Food festival was just for starters, with more autumn events on the way…

Nusrat Ghani
HARVEST FESTIVAL: One of the stallholders in The Pantiles at the weekend

The events kick off this Saturday [September 18] with a mammoth picnic to thank all the volunteers who have helped us through the pandemic. It takes place at Calverley Grounds and everyone is invited.

Following closely behind  is the Puppetry Festival, which is back for its fourth run; plus fireworks night in Dunorlan Park, which sadly had to be cancelled last year; and the ice rink in Calverley Grounds – not to mention the traditional panto, which this year features a Strictly star.

All are designed to lift our spirits as we work together to come through the Covid challenges.

At the weekend The Pantiles played host to its annual Harvest Food Festival, showing off some of the best local food Kent has to offer at this time of year.

Organiser Julian Leefe-Griffiths, who also runs the Tunbridge Wells Hotel, said: “It was another really wonderful food festival.

“The weather was really nice to us and there were some great cooking demos with autumn scallops and a partridge cooked by Steve Fuller from Fuller’s the butchers, so very seasonal for what is the best time of the year for food.”

But Mr Leefe-Griffiths added that stallholder numbers were lower than previous festivals.

He said: “They were down a little this year due to staff shortages, but it still was really successful and part of what give The Pantiles its life blood.”

NO STRINGS: A performer at the 2019 Puppetry Festival


Next month the Tunbridge Wells Puppetry Festival is also back after a year off.

The biennial celebration of all-things puppetry will take place across the town from October 13-17.

The centrepiece of the 2021 Festival will be Museum of the Moon, a touring artwork by UK artist Luke Jerram featuring lunar imagery that will sit elevated in Calverley Grounds on Friday and Saturday October 15-16.

Joint Festival Directors Alison Bundy and Ailsa Molyneaux said: “We’re especially proud that Museum of The Moon will bring an extra outdoor element of awe and wonder to this year’s festival.

“It’s a complete joy to be able to present live work once again.”

Also set to return this year after a year’s hiatus is the annual fireworks celebration in Dunorlan Park.

Organised by the Tunbridge Wells Round Table, it promises to once again light up the skies above the park while raising thousands for local charities.

Around 12,000 usually attend the annual display, that had to be cancelled because of the pandemic last year.

The Chairman of the Fireworks Committee at the Round Table, Simon Addis, said: “We are delighted that the fireworks are back.

“This is one of the flagship events held in the town every year and we know it was sorely missed last year.

“The last 18 months have been tough for everyone, and it is great to be able to get back to some form of normality and light up the skies over Tunbridge Wells.

“We want everyone to have a great time whilst raising valuable funds for local causes.”

The event is expected to take place on November 6, with tickets available from the beginning of October.

Also set to return after being cancelled last year is the town’s ice rink.

Skate Tunbridge Wells in Calverley Grounds


Skate Tunbridge Wells was only open for ten days last year, when the rink was forced to close as the area was plunged into Tier 4 Covid restrictions.

The rink is to return on Friday November 19 through to January 3.

This year there will be two rinks, with the a smaller one dedicated to parents and toddlers during the day, and to Bavarian curling in the evenings, with drinks and refreshments also on offer.

Cllr Jane March, the Council’s head of culture, said: “I’m sure everyone will agree that it’s wonderful to welcome the ice rink back to Calverley Grounds.

“A trip to the rink is such a lovely Christmassy thing to do, and after the challenges we’ve all faced over the past 18 months well deserved.

“This year there are two rinks; by day the smaller rink will be for parents and toddlers and by night it will transform into the Bavarian Curling Rink – definitely worth visiting! So book early and have some festive fun to look forward to.”

Discounted tickets are on sale from:

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