Getting festive in Medway

Writer Jaye Nolan champions Medway’s rich, diverse culture. Communications Manager for IdeasTest and Festival Director for the Rochester Literature Festival, Jaye is passionate about music, theatre and dance and shouts regularly at the television during reality shows. 

loopdancelv21It seems poignant to be writing this blog around the 30th anniversary of the closure of Chatham Dockyard. I grew up on the Isle of Dogs and vaguely remember the docks closing there in the 70s.

Sceptical Islanders gradually got on board with the whole regeneration thing, and now look at it: I can only hope the same happens for Chatham. It’s definitely on its way, particularly in the creative sector: Sun Pier House; Intra; Pop; Nucleus Hub – there’s no shortage of inspiration down on the waterfront, with all these spaces offering working, exhibition and event space. Previously, the Nucleus Cafe further inland was one tiny oasis of vibrancy in an otherwise drab high street.

Moving to Medway was an economic decision I’m sure many others are still making: You get so much more for your money here. But then I discovered a bonus, by way of the numerous and varied free festivals. The cultural highlight on the Isle of Dogs was the single, annual carnival. As a ‘hobby writer’, finding this wealth of creativity and fellow writers in Medway inspired me, and I’m now living the dream I had as a child – writing for a living.

DSCN0175Rochester was the catalyst, beginning with Philip Kane’s writing course, giving me the confidence to go for my first freelance writing gig for a local website. As I explored the towns, everything exploded: I was introduced to a whole new world of creativity happening in spaces such as The Two Brewers (hosting the Writers’ Rendezvous) and The Good Intent (live music and the Rochester LitFest garden parties). Cafes like Cafe 172, which hosts cultural open mic, Seasonally Effected, and the coFWD community’s Tuttle coffee mornings at the Deaf Cat, are bringing even more creative people together.

We’re blessed with green, open spaces – every one of the five Medway towns has beautiful parks with family activities organised on a regular basis: Riverside in Rainham is home to the English Festival in April; The Vines hosts the Macmillan Cherry Picnic; Gillingham Park is the perfect location for the Will Adams Festival. And Rochester Castle Gardens is an iconic magnet on any day, where a five minute walk away will take you on a journey though history, from the imposing splendour of Rochester Cathedral to the Dickens inspired high street. Morris Dancers and music during the Sweeps Festival see it become a heaving, moving spectacle of colour every May.

My role with Ideas Test means I’m lucky enough to have a front row seat to watch the growth of imagination and creativity in the area. It’s an exciting time to be in Medway.

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Looking ahead other festivals in Medway include;

The Rochester Dickens Festival with costumed character parades and street entertainment throughout Rochester High Street from 30th May to 1st June;

Love Music Hate Racism is a free festival of music dance and performance taking  place at Fort Amerhurst in Chatham on 7-8th June;

The Fuse Festival offers free arts events throughout Medway including circus and theatre from 13-15th June;

A new sound festival TÖNE will take place at venues in and around the Chatham and Medway maritime area from 9th -22nd June;

Medway River Festival takes place at Chatham Waterfront on Saturday, 12th July.

Independent music festival Homespun takes place at various venues around Medway from 25th-26th July;

Rochester Literature Festival ‘Mad, Bad & Dangerous‘  brings together writers, performers, musicians, directors, producers and film makers and will take place from 27 September to 5 October.

All images in this blog copyright Jaye Nolan.

 

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