The Norfolk and Norwich Festival reveals the full 2012 line-up for its May festival

The Norfolk and Norwich Festival has today revealed its full 2012 line-up for its May arts extravaganza that will see the city explode into a colourful kaleidoscope of art, theatre, music and more.

Celebrating real life, real people and real places, this year's 16-day festival promises a line up that is at once local and international, established and emerging and boasts some of the most electric performers in the world today.

Now one of the most significant arts festivals in the UK, between May 11 and 26 the festival will present a bill with more than 100 events spanning classical, jazz, rockabilly, folk, afro-punk music, world-leading outdoor arts, cabaret, theatre, circus and dance, outward-looking visual arts and written words strands and an extended kids' programme.

Headlining alongside famous names such as Nigel Kennedy, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Grammy Award-winning American guitarist Duane Eddy, are many shows involving local people.

Among them is 100% Norfolk, which involves a cast of 100 ordinary Norfolk people giving a portrait of life in the county today, and Make Do and Mend, a show about wartime England, which is based on genuine reminiscences of local people and will be performed free to audiences at a feast on the final day of the festival.

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'This is an extraordinary year for us,' said William Galinsky, the festival's artistic director.

'We've collaborated with a host of visionary artists as well as local, national and international partners to create a fantastic programme.

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'The festival gives audiences and artists alike the chance to try something completely different, to have amazing experiences that wouldn't be possible during the other fifty weeks of the year.

'It's about seeing our part of the world with a fresh pair of eyes and having great fun at the same time. I hope audiences will dive in and enjoy as much as possible.'

Unique places in Norwich and Norfolk take centre stage for many of the performances.

The woodland surrounding Holt Hall is being transformed into AirHotel, a piece of theatre that is a work of art and also a place to stay, where people can enjoy a unique overnight stay in crazy tree-top accommodation.

Motor Show, from the people who brought Electric Hotel to Norwich in 2010, is a dance performance in a city-centre car park, and Bow Down, performed by The Opera Group, is an ancient murder ballad that takes place in a secret forest location.

This year's Voice Project performance, Singing the City, is a magical mystery tour where performers will animate Norwich's medieval streets, crypts, rooftops, courtyards and cloisters from dawn until dusk, ending up at Norwich Cathedral as the sun sets.

Work by internationally celebrated video artist, Bill Viola, is also going to be 'hidden' in unlikely places in the city such as the Undercroft beneath the War Memorial at City Hall and the Crypt at Norwich School's Carnary Chapel. There is also a strong international flavour to the festival with the best of the world coming to Norfolk - events include everything from an Italian company's show about being a sheep in Iceland to poetry from Afghanistan to extraordinary guitar talent from Mali.

The Spiegeltent, an established festival favourite, will be hosting 30 acts over 16 days this year, bringing together the music, cabaret, comedy and theatre in what organisers are saying is the Spiegeltent's most diverse programme to date.

People young and old, connoisseurs of international outdoor arts and families just out for the day will encounter a multinational feast of performance: this year's MG Programme sponsored by May Gurney is expected to be one of the best in Europe.

Thrill seekers should look out for an Invasion of huge prehistoric beasts from the Netherlands stalking the streets of Norwich on launch night on May 11.

Absolutely everyone will also be invited to this year's free weekend Garden Party at Chapelfield Gardens in Norwich.

Other international highlights include AfroCubism (Cuba / Mali), Bombino (Mali), Robert Glasper (USA), Imagined Village (various), TPO (Italy), Spatial AKA (various), The Boy with Tape on his Face (New Zealand) and pianist Cristina Ortiz (Portugal), while Norwich's own Hannah Walker brings her top-rated The Oh F**k Moment to her hometown, local artist-led gallery OUTPOST brings exciting artists to a disused office in a brave new co-commission with the Festival, TWOFOLD and the city's Bo Nanafana team create an exclusive Bo Nanafamily show for younger audiences in the Spiegeltent.

For those with a taste for adventure the Dinosaur Petting Zoo, from Australia, is a free show that will be in Norwich city centre, Swanton Morley and schools across the country. But watch out, the word on the street is that not all the dinosaurs are as tame as they might seem!

Now in its 240th year, the Norfolk and Norwich Festival is looking back as well as forwards.

This year possibly the UK's oldest Festival Chorus will perform Elgar's Sea Pictures – a work that had its premi�re at the Festival in 1899 – with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at St Andrew's Hall.

Meanwhile, exciting new voices on the classical music scene such as Spira mirabilis, the Escher Quartet and the Aurora Orchestra embody the festival's accent on youth in this year's classical music line-up.

For emerging and established artists with new work to showcase, young producers will create a brand new city centre venue for eight days. BETA will be open late and asks only that you pay what you can on the door.

Also new for this year is Speed Up!, a season of alternative and underground music from all over the world presented with Norwich Arts Centre.

Helen Lax, regional director for the Arts Council England, said: 'One of the real strengths of Norfolk and Norwich Festival is its ability to create a programme with a rich, international line-up that blends and interacts with of some of the finest emerging local artists around and this year is no exception.

'The programme brings together a vibrant mix of performing artists including 100% Norfolk, a theatre production that will be a celebration of the county and its people, and Spira mirabilis which brings together some of the world's finest young musicians to perform as a chamber group without a conductor.

'The festival has gone from strength to strength over the years and this year marks a new high - audiences can expect to be truly wowed by what is on offer.'

Derrick Murphy, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: 'The Norfolk and Norwich Festival is a landmark in the cultural life of the county. It puts Norfolk on the international map attracting companies and artists from across the world, and also gives a fantastic platform to local talent and creativity. With over 100 acts in 16 days, there truly is something for everyone.'

Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, said: 'The Norfolk and Norwich Festival is always one of the highlights of the year, bringing headline names and spectacular shows to the city and giving talented people from all over the region the chance to take part in theatre, dance and other activities. There really is something for everyone of every age.

'It's also a massive boost for the local economy, attracting people into the city and creating and protecting jobs. I'd recommend that people make a space in their diaries so they don't miss out on this amazing programme of events.'

• Tickets for Norfolk and Norwich Festival go on sale to the public at 10am tomorrow. Book online at, by phone on 01603 766400 or in person at Norwich Theatre Royal.

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