Green Bard Productions first started life as a productions company founded in 1991 by John Hippisley to produce Street Theatre and Theatre in Education, mainly in the medieval roles of Chaucer, Boccaccio and Dante, the real success was a series of short (15 minute plays) based on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales including the Pardoners’ tale and the Millers Tale, along with one dramatic rendition of the Wife of Bath’s Tale and The Knight’s Tale. There was also a perceived demand for theatre in education, which was taken to several primary schools in the South East of England, providing interaction for the children with a mediaeval pilgrim who appeared lost on his Pilgrimage to Canterbury. The looks of wonderment on the faces of the children was the true reward for John and his team of 6 actors, but work commitments did not allow him to pursue this full-time and so he chose instead to pursue his other personal interest, that of the paranormal.
In 1995 we started The Canterbury Ghost Tour, which was conceived based on John’s own experiences in the field and garnered from stories that he picked up over his time in the city, it harks back to when he was a child at school in Goudhurst, and had his first experience at a sensitive age of 13. In 1995 there were fewer than 12 Ghost tours conducted in the UK today in 2009 there are over 150, with more starting up all the time. Over the years the tour has evolved from a 3.5 hour tour including 2 pub stops, to a more manageable and accessible tour of just over an hour. The tour is constantly evolving and new stories are being introduced on a monthly basis, the basic route stays the same but as more people come forward with their experiences the more the tour develops. It also means that if you have been on the tour before if you come again it may be a very different tour.
In 2000 John was awarded the SEETB Millennium Tourism Award for the best new visitor attraction in the South East, beating off competition from the Royal Maritime Museum in Greenwich and Chatham Historic Dockyard. Following the publicity of the award John was asked by Thanet Councils Tourism Chiefs to produce a Ghost Tour of Broadstairs, which is still running to this day, although that too has undergone many changes since its first performance and is now conducted by a young actor with as bright future Lewis Roe, a graduate of UKC Drama, the tour is only available during the summer from July to September and meets outside the Dickens House Museum on Victoria Parade, Broadstairs. It takes the visitor on a journey of discovery from the Neolithic origins of the town to the brutal murder at the Chinese Lantern Café in the 1930’s, and the spectral sightings therein.
In 2001 John was approached by BBC Radio Kent and asked if he would produce a radio version of Haunted Faversham – this was broadcast live on Halloween 2001 on Radio Kent.
In 2003 John was asked by councillors in Whitstable to offer a ghost tour for the Oyster Festival, this proved so popular that John offered this on a regular basis on Sundays and still offers the tour which guides the visitor along some strangely named alleyways and lanes and recounts stories of smuggling and murder and death by misadventure. This tour – since the demise of the Whitstable Visitor centre is only available to groups of 15 or more and can also include a meal at a local restaurant of your choice for £35 per person including coffee.
In 2005 following successes in Whitstable and the meal and tour offers, John introduced the same concept in Canterbury originally using the House of Agnes Hotel in St Dunstan’s, and later the Parrott Inn in St Radigund’s, in 2008 he added close-up magic options to this and also was asked by the local branch of the RSPCA to use this as a fundraising option raising £400 for such a worthy cause. These meal & tour options have now been extended to include 3 new venue’s Café Rouge (French) , Strada (Italian) , and The Old Brewery Tavern (Traditional English) – part of the Celebrity Chef Michael Cain’s chain of eateries, each provide guests with a differing style of cuisine and each can be tailor made to suit differing dietary needs.
This year 2009 we are planning to launch a new welcome reward package for visitors, designed to allow the smaller retailer to introduce their services to our visitors, any customer of our tours will receive a Past Port to the City, which will include discount vouchers which can be redeemed against products and services offered by fellow small business members. The intention is that for the price of a ticket on one of our tours you will receive vouchers in excess of £20, we are still garnering support from the community but early indicators are positive and it is hope that this will also establish the city as a great place to find the out of the ordinary products.
We are launching a new day-time walking history tour of the city centre – entitled “Canterbury- an Alternative View”, in June 2009. It is a sideways glance at the hidden history of the City – a bit tongue-in-cheek and it is hoped that it will be offered to the General public as well visiting groups to the city from the UK Language Schools and from overseas visitors as well. There are even plans to offer the option of French and German Language versions in the near future.
“I do not want to compete directly with the excellent tours available from the Canterbury Guild of Guides, the tours will simply be a mildly satirical and sometimes quizzical look at hidden history of Canterbury’s city centre, covering areas suchas Butchery Lane, the Duel of William Corkine and Christopher Marlowe, and the role Geoffrey Chaucer played in the re-building of the City’s Westgate Towers following the Poll Tax Riots of 1381, and the Great fire which destroyed parts of the city in 17th Century, liberally sprinkled with little gems of English Language Phraseology such as ‘to the bitter end’ and ‘raining cats & dogs’ . I clearly remember being dragged round a city or two in the past and being talked ‘at’ rather than ‘to’ about history thinking that it was irrelevant and I would never use it. All I have done is to re-write the bits of the city’s history and English Language that still fascinate me and I am sure will leave others with an eagerness to learn more by visiting some of the city’s many fine museums and attractions”. Following many months of waiting the first copies of the eagerly awaited “Haunted Canterbury” published by the Gloucestershire based The History Press, are finally on the shelves of local bookshops. Although the book is as the title suggests all about Canterbury Spectral Life or Death it will be of interest to visitors to the city as well as Local residents. When asked what he thought about the book, author John Hippisley said: ”I am very proud to finally see my name in print, and worked really hard on the historical accuracy of the content and feel that many people reading will be impressed by the diversity of spectral sightings in the city. Why not order your copy here – available to buy signed by the author online only £9.99 + Postage & Packaging.