The chalkboard in the beer garden at The Playhouse Bar in Norwich issues a stark message to would-be buskers and one-man bands.

Despite its hard line against unsolicited performers, The Playhouse is shangri la for the city’s bohemians. Located in the ‘creative quarter over the water’ on St George’s Street, it is a point of convergence for artists, musicians, filmmakers, fashion designers and experimenters across a spectrum of mediums, their talents as diverse and varicoloured as the festoon lights illuminating the riverside.

I’m here to meet Kitty Perrin, a singer-songwriter and radio presenter making gorgeous noises in the city of stories. She sips a can of ginger beer – fiery as her red hair, which first caught my attention last summer in All Saints Green. Kitty and her band were performing during Head Out Not Home, a programme of free live entertainment on Sunday afternoons in the city centre. I was struck by her on-stage demeanour: unpretentious and direct, talking brightly about the personal experiences and relationship dynamics that inspired her indie-pop songs.

This year, Kitty released her debut EP, titled Stick It Out, and embarked on her first headline tour of the UK. But the most remarkable thing about the 22-year-old might be the sense of community she has built here in Norwich – a city that she has called home for just four years.

Eastern Daily Press: Kitty Perrin writes bittersweet songs about personal experiences and relationshipsKitty Perrin writes bittersweet songs about personal experiences and relationships (Image: Amy Marsh)

Kitty was born in Brighton at the turn of the millennium into a household brimming with creativity. Her father is a comedy promoter, her mother is a writer who has authored five novels, and her siblings are similarly talented multi-instrumentalists. Engagement with drama and theatre was encouraged from a young age – by the time she was seven Kitty was attending Edinburgh Festival Fringe, cultivating an insatiable thirst for the performing arts.

Unlike The Playhouse Bar, acoustic guitars were indeed permitted on the streets of Brighton.

“All of my dad’s friends were part of the busking scene,” she says.

This extended to the infamous Tim the Byrdyman – a gentleman who rambles the Lanes warbling on bird whistles. It was among this vaudeville birdsong that Kitty found her voice, busking with her older sister just round the corner from the Royal Pavilion.

“We made a killing because I looked so young,” she says. “That’s how I learned to perform.”

But in secondary school, Kitty was paralysed by performance anxiety. She quit drama and put down her guitar.

“I was embarrassed by it. I didn't want to play music in front of people anymore.”

If it wasn’t for the encouragement of her guitar teacher – none other than Gordon Russell, lead guitarist in Dr Feelgood – Kitty might have abandoned her musical talents altogether. But Gordon reassured her and championed her original songwriting.

“Gordon is the nicest man in the world,” she says. “It was just a little blip, which often happens as a teenager.”

Whereas her peers in Brighton were moving to Leeds, Manchester or Bristol for university, Kitty decided on UEA – her mother’s alma mater.

"When I came to see Norwich, I was like: ‘Oh, this place is so beautiful’.”

In 2018, Kitty commenced an undergraduate degree in history and politics. In her second week at university, she asked staff at Frank’s Bar on Bedford Street if she could perform – a gig that soon developed into a residency where her confessional choruses provided the soundtrack for locals sipping coffee and cocktails.

That December, she uploaded two of her original songs to the BBC Music Introducing website.

“Anyone can upload their music to Introducing,” Kitty explains. “It's the easiest way to get your music to the BBC. It goes straight to your local radio show.”

The tracks, titled Missing and Fall of Clinton, were played three weeks in a row on Radio Norfolk before being broadcast on Radio 6 Music.

“Once I had that play, I started getting loads more gigs and meeting local artists.”

Kitty formed a band featuring bassist and vocalist Joe Maguire, drummer Ben Rodwell, pianist and vocalist Alexander Carson and guitarist Declan Fearon and started gigging. During the pandemic, they kept themselves productive with lockdown livestreams, but Kitty had by then discovered another creative outlet that she could pursue from home.

Eastern Daily Press: Kitty Perrin has been nominated for the Broadcast and Media Award at the Norfolk Arts Awards 2022Kitty Perrin has been nominated for the Broadcast and Media Award at the Norfolk Arts Awards 2022 (Image: Lee Colleen)

For the past three years, Kitty has been working with BBC Voices as a presenter and producer for BBC Music Introducing in Norfolk. After sending her songs to the show, she appeared in the studio for a live session and told the producer she was considering a career in radio.

“I started rocking up every week, standing on the other side of the glass and waving until someone let me in.”

Kitty curates a playlist of 20 songs for each show, exposing listeners to the best up-and-coming artists.

“I pick all the songs myself and I try to say why I like them,” she says. “Audiences aren't going to care unless you show them why they've got to care.”

Kitty also presents The Social on BBC Radio Norfolk, a youth current affairs programme.

“Young people can give you such a lease of life,” she says. “Every single person that you hear on the show is 23 and under.”

The show discusses everything from politics and the cost-of-living crisis to favourite albums to online polls conducted on Instagram about particular themes like travel or finances.

For her radio work, Kitty has been nominated for the Broadcast and Media Award at the Norfolk Arts Awards 2022. Winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts on November 5.

Kitty also recently curated a pride-themed show for The Hot List on BBC Sounds celebrating the queer music scene, which she says has influenced her own artistic and personal journey.

“I had just started dating a girl for the first time when I listened to Marika Hackman’s album, I'm Not Your Man.”

The record is celebrated for its idiosyncratic exploration of female relationships and sexuality, which has influenced Kitty’s creative process.

“Every song was so unguarded, but they were amazing stories and some were really funny. After I came out, I started writing really blunt and open songs.”

Other influences include classics like The Beatles, Suzanne Vega and Cat Stevens, as well as Lily Allen, Fleet Foxes and Phoebe Bridgers.

“I loved studying history but music has that element of it that I don't get from anything else. That feeling of just being in the moment. Nothing makes me feel as much as music.”

Kitty was invited to headline Queer Voices at Norwich Arts Centre in June, featuring only LGBTQ+ artists. “It was a really special show,” she admits.

Appearances at Latitude Festival and Wild Paths have grown her following, while she has also hosted the BBC Introducing Stage at Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Large-scale communal events like music and arts festivals are essential for keeping our communities vibrant. The performing arts bind the city together – and young creatives like Kitty play a vital role in the regeneration of our cultural landscape. And it is not only the injection of cash that students bring to our local economy, we rely on them to breathe new life into the city with challenging and forward-thinking ideas.

Kitty describes how she has dedicated her time to pounding the pavements of Norwich in search of local music.

“I'm seeing live bands most nights of the week. I know pretty much every local band that plays in Norwich.”

Eastern Daily Press: Kitty has performed at Norwich Arts Centre, Latitude Festival and Wild Paths, as well as hosting the BBC Introducing Stage at Norfolk and Norwich FestivalKitty has performed at Norwich Arts Centre, Latitude Festival and Wild Paths, as well as hosting the BBC Introducing Stage at Norfolk and Norwich Festival (Image: Gordon Woolcock)

In The Playhouse Bar, an upside-down cityscape sprawls overhead, a papier-mâché metropolis blossoming from the ceiling. With her voice scattered across the airwaves, her presence on stage and her visibility on the front lines at local gigs in her unwavering pursuit of new music, it strikes me that in the years to come Kitty could loom large over this city as if it were the paper panorama overhead.

But even with this growing reputation, she emphasises the strength of community.

“In Brighton, I find that the music scene is very competitive,” she says. “Everyone's trying to make it, so no one really wants to help each other. But in Norwich, you go to people's shows and they come to yours. That is special. It doesn't happen in every city.

“There’s so much going on, but it still has that community feel to it. You just feel a part of something – and that makes it the best place in the world.”