A Canterbury Peculiar – London Overground at the Full English Festival

Canterbury High Street

Canterbury High Street was heaving. I arrived on the midday train from Stratford International with about an hour-and-a-half before the screening of London Overground at The Gulbenkian Cinema on the University of Kent campus.

Third Eye Canterbury

A felt this Third Eye watching me as my baseball cap was blown off my head by a strong gust of wind. I went into the Oxfam bookshop a couple of doors down and a Third Eye was embossed in gold on the cover of a 1890’s book about poverty in London. Was this a message that I should be looking for some particular insight on my trip to Canterbury, or just a confluence of easy esoterica?

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The Cathedral spire poked above the rooftops of narrow medieval streets. In my mind I saw footsore pilgrims hobbling through the lanes weary from the road and for a brief period vowed to walk the Pilgrims Way from London.

count louis zborowski garage canterbury

I was quite disappointed that this interesting looking old building turned out to be the garage used by Count Louis Zborowski to build some dodgy early racing cars called ‘Chitty Bang Bang’.

Crab and Winkle Path Canterbury

Crab and Winkle Path Canterbury

The Path out of Canterbury City Centre to the University of Kent follows part of the Crab and Winkle Railway. Opened in 1830, the Whitstable to Canterbury Railway is one of the candidates for being the first railway line in Britain.

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The final stretch was across a field dominated by a large oak and then naviagting my way through the concrete cubes of the University of Kent Central Campus to the Gulbenkian Cinema.

 

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The screening of London Overground was part of the University’s Full English Festival. The festival marquee was deserted although a table covered with empty water bottles hinted at prior activity. One of my favourite films, The Wonder Boys, is set against the backdrop of University Literary Festival, there are parties and debaunchery, affairs, a stolen Marilyn Monroe jacket – Full English seemed a far more sedate affair.

London Overground Gulbenkian

I intended to leave the auditorium after introducing the film but ended up sitting in the front row and watching the first 20 minutes. It’s great to see something you’ve made projected on the big screen, memories of each shoot coming back vividly – standing on the Thames shore at Rotherhithe with Iain Sinclair and Andrew Kotting, leaving Iain’s house on a cold January night for a walk to Hampstead – and at that time not being able to imagine a moment like this sitting in a large cinema in Canterbury on a boiling hot day with people who’d come in from the sunshine to watch my film. It was a really good feeling.

University of Kent CampusWhile the film played I got a surprisingly tasty cheeseburger from the University shop and sat on a grassy bank with great views over Canterbury. Students ambled about, lounged on the grass, it was a very different scene to my student days at City Poly.

There was a good Q&A after the film, the questions almost entirely focusing on the development of London and the bleak picture of where it appears to be heading. I always try and look for some optimism but in the end we discussed the weather (it rained on nearly every walk in the film) and the experience of walking with Iain Sinclair. I mentioned our recent walk along a portion of Watling Street and the footage I’d shot with plans to shoot more, what it’ll become I’ve no idea. The next film, The Zookeeper’s Wife was due to start soon followed by Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, so we moved out into the foyer.

I ambled back down into Canterbury with a friend for a couple pints before getting the High Speed back to Stratford.

The Sailors’ Church Ramsgate

Sailors' Church Ramsgate

Near the foot of the vertigo inducing Jacob’s Ladder at Ramsgate Harbrour sits The Sailors’ Church and Harbour Mission. It was built in 1878 to provide spiritual guidance to the crews of the sailing smacks operating out of Ramsgate, particularly the young apprentices known as ‘Smack Boys’. There were rooms above the chapel where the boys could stay in relative comfort when ashore. The church also provided refuge for the survivors of shipwrecks.

Sailors' Church Ramsgate

There was not a soul around when I popped in yesterday. The peacefulness of the space put me in mind of the Sailors’ Reading Room in Southwold.

Sailors' Church Ramsgate

Morris Dancing by the sea at Broadstairs Folk Week

Morris Dancing Broadstairs

To Broadstairs for its famous Folk Week. The sense of anticipation built as we walked around the headland from Ramsgate – except amongst my kids who just wanted to go home after swimming in the sea.

Morris Dancing Broadstairs

The Morris Dancers turned the cliff top amphitheatre of the bandstand into Strictly Folk Dancing as each side took to the concrete floor led on by an announcer who seemed overly keen on the sound of his voice through the PA – with the introduction to one side lasting longer than their actual dance.

 

The central streets of Broadstairs were closed to traffic and Hooden Horses wandered the cute thoroughfares alongside banjo slingers tucking into Ice Creams from Morelli’s Gelateria.

Morris Dancing Broadstairs 2016

Morris Dancing Broadstairs

I was sucked into a second-hand bookshop and was about to leave empty handed when I discovered the natural history shelf at floor level and bagged a 1907 edition of Richard Jefferies’ Field and Hedgerow for £2.

Ramsgate Walkabout

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Ramsgate is the frontline of the fightback against UKIP – unavoidable in the Queen Charlotte pub whose landlord is running against Nigel Farage in the 2015 General Election. This painting by Bob and Roberta Smith faces the bar.

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And you plonk your pint of locally brewed Gadd’s ale down on one of these #UKIPPUTMEOFFMYBEER mats.

Pig Alley

Pig Alley is too much to resist – the town centre is lacerated with narrow passageways – if only Walter Benjamin had made his way to Thanet.

Karl Marx Ramsgate

The house where Karl Marx laid down his head for a short time on The Plains of Waterloo

Karl Marx Ramsgate

Benjamin could have come to Ramsgate following the footsteps of Karl Marx who stayed in the town in 1879 visting his daughter,  Jenny Longuet Marx who  lived at 6 Artillery Road.

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Wonder if Marx ever slipped in the Oddfellows Hall for a pint and heard stories of an eccentric young Dutch painter who was working in the town as a teacher. Vincent Van Gogh used to take off for London on foot, doing the journey in 3 days.

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Whatever Ramsgate was once renowned for it’s developing a reputation for its micropubs. This is the selection on offer at the Ravensgate Arms when I dropped in on an Sunday lunchtime. It’s the Ramsgate branch of Penge’s Late Knights brewery, their Dawns Early Light APA going down very well in the heat of an open fire.