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Canary Wharf: How Festival14’s packed programme is a whole new approach

Event running July 21-24 promises more than 50 performances to help people discover the Wharf

Festival14 will run from July 21-24, 2022 across Canary Wharf
Festival14 will run from July 21-24, 2022 across Canary Wharf

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Grandmaster Flash. Live, in Canada Square Park. For free.

Those words alone are testament to the fact that Festival14 is something new for Canary Wharf.

The DJ and hip hop pioneer –responsible for the first expression of scratching ever released on a record – is set to mix among the towers as the headline act on the main stage on July 21, 2022. And that’s just the first night.

Running Thursday-Sunday, Festival14 is set to fill the estate with more than 50 performances encompassing comedy, theatre, dance, family activities and, of course, music.

our MUSIC picks for FESTIVAL14
- July 21 - Grandmaster Flash
8.15pm, free, Canada Square Park
- July 22 - House Gospel Choir
8.30pm, free, Canada Square Park
- July 23 - Ronnie Scotts Jazz Orchestra
time TBC, free, Canada Square Park
- July 24 - Sona
time TBC, free, Canada Square Park

The mostly free events will run daily between noon and 10pm at a diverse selection of venues designed specifically to encourage visitors to explore Canary Wharf.

“We’d seen the success of events like our Winter Lights festival, which takes place across lots of different parts of the estate and the amazing buzz people feel when they arrive for that,” said senior arts and events manager at Canary Wharf Group, Pippa Dale.

“So we wanted to create a similar feeling for Festival14 so that it’s very obvious when people get here that there’s something really exciting and new happening.

“People in Canary Wharf are often quite set on the places they know – the places they go to lunch, for example – so we’re hoping this will help them explore and discover different areas.”

Most of the performances at Festival14 will be free
Most of the performances at Festival14 will be free

In addition to the dozens of performances and activities, there will also be a street food market every day in Montgomery Square and special offers from some bars, restaurants and cafes for the duration.

Canary Wharf Group director of arts and events Lucie Moore said: “Moving forward, we’re looking at putting on larger scale events over shorter periods of time to bring as many people as possible to the estate but also to change perceptions about the area.

“Events and cultural activities have always been really important to Canary Wharf in terms of placemaking and, since Covid, they’re something people are looking at and talking about even more.

our COMEDY picks for FESTIVAL14
- July 21 - Milton Jones, Jessica Fostekew
7.15pm, £11, Westferry Circus Roundabout
- July 22 - Reginald D Hunter, Jo Caulfield
6pm, £11, Westferry Circus Roundabout
-l July 23 - Paul Sinha, Felicity Ward
6pm, £11, Westferry Circus Roundabout
Follow this link for bookings

“These events are a real team effort and we couldn’t be able to do them without the work of so many people across Canary Wharf Group’s teams. 

“The estate is now busy and buzzy and with the arrival of the Elizabeth Line, there’s the potential for even more people to visit.

“That’s an opportunity for us, in terms of events, because there are people who will come in from other areas who may not have done in the past.

“For Festival14 it will be really interesting to see what numbers we get in comparison to things like Winter Lights in past years.”

Events will take place from noon over the four days
Events will take place from noon over the four days

The full programme for Festival14 – a name inspired by Canary Wharf’s postcode, E14 – is still being finalised, with all updates expected online by July.  

Pippa said: “In contrast to previous years with our Tuesday night music concerts, we’ve booked some bigger acts.

“It’s a packed programme and, especially at the weekends, people will be able to listen from noon right through until 9pm or 10pm at night.

“Grandmaster Flash is our opening headliner and we think he will appeal to the audience that’s already here – a bit of nostalgia after a day in the office and a bit of a party.

our THEATRE picks for FESTIVAL14
- July 21 - 440 Theatre, Hamlet
1pm, free, Westferry Circus Roundabout
-l July 22 - The Canary Cabaret

7.30pm, free (ticketed), Crossrail Place Roof Garden
- July 23 - Mischief And Mayhem

5pm, free (ticketed), Crossrail Place Roof Garden
- July 24 - The Handlebards Romeo & Juliet
1pm, free, Westferry Circus Roundabout
Follow this link for bookings

“I’m really excited about having House Gospel Choir – they’re a group I’ve admired for a long time and we’ve been waiting for the right event to book them.

“They’re pretty local too, as is Hackney Colliery Band. We’re also really pleased to be able to host Sona on the Sunday, during her UK tour.

“The outdoor comedy at Westferry Circus also features some big names, so that’s ticketed because we have limited space and we’re expecting it to be very popular.

“We’ll be having open air theatre at that venue too with the return of The Handlebards who are fantastic and 440 Theatre who do Shakespeare plays in 40 minutes.”

The Handlebards are set to return to Westferry Circus
The Handlebards are set to return to Westferry Circus

There will also be a series of theatre performances at Crossrail Place Roof Garden – ticketed but free due to the capacity of the venue.

“Whenever we do anything we try to include the local community and local businesses and organisations around the estate,” said Lucie.

“We’re very fortunate to work where we are but we’re aware there are areas around us that need supporting.

“The Space has been operating up in the Roof Garden for years now and they were an obvious choice for us as a partner for part of Festival14 because they know that venue, we know what they do and they’ve put together a whole programme for us there.”

A range of kids activities will take place on the Saturday and Sunday, including dance music party Big Fish Little Fish Family Rave at Westferry Circus and puppetry in the form of Bus King Theatre: Marvelo’s Circus at Montgomery Square.  

“We’re really hoping, especially for families, that they will come and spend the whole day with us – do a workshop, have lunch and listen to some music,” said Lucie.

“We’ve really tried to cover a lot of areas and there will be one or two unexpected events too, such as a van that serves up takeaway poetry. We’re not finished yet.”

Here’s a little Grandmaster Flash to get you in the mood…

Read more: The O2 celebrates 15 years of gigs, events and performances

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via
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Blackheath: Why comedian Ed Byrne’s taking a hard look at himself in If I’m Honest

Comic talks Ed Venturing, small victories and parenting ahead of his show at Blackheath Halls

Comedian Ed Byrne is set to play Blackheath Halls
Comedian Ed Byrne is set to play Blackheath Halls – image by Idil Sukan

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Having been warned by his PR that I’ll have a maximum of 20 minutes to chat to comedian Ed Byrne, disaster strikes within minutes of him picking up.

After exchanging pleasantries, the line suddenly goes dead. Was it something I said? Is Byrne offend-Ed? I re-dial. Answerphone. 

For those who care about these things, Ed’s message is functional, polite and short. There’s not much material for an article here, no blistering one-liner to recount. I hang up and call again.

The second hand ticks round. He picks up. That sonorous Irish lilt is back in my ears.

“I’m sorry about that,” he says. “I think I may have somehow hung up on you with my face.”

Ed’s cheekbones aren’t the only sharp thing about him. Since his first gig, 28 years ago this November, the Irish comic has built a career skilfully dissecting his life and presenting its absurdities for the amusement of others.

Having been nominated for the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival in 1998, he’s gone on to appear regularly on TV including on panel shows such as Mock The Week and game shows as a celebrity contestant while continuing to perform live across the country.

He’s set to perform his latest show – If I’m Honestat Blackheath Halls on October 20. Although this comes as something of a surprise to him.

“Am I?” he says. “I must be. I think that’s a new venue for me, if I’m not mistaken. What threw me was that I was just in that part of London for the Greenwich Comedy Festival, which was a great laugh. I got the sunshine, I was lucky. It rained the next day.”

That Ed isn’t completely across his touring schedule feeds into the topic of the show he’ll be performing, which considers what traits, if any, he’d be happy to pass on to his kids.

“I haven’t tried to pass anything on,” he says. “But I’ve tried to drill out of them stuff that I know is innately coming from me.

“I’m very bad at being able to find things – my keys, my credit cards – and my older son is exactly the same, but there’s nothing I can say about it, because it’s my fault.

“I’m asking him if he knows where his water bottle is, and, if he had the wit, he’d ask if I knew where my sunglasses are.

“I have two kids, and nothing is more annoying than your children, because they are irritating in ways that you recognise in yourself.

“So I thought: ‘What about me am I happy to be passing on to these children, and what about me am I worried about passing on to these children?

“Ostensibly it’s about kids, but really it’s about me – I’m taking a long hard look at myself. I thought there was mileage in that, and indeed there is.

“I talk about stuff that the kids get from me, that I know I get from my parents – the desire to have the last word in an argument.

“I talk about the good things – I’m quite funny – and it also covers the skills that can’t be taught.

“For example, I’m pleased that since my mid-40s, I’ve become skilled in recognising when a cramp is going to happen and stopping it before it does. You feel it, leap out of bed and say: ‘Not today’, pat yourself on the back and go: ‘Ed Byrne, 1, insufficiently oxygenated muscle, nil’.

“It’s about finding those little victories in life. I tell a story about cutting myself with a knife recently, but being delighted because it’s a blade that I’d sharpened.

“You look for things to be proud of. Doing stand-up is a bit of a relief valve – you might be having a conversation and then later find a way to put the humour from it into a monologue.

“You can say things to an audience that you wouldn’t in real life – for instance, my kids might be really excited to get on a plane and all I want to say is: ‘This is shit, it’s Ryanair’, so I say that on stage instead, embellishing things slightly. 

“There’s going to come a point when they watch my stand-up and it will be like handing them the Allen key that dismantles my armour, because my comedy is full of my insecurities and particularly about my failings as a parent.

“I fear that day – when they do finally watch it, will they have respect for the fact that I stand up in front of people and do all these things and make them laugh, or will they say I sound like a loser?

“Talking about how soft my erections are and how bad I am at general life-skills.”

Ed's latest show is called If I'm Honest
Ed’s latest show is called If I’m Honest – image by Idil Sukan

Ed wrote If I’m Honest and began touring the show shortly before the pandemic hit. Having tweaked the material and performed his fair share of drive-ins and Zoom shows he says it’s delightful to be back in front of live audiences again.

“It’s been such a relief to be doing it,” he says. “We were having to make do. I likened it to really wanting a Mars bar when all you have is cooking chocolate. 

“That’s all there is so you make the most of it. Lockdown was miserable and then what we’ve had over the past 18 months has been miserable. 

“I think if I’d known at the start it was going to be so long it would have been more frightening.

“I did some other things, some TV and I’m very lucky because I’d been doing that stuff for years so I’d built up some equity – a lot of comedians I know had to go and get day jobs. It’s made me appreciate it all the more. 

“When I started out, there was a sense among the grown-ups that you needed something to fall back on. I was making a living out of stand-up in my early 20s, but I’d go home to my parents, and hear from them, friends and neighbours that I should have that.

“It’s a trade, a craft, it’s my job. Now it’s the stand-up I fall back on – I do other things such as acting and a bit of presenting.

“Then, 18 months ago, it was actually, finally taken away, and you go: ‘Shit. This career, that I’ve had for a quarter of a century, isn’t there anymore. It’s finally as unstable as people thought it might have been when I started.”

As a side project, Ed conceived Ed Venturing, a YouTube show launched in February where he interviews other comedians, having invited them to join him in his passion for hillwalking. 

“It’s very much in its infancy at the moment – there’s only four episodes up at the moment,” he says. “But there are two or three more in the can, and I’m hopefully going to record some more over the next month or two. So far we’ve released Rhod Gilbert, Stuart Maconie, Desiree Burch and Hal Cruttenden.

“I try to put off looking back as long as possible, until we’re at least 45 minutes into the walk. Then we sit down and talk about their career and how far they’ve come. It just suits the mood.”

Time for reflection is something of a theme with Ed, whether he’s working on new material or considering the view from a freshly conquered peak while consuming peanut M&Ms or a morsel of his homemade beef jerky.

So what does he think about the show he’s touring?

“I really want people to come and see it because this is genuinely in the top three stand-up shows I’ve ever written – it’s worth it,” he says.

“If you’ve not seen a lot of stand-up, then you should come to this show that I think is pretty good. I did one back in 1998, when I was nominated for the Perrier, which was called A Night At The Opera, and that was my break-through.

“Then I did one about 13 years ago – Different Class – which everyone agrees is the best show I’ve ever done. I feel this one is up there with those other two.

“It’s just typical that this was the one that got shut down. The routines feel good, it’s like singing a song, you know where the laughs are – I’m really enjoying it.”

Tickets for Ed Byrne: If I’m Honest at Blackheath Halls cost £25. The performance starts at 8pm. 

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