful moment. And singers such as The Sixteen, who I had never heard of before who just absolutely blew me away. And you know, as an audience member, it’s absolutely vital to take a punt. For the price of the tickets, give an event a try – it may not be a favourite, but by golly, you may absolutely love it.


What impact have you seen because of Canterbury Festival?

The impact of which I am aware, is that the number of visitors to Canterbury goes up every Autumn. I’ve spoken to people who have told me they’ve availed of the hotel deals and the meal deals. October has become synonymous with Canterbury Festival which is really important as is the fact that there are free things and things for all the family to enjoy together. That is absolutely how I see it, that there is something for everybody.

But then, looking at it from a teacher’s point of view and the Festival’s work throughout the rest of the year, you’ve got the writing and poetry competitions, the music competitions and the new Discover Arts Award which is extremely valuable.


Tell us your most vivid memory of Canterbury Festival.

 Dallas Sweetman By Sebastian Barry Please Credit Alastair Muir

Oh gosh, there are so many! I’ve mentioned Jan Garbarek and we’ve had wonderful Spiegeltent moments such as Moscow Drug Club. A stand-out memory is Dallas Sweetman in Canterbury Cathedral. It was commissioned by the Festival and included a pre-performance talk by Sebastian Barry. It was just incredible.  


It’s just £5 a month to be a 100 Club member and you’re entered into a monthly draw to win £50! Find out more here and do get in touch with Clare on 01227 452 853 if you have any questions about joining. 


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