Thank heavens for Aylsham Festival’s success

Star gazing, talks by astro-physicists and visiting daleks drew young and old to Aylsham for the town's first festival, on the theme of Looking Up.

Organiser Sue Sharpe said the four-day event had gone well despite rain on Friday night which led to fewer people than she had hoped for turning up to marvel at north Norfolk's acclaimed dark skies from the grounds of nearby Blickling Hall.

The 60 who did take part had enjoyed listening to ethereal and surreal music-making from Henry Dagg, storyteller Paul Jackson weaving tales around the stars, and had then been able to see the moon and Saturn in complete and clear detail through telescopes, with expert help from Mark Thompson, astronomy presenter on BBC's The One Show.

A visit on Thursday by a quartet from the Britten Sinfonia had enraptured the audience, according to Ms Sharpe. Their Looking Up concert programme included Haydn's The Lark.

The festival was launched last Thursday by the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, and Peter Wilson, chief executive of Norwich Theatre Royal. Ms Sharpe said they entertained a town hall audience with 'Alan Bennett' and jokes.

Children had been thrilled by the appearance of Dr Who's daleks in town, with one pausing for a game of chess against members of Aylsham and District Chess Club.

Attractions also included a visit by young adults' author Garth Nix, free fun for children organised by the Aylsham schools' cluster and weather-related activities with Norwich-based weather forecasting and analysis company Weatherquest.

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A highlight on Sunday, the final day, had been a sell-out concert in Aylsham Town Hall featuring Bure Valley School choristers giving a premiere performance of a specially-composed piece called Looking Up. The words were written by pupils and the music by Cambridge composer Dan Ecclestone.

Ms Sharpe said people who had attended events had enjoyed them and the feedback had been very positive.

She added: 'I think people were impressed by the quality of what was on offer.'