A three-year-old mid-Norfolk arts festival has staked its claim to become a permanent fixture in the county’s cultural calendar with an expanded programme and high-profile patron.

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Swaffham’s Visual Arts Festival started life as a village art exhibition in Mundford, but raised its sights after finding a new home in the town’s newly-renovated Assembly Rooms.

Each year since then it has expanded the range of disciplines it encompasses, and this year will bring photography under its umbrella, while Angel of the North sculptor Antony Gormley has become the event’s new patron.

Festival publicist Denis Bishop said: “Each year we try to develop it so the quality of what we do is constantly improving.

“Now that we have introduced a wider range of events we are attempting to make this a county-wide event. We are hoping this will take us another stage forward.

“These things tend to take time to get a following.

“The Norfolk and Norwich Festival is huge and the King’s Lynn Festival is quite big, but because we are a specialist in visual arts rather than drama or music we think we might have a niche product here.”

The festival will begin with a screening of Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona at the EcoTech Centre on Friday, September 28.

Architecture will be represented by a talk titled Architecture – Yesterday and Tomorrow? the following week, while other events include a talk from the National Trust on art restoration and the Seeing is Believing art exhibition which will close the festival.

The festival promises improvement through a photographic masterclass with David Hennessy and Nigel Downer.

Artist-in-residence Christopher Hollick will answer questions on all art related matters, and a town-wide Tutankhamun mummy sculpture trail will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the discovery of the pharaoh’s tomb by Swaffham-raised Howard Carter.

Mr Bishop said: “I think this is designed to attract more people into Swaffham to recognise it as a destination where things happen.

“I think our festival is encouraging people to come to Swaffham, spend time here, and while they are here enjoy visual art.”

For information and bookings, phone 01760 721115 or 01366 328567, visit Ceres Bookshop, or see www.swaffhamvisualartsfestival.co.uk and follow @swaffvisart on Twitter

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