Hopefully the sun will be shining, or perhaps you’ll need your umbrella — either way, it’s time to party. Norwich this weekend echoes to the sights and sounds of carnival with the Lord Mayor’s Celebrations. SIMON PARKIN has a look at what’s in store.

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Take 60 floats full of outlandishly costumed party-goers, some wacky street entertainment and thousands of revellers. Mix them together and what have you got? — the recipe for another fun-filled weekend of Lord Mayor Celebrations.

While the Royal Norfolk Show is over for another year and the Olympic Torch relay has passed through on its route to London 2012, Norwich is gearing up its three-days feast of entertainment, featuring performers from all over the world.

Many of the events are free, so it’s a great opportunity to get out and about and enjoy our fine city at its best.

This year’s the celebrations will, perhaps inevitably, have an Olympic theme, so its fitting that this year it will include a sporting feel with events taking in cycling, running and swimming.

Last year’s carnival weekend saw the revival of a much loved and much missed tradition, the Gas Hill Gasp that sees dozens of cyclists on all manner of bikes attempting to make it to the top of Norwich’s steepest street.

It was a huge success and is back again tonight. This year’s exciting new event is the Norwich ‘6 Bridge’ swim on Sunday that will see hardy swimmers take the plunge into the Wensum for a one mile swim downstream. Hundreds are expected to take part — from serious swimmers to the less serious in wacky costumes — and all will enjoy a truly unique experience of see picturesque Norwich Riverside from a new angle — plus swimming under six of the city’s bridges.

Of course, the centrepiece of the weekend will be the carnival procession on Saturday evening, when dozens of colourful floats, along with gymnasts, dancers, drummers and costumes, that will snake through the city centre.

It will this year again set off at the earlier time of 5pm and finish at 7.30pm.

Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, said: “The Lord Mayor’s Celebration is all about celebrating Norwich and the people that make it what it is - individuals, families, community groups and businesses.

“Saturday’s street procession is the highlight of the weekend, and a chance to shine for anyone who takes part. There’s not long left to get entries in, so if anyone still has to get their forms in to take part, please make sure you do it soon so you don’t miss out.”

Sixty one entries last year saw people of all ages on foot and on giant floats winding through the city’s streets, watched by tens of thousands cheering people.

All the floats will this year have a sporting theme — expect the Olympic rings, torches and Greek athletes to be much in evidence.

The UEA Sportspark, working with Active Norfolk, and aiming to provide a strong Olympic and sporting appeal to their float.

Maria Rowe, assistant director of sport, said: “We are really excited to be taking part in the Lord Mayor’s procession this year, with it being such a special sporting year, we just had to be involved. Our entry will show how many Olympic sports can be played locally.”

The council’s culture and events manager, Helen Selleck said; “The procession draws thousands of people into the city. It is a lively, colourful, exciting and entertaining day out for the whole family, enjoyed by all ages.

“It really is a case of the more the merrier...the more groups there are, the more there is for people to see, and those taking part in the procession will get more support from the crowds.”

She added: “We’re not setting a theme this year to encourage people to be as creative as possible. We really want to see everyone’s carnival spirit, whether it’s through dance or crazy costumes, the more fun the better!”

All the money raised at this year’s parade will go to the Future Projects’ education programme, this year’s civic charity chosen by the Lord Mayor Ralph Gayton and the Sheriff John Jennings.

The Lord Mayor officially began his civic year in office at City Hall with a traditional procession at Norwich Cathedral. Now he is looking forward to kicking off her civic term in style.

Mr Gayton said: “It is the big thing of the year for the Lord Mayor, so I am really looking forward to it. I was Sheriff of Norwich 16 years ago and was involved then so I have some idea of what to expect.

“It’s something people enjoy, there is always a good crowd and not just for the procession but what happens afterwards, the fireworks and all the other things. I’ll be doing my best to get round to everything.”

FRIDAY

The World Market

Gentleman’s Walk (Fri, 9am-6pm/Sat 9am-11pm/Sun 10am-4pm)

The world village market returns offering a feast on the street over the three days with stalls galore to be explored. There will be a great range of food including crêpes, bread and French cheese. Also crafts, clothing and gifts from around the world.

Gas Hill Gasp

Gas Hill, Thorpe Hamlet (7.30pm-9.30pm)

The infamous Gas Hill Gasp returned last year nearly 10 years after the cycling event was last run and was a huge success. The Gasp has been around since the 1940s as classic hill climb time trial. Dozens of uphill cyclists with calves of steel will take on one of the city’s steepest hills. The men’s event will see heats of four racing to the top of Gas Hill. Organisers again expect crowds running into the thousands to watch what will truly be a battle of the fittest as the winner will have had to make it to top of the hill five times.

3D Projections

Norwich Castle (10.30pm-11.20pm)

Spectacular 3D projections of walls tumbling, battles being fought and creatures emerging are being projected onto Norwich Castle. The holographic style projections will light up the exterior of the castle between 10.30pm and 11.30pm in what is promised to be a “never seen before event in Norwich”. Anyone who has seen this style of projection will know just what an eye-popping sight it is. The best vantage point to see the castle come to life will be on the stretch of Castle Meadow between Davey Place and The Bell Hotel.

SATURDAY

Lord Mayor’s Animation Celebration

Chapelfield Plain (10am-12pm)

Rare chance to see back-to-back animations made by Norfolk artists and groups shown all-day on the big screen outside Chapelfield.

Children’s Corner

Chapelfield Gardens (Sat 11am-5pm/Sun 1pm-5pm)

There will plenty to keep the young ones entertained in Chapelfield Gardens on both Saturday and Sunday with the special kiddies area hosting everything from circus skills and Punch & Judy to crafts, balloons and stories.

Medieval Market

Chapelfield Gardens (Sat 11am-10pm/Sun 1pm-7pm)

Get a taste of the past at this special market that offers the chance to sample tasty fare from the medieval period. There will also be demonstrations of skills, stalls, re-enactments, wandering musicians and fire juggling as part of the medieval merriment.

The Lord Mayor’s 5km Classic Road Race

Norwich City Centre (4.45pm)

From Norwich Cathedral to St Stephens Street, this 5km road race, first staged in 1996, attracts the best quality field for an event of its kind in the region. Watch the red-faced but determined runners start to arrive back through the city centre from about 4.45pm. More details visit: www.conac.org.uk

Lord Mayor’s Procession

Newmarket Road to St Martins Palace Plain (5pm)

Norwich’s unique parade is a fusion between Caribbean carnival and English procession. More than 60 floats will be taking part this year — with a theme of the Olympics, so expect plenty of sporty costumes. There will be the usual mix of the fantastically outlandish, gymnasts, dancers, big sounds, all winding their way through the city centre to the rhythm of the drums. Why not get into the fiesta fever by dressing up yourself? Bang the drum, blow that vuvuzela and get dancing!

Street Mayhem

Norwich City Centre (7pm-10.15pm)

This year the celebrations again feature a fantastic line-up of street performers to amaze, delight and entertain. Some strange and fun acts and characters will be popping up. Performers will include Plunge Boom, The Strangelings, Creature Feature, The Dukesbox, the Jelly Rollers and many more. Time, tide and torch wait for no-one as the captain and crew on their magical, mechanical marvel as it sets sail down Theatre Street with a menagerie of accompanying characters.

King Kong Boogie Bar

Chapelfield Gardens (11am-10pm)

The finest selection of DJs from the Waterfront, Future Radio, Uni Radio and Access to Music will be spinning chilled soul and ska party vibes as well as 1980s and 90s cheesy tracks to keep the party spirit alive.

Festival Funfair

Chapelfield Gardens (Sat 11am-10pm/Sun 1pm-7pm)

Thrills, spills and the opportunity to hook-a-duck and have your fortune told as the traditional funfair rolls back into Chapelfield Gardens. Featuring an 1890 traditional carousel, dodgems, flying ‘chairoplanes’ and a helter skelter, there will be a mix of classic funfair rides and traditional fairground stalls, plus the chance to stuff yourself silly on candyfloss.

The Forum Stage

Millennium Plain (12pm-10.30pm)

An all-day eclectic mash up of up-beat performances outside The Forum. Expect infectious, energetic, upbeat movement and rhythms from near and afar with a bit of magic. African dance troupe Ballet Nimba, regulars at the Womad festyival, will be be performing captivating, dynamic, traditional yet contemporary African dancing with live music and drama. Claudio Kron & Papajaca will bring Brazilian mardi gras with infectious music, sounds and atmosphere. Norfolk-based dance company Slanted Dance will see its young dancers performing a high energetic show seamlessly fusing styles including street, hip-hop and contemporary dance. There will also be Irish Dance, The Pulse the Rock Choir belting out hard rocking anthems, Somewhereto-takeover, plus some magic from local magician Nick Stein.

BBC Norfolk Introducing

Chapelfield Gardens (3pm-10pm)

BBC Norfolk Introducing will again be showcasing local bands for an afternoon of the best of Norwich’s up-and-coming bands. It is the fourth year that the radio show — which supports unsigned and under-the-radar music from across the county — has curated a showcase for the celebrations. This year they’re taking over the Chapelfield Gardens Bandstand for an afternoon of the best new music made. Those who will be performing include include Solko, Jace Gilkes and Sean Seraphim.

Bo Nanafana Social Club

Brigg Street (7pm-10.15pm)

Taking over Brigg Street for an evening of retro revelry will be Norwich’s hugely popular cabaret kings Bo Nanafana Social Club. Their show will feature vintage soul and rock‘n’roll band Derriere and The Shellac Collective plus street shows, dancing, dressing-up and surprises.

Fireworks

Norwich Castle (10.30pm)

Ooohhhh, ahhhh! The weather forecast is good, so this year we will hopefully be blessed with clear skies as the night is lit up. Spectacular, breathtaking, and set against the unmistakable backdrop of Norwich Castle, the firework display will light up the sky and be visible for miles around.

Tree Illuminations

Chapelfield Gardens (10.30pm-11.30pm)

See the amazing old trees in Chapelfield Gardens in a different light – don’t forget your camera!

Olympic Carnival Night

Waterfront (10pm-3am)

The Lord Mayor’s after party at the Waterfront with the best of indie, rock, pop and alt dance in the Main Room, while in the Studio its will all be a little more alternative with Rawkus. Over-18s only. Entry £4.50 (£3.50 NUS) or wear your medal for free entrance before midnight!

After The Lord Mayors House Party

Karma Kafe (9pm-4am)

A special post-carnival night at the Karma Kafe in Bedford Street featuring funky tech house with Jay Funk, Adjusted and Jacked while on the terrace DJs Tonic, Platinum and Par-T will be spinning retro-tastic grooves and party anthems. Free entry.

SUNDAY

The Norwich ‘6 Bridge’

New Mills Yard to Cow Tower (9am-2pm)

With this year’s Lord Mayor’s Celebrations having an Olympic theme it seems inevitable that there is more than the usual sporting events this year. As well as cyclists straining in the Gas Hill Gasp and runners pounding out the streets in the 5km Classic Road Race, this year athletes will also be taking to the water. The Norwich ‘6 Bridge’ river swim will see swimmer plunge into the Wensum at New Mills Yard from 9am before racing — or more sedately floating — down to Cow Tower. Particularly keen athletes will be combining the swim with the run and cycle events to create a Lord Mayor Celebration triathlon. Join the plunge for this new one-mile open water swim yourself and see six Norwich bridges as you’ve never seen them before. For more information visit: www.activeoutdoorsport.co.uk

Great Norwich Duck Race

Lady Julian Bridge to Millennium Bridge Riverside (3pm)

The quacking good charity event returns this year, so make sure you’ve got a stake in a little plastic contender. Last year saw more than 2,500 toy ducks take to the water of the Wensum as part of the Great Norwich Duck Race, a charity event to raise money for the 1st Norwich Sea Scout Group. This year organisers hope to get a lot more plastic competitors involved to help raise funds to build a new base at their Old Lakenham site. Each duck costs £2 and there are prizes for the first four across the finish line ranging from £200 to £50. Some of the money raise will also go to the Lord Mayor’s charity. Jane Stafford, one of the chief organisers, said last year’s event raised £5,500, adding: “This year we have opened it up to other groups around the Norwich area as well, so it won’t just benefit our group, because there are other Scout groups selling ducks for the race and they will get a percentage of what they sell.” Ducks are available from the Norwich Tourist Information Centre and in Chapelfield Gardens on Saturday. www.greatnorwichduckrace.co.uk

Bishop of Norwich’s Open Gardens

Bishop Gardens, Bishopgate (1pm-4.30pm)

Enjoy tea and cakes in the historic gardens that are opened to the public specially for the Lord Mayor’s Celebrations. Admission £3 (accompanied children and wheelchair users free).

King Kong Boogie Bar

Chapelfield Gardens (1pm-7pm)

The Boogie Bar continues to pump out the vibes on Sunday but making it a day to dance with tunes from the 1940s and 50s swing, plus Latin and Afrobeat right up to modern funk and electro. There will be dance lessons too so there is no excuse not to shake your thang!

Broadland Brass Band

Eaton Park (3pm)

The popular local brass band will be playing traditional music in the bandstand of Eaton Park.

Private Lives by Noël Coward

Whiffler Theatre, Castle Gardens (3pm)

Heartbreak Productions celebrate 20 years of open air performances with this visit to the Whiffler Theatre with this irreverent, hilarious and sophisticated play that overflows with Noel Coward’s celebrated eccentric wit and skilful comedic staging. Divorced couple Elyot and Amanda are inadvertently reunited on their respective honeymoons to second spouses. Believing themselves still in love, they abandon their new partners and run off but it’s not long before the champagne bubbles burst and they are back to the arguments – more bitter than angostura - that plagued their tempestuous marriage.

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