My Canterbury Week, James Sloan

Friday 17th August 2012

Men’s First Team

My Canterbury Week, James Sloan

I joined Kent Cricket for a period of work experience in August, which coincided with the historic Canterbury Week. Now in its 161st year, Canterbury Week defines English tradition. Events such as the Supporters' Club wreath laying ceremony and Ladies' Day have become essential dates on the calendars of Kent cricket fans.

Cricket festivals in the modern day now offer – more than ever – something for everyone. Some may still cry though: 'What is there to do for the youth of today?'

For a start, there was free entry for all under-16’s to both the four-day LV County Championship match against Essex and the CB40 home encounter with Derbyshire. This made it a great opportunity for kids to be involved in one of the most exciting weeks of the season, without paying a penny.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to spend the entirety of this great week, with the Club. It has most definitely been a work experience placement to savour, with an exclusive, behind the scenes look at the preparations for the historic events that take place during the festival.

Months of planning came to fruition with the success of the various marquees surrounding the ground that were used for hosting parties and also for selling goods. The Arcade set up on Ladies Day was particularly impressive, with its large variety of accessories that were on sale.

You only need to take a stroll around the ground to soak up the excitement of supporters young and old – and the anticipation of the crowd, prior to an enthralling day out at the cricket.

Drinks would flow as the days progressed, in a spirited manner that accompanies a celebration of the purest form of cricket and of the British summertime as the sun made a few scarce, prolonged cameos. Meanwhile, it was great to see the outfield packed with youngsters batting and bowling during the intervals.

Sunday was family day; with a bouncy castle, photo opportunities with the Olympic torch, the mascot race and toys and games –all encouraging fans of all ages to visit the St. Lawrence Ground – some would make their maiden voyage to Old Dover Road, whether they were fans of cricket or not.

However, what would the masses encounter when they arrived at Canterbury Week? Well, aside from all of the side-show forms of entertainment, there would be a captivating contest between two South-East England rivals.

In a season when so many games have been drawn and decimated by the weather, the regular tumbling of wickets this week would produce the rarity of a result. However, it was unfortunately a defeat against Essex, although that didn’t prevent a big crowd returning for the CB40 game two days later.

Those who came back were greeted with an improved performance that saw Kent thrash Derbyshire on a glorious Sunday afternoon. It was a fitting ending to Canterbury Week.

But what will entice spectators back to Kent Cricket Club? There are a whole host of factors that will encourage the return of fans – weather permitting.

There aren’t too many better ways to spend an afternoon in the sun, relaxing at the cricket. It’s a great place to socialise and home and away supporters sit together harmoniously.

The players are more accessible than a lot of professional sports stars, meaning that youngsters can easily chat to heroes and obtain their autographs when they’re fielding on the boundary. This intimate aspect of cricket is something special for kids, who leave with the experience of having been within touching distance of professional athletes, who would be hundreds of yards away at a big stadium.

The St. Lawrence Ground is an exclusive sporting venue in regards to its close seating proximity to the playing field. This helps give it a character that makes the atmosphere at Canterbury even more special.

When attending a Kent Friends Life T20 game a few years ago, I happened to lose my wallet. Fortunately it had been handed in to the reception, something that wouldn’t be expected at many public places. This shows the good nature of the Old Dover Road ground patrons.

Other than rain delays that occur a little too regularly for everyone’s appreciation, there’s not much to dislike about a day at the cricket. And of all weeks to go to the ground, nothing tops the Canterbury Week festival.

All of the additional events, like the mascot race and Fashion on the Outfield, make it an essential visit even for non-cricket fans. With the Olympics now coming to a close, this gives crowds yet another opportunity to become immersed insport.

So if you’re ever stuck for where to go on a day out, why not consider a cricket match, for its bouncy castles, marquees, fashion, Olympic torches and sporting drama?!

James Sloan