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Launch of Medway Culture Fest 24

Locals invited to be part of Medway’s celebration of creativity and community.

Creative Medway

Creative Medway launches Medway Culture Fest 24 with an invitation for locals to take part in the year-long programme of cultural events and activities celebrating Medway’s people, places and stories.

Medway Culture Fest 24 marks 40 years of culture-led transformation in Medway, a period which has seen the former Chatham Dockyard transformed into a thriving heritage site, university campus and creative hub.  In addition to the anniversary of the closure of Chatham Dockyard on 31 March, 2024 also sees a number of other significant anniversaries for Medway including 40 years since the foundation of Medway African and Caribbean Association and the centenary of the Medway Queen paddle steamer.  The Medway Culture Fest 24 programme is coordinated by Creative Medway in partnership with the local cultural sector, community organisations and Medway’s three universities. 

The Medway Culture Fest 24 programme includes large-scale spectacles, community events, exhibitions and hands-on experiences.  Local and national creatives, heritage organisations and community groups will bring Medway’s story to life in a year which will also include events run in communities by locals who have taken part in the Events Uncovered programme which trains and mentors community-led groups to plan and deliver local events. 

The exciting year-long programme kicks off with Loop Dance’s U.Dance event on Sunday 17 March inviting Medway’s young people to showcase their dance talent, build their confidence and develop their performance skills, culminating in a finale performance of 200 community dancers.  The event is one of a number of programmes giving children and young people the opportunity to get hands-on with arts, heritage and culture and explore careers in the creative sector.  Ideas Test will be supporting young people to develop their musical talent as part of the DisQuiet programme, and to kickstart their careers as creators, producers and cultural leaders by providing mentoring, training, and paid work placements through the Make Waves programme.  Medway African and Caribbean Association are inviting young performers and those interested in backstage roles to take part in a production exploring the history of hip hop and afrobeat dance as part of their anniversary year programme.  

Icon Theatre is inviting over 150 local people of all ages to take part in a spectacular new production Ghost Ships staged at Chatham Dockyard this September.  Ghost Ships tells the story of the extraordinary people who built and sailed the ships of Chatham Dockyard around the world and will feature a community cast of local residents and professional dancers performing together live on stage.  Young people aged 8-25 years can get involved as performers and through a backstage technical training and mentoring programme leading to paid work experience placements on the production.  Icon will be working with five Medway schools to run theatre and dance workshops which will culminate in performances within the show.  Adults are invited to join the show’s Community Cast or Community Choir.  All opportunities are free and require no previous experience.

Medway residents are also invited to take part in Medway Culture Fest 24 as volunteers through Medway Change Makers, Medway’s new cultural volunteering programme launching as part of the year.  Medway Change Makers connects local people with cultural events and activities, breaking down barriers to volunteering by offering one-off and short-term opportunities for an afternoon, a day or a weekend to suit modern-day schedules.  The programme also supports those with additional needs, language or access barriers to volunteer. Opportunities include supporting Black Arts Hub’s season of Black visual arts and poetry this Autumn as a Medway Black Art Trail Guide or helping install exhibition artworks. 

Carol Stewart, Chair of Creative Medway, said: “Creative Medway are proud to be launching Medway Culture Fest 24, celebrating Medway’s creativity, community and stories.  The programme showcases the best of Medway’s creative talent from large-scale spectacles to small-scale community events and reflects the significance of 2024 as an anniversary year for Medway and its people. The programme is packed with opportunities for locals to take part and for young people to get hands-on with culture.  We invite everyone to get involved!”

Maria Dorey, Medway Change Makers Volunteering Programme Manager, said: “Medway Change Makers is delighted to be supporting Medway people to be part of Medway Culture Fest 24 events this year.  Whether you are looking to make new friends, improve your employability or just get involved in things happening locally, Medway Change Makers makes it possible to give your time in a way that works for you without making a long-term commitment and by accessing the support you need to take part as a volunteer.”

Nina Atkinson, Artistic Director of Loop Dance Company, said: “We are thrilled to be the opening event of the Medway Culture Fest 24 programme and part of a packed programme offering locals and in particular young people the chance to get hands on with culture.  U.Dance is about getting everyone dancing from those who have never danced before to those who want to become professional dancers and is truly a celebration of Medway people and talent.”

The Medway Culture Fest 24 programme is available here.