9 things to look forward to at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2021

South London cabaret legends Duckie present Don’t Touch Duckie! on the launch night at St Andrews Hall in Norwich. 

South London cabaret legends Duckie present Don’t Touch Duckie! on the launch night at St Andrews Hall in Norwich. - Credit: Contributed

The Norfolk and Norwich Festival is back for 2021 and once again features a diverse line-up of theatre, art, literature and live music.

The event returns from May 17 to 30 and this year is a one-off adaptation created with social distancing in mind and many of the performances are outdoors.

For the first time, the festival also features a digital strand, with experience packs and even a show delivered by a phone call.

All tickets are either free or pay what you can, but booking is essential at nnfestival.org.uk

Here are just some of the highlights in this year's programme...

Daniel Brine, artistic director and chief executive, who has now announced the dates for the 2021 No

Festival director Daniel Brine will appear at the launch event. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

1. Don’t Touch Duckie

Where: St Andrew’s & Blackfriars’ Hall, Norwich

When: May 17, 7.30pm 

There is no big gathering to start the Festival this year, but it is kicking off with a cabaret extravaganza -  transporting audiences to a drag showbiz speakeasy hosted by Bourgeois and Maurice, featuring a chat with festival director Daniel Brine.

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The in-person tickets are sold out but don’t worry - there is a live stream to bring the spectacle straight to you.

If you want to be included as a friendly face in the physical audience too, send your mugshot to mugs@duckie.co.uk to be immortalised in cardboard. 

A Rain Walk experience pack. 

A Rain Walk experience pack. - Credit: Jemima Yong

2. Experience Packs

Where: Via post

When: From May 17

A whole section of the 2021 programme is designed to be experienced come what may as the Festival was planned when the organisers did not know if it could go ahead.

This includes four packs to do at home in your own time:

A Rain Walk: Accompanied by the recorded voices of children from across the UK and Ireland.

Rambles with Nature Kit: With a pouch containing six tools with instructions to examine the natural world.

Going Somewhere: A beautifully illustrated pack that takes you on a 1,000 metre stroll. 

Frozen Light's Something for your Shelter: An outdoor sensory experience for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities. 

Robot Selfie by production studio Kaleider will take place in Chapelfield Gardens.  

Robot Selfie by production studio Kaleider will take place in Chapelfield Gardens. - Credit: Alejandro Veliz Reyes

3.   Robot Selfie

Where: Chapelfield Gardens (Festival Gardens), Norwich

When: May 17 to 23 

As we have not seen each other in a while, the Festival is inviting audiences to have their picture drawn and displayed on a giant canvas in Festival Gardens - oh and it is going to be drawn by a robot!

This piece of art from Kaleider asks you to submit a quick selfie and over six days it will be making a massive mural of the face of Norwich (and far beyond) to bring us all back together.

Future Cargo by Requardt and Rosenberg.

Future Cargo by Requardt and Rosenberg. - Credit: Contributed


4.  Future Cargo

Where: Chapelfield Gardens (Festival Gardens), Norwich

When: May 20: 6pm and 8pm

This one was due to premiere at the 2020 Festival, and organisers felt it was so good they had to invite it back.

A sci-fi dance show performed in a 40 foot haulage truck, it is a large scale dance spectacle from company Requardt and Rosenberg.

Hatis Noit will perform at the N&N Festival 2021. 

Hatis Noit will perform at the N&N Festival 2021. - Credit: Özge Cöne

5. Hatis Noit

Where: St Andrew’s & Blackfriars’ Hall, Norwich

When: May 20, 9pm

Hailing from distant Shiretoko in Hokkaido, Hatis Noit’s vocal range is astonishingly self-taught, inspired by Gagaku and operatic styles, Bulgarian and Gregorian chanting, to avant-garde and pop.

Tipped by the music industry as one to watch, this arresting and alternative evening is not to be missed.

Rider Spoke has been seen in 20 countries around the world. 

Rider Spoke has been seen in 20 countries around the world. - Credit: Alex Kershaw

6.  What: Rider Spoke

Where: Chapelfield Gardens (Festival Gardens), Norwich

When: May 27 to 29 

Taken up cycling in lockdown? Then this one might be for you.

This beautiful show allows you to cycle through the streets of Norwich guided by the voices of strangers on a smartphone app alongside a delicate score.

Rider Spoke has been seen in 20 countries around the world before making it’s Norwich debut.

Ayòbámi Adébáyò tells the compelling story of twins separated by death.

Ayòbámi Adébáyò tells the compelling story of twins separated by death. - Credit: Canongate

7. What: Provenance

Where: Dragon Hall, Norwich

When: May 21 to 30  

This year the Festival has not one but two literature programmes.

The Festival favourite City of Literature returns with a plethora of events over the final weekend, but this year it is joined by UEA’s 50th anniversary programme ‘Future and Form’ across the last week.

Provenance has been worked up by both organisations, a vivid and emotional immersive installation where acclaimed novelist

Within the magnificent grounds of Dragon Hall, follow the journey of the sacred ibeji artefact from its creation in Benin in 1895 to present-day Norwich in a story that spans continents, cultures and lifetimes.

Grayson Perry: The Vanity of Small Differences exhibition.

Grayson Perry: The Vanity of Small Differences exhibition. - Credit: Grayson Perry

8.  The Vanity of Small Differences

Where: East Gallery, Norwich University of the Arts 

When: May 18 to July 3  

The programme for this year is full of visual art as many of Norwich’s galleries will be able to reopen on the same day the Festival starts.

There is loads of stuff to see, including an exhibition at Norwich Castle, GroundWork Gallery’s exhibition Japan Water in King's Lynn and Spanish installation artist and sculptor Cristina Iglesias at the Sainsbury Centre in the city.

Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences is a series of large-scale tapestries by the Turner Prize-winning artist, which will be on display in the East Gallery at NUA.

600 Highwayman - A Thousand Ways.

600 Highwayman - A Thousand Ways. - Credit: Contributed

9. A Thousand Ways (Part One): A Phone Call

Where: Phone Call 

When: May 17 to 22 

As well as online work and events through the post, this year you can also take part in the Festival on the phone! 

A Thousand Ways is an imaginative social experience that takes you from isolation to congregation.

You’ll pick up the phone and someone is on the line.

You don't know their name, and you still won’t when the hour is over, but through this exchange – as you follow a thread of automated prompts – a portrait of your partner will emerge to you and you to them.

See the full line-up at nnfestival.org.uk

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