Monday, 23 September 2013

Wise Words

The Wise Words Festival, a festival to reawaken wonder and and encourage curiosity, takes place every year throughout Canterbury.  Poets, authors, musicians, artists, actors and dreamers fill the streets of the city.  They can be found in the parks and coffee shops, museums and library, with other performances in the local theatres, giving impromptu recitals, playing word games and encouraging debate. 

I had hoped to attend on the Saturday but the rain kept me inside for most of the day, snuggled up with big cups of tea.  I made sure I headed into town on the Sunday though to catch the final day of the Festival.
The Festival takes place over 4 days with different attractions on every day.  You stroll up the high street and keep your eyes peeled for little hints and tell tale signs of the festival.  All through the city are little details to catch you eye as you move from attraction to attraction.  Outside the Library was the alternative Tourist Information Stand with adapted street signs ask you questions that you can reflect upon and chat about with the entertainers.
I had this very question asked of me.  I answered that it at this time of the year it carried the scent of excited students descending upon the city for the first time, underwritten with a strong waft of chicken manure. This prompted further discussion about how the seasons shift and change and what the tourists bring to the city in terms of smell.  I head that one lady got quite irate at the insinuation that Canterbury ever smelt anything less than wonderful (she has obviously never been anywhere near the sewage facility in Sturry in the height of summer).

The festival promises to spark your imagination and it certainly got mine going. 
The festival challenges the perception that storytelling is only for children with opportunities all over the place to hear a story told to you. You could take a river punt and drift slowly down the river whilst stories were read to you.   The pop up tourist information stand offers tours of the city that are not always what you expect, with the stories told tailored to your mood, personality or even favourite colour.  You could go and listen to stories and poetry being recited in the Yurt tent in the Franciscan Priory gardens.
Poets on apple boxes battled each other with words for votes.  Real life 'dolls' can be wound up and made to move and dance up and down the highstreet, to the delight of small children everywhere.
There is so much to see and do over the course of the 5 day festival that it would be impossible to feature it all in one place.

If I have one criticism of the festival it would be around marketing.  It was really hard to know where anything was as although I had a timetable I didn't have a map which meant I am sure I missed lots of attractions, especially ones based inside buildings.  There was also very little external marketing about it, with most of my friends completely unaware that it was on!

I am glad I found the Imaginarium, an Alice in Wonderland experience.  A world populated with tea parties and red roses whilst the Imaginarium has games and puzzles that invite you to explore the landscape around you...

When you next visit I'll take you in, through the looking glass...

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