Crowds up at Norfolk and Norwich Festival

Audiences for this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival surged by nearly 400pc following the introduction of more free events.

The team behind the Norfolk and Norwich Festival are celebrating a year which saw the two-week cultural spectacular making a profit on the back of a increased turnover and rising audiences, boosted by a new visual arts strand.

Highlights from the 2010 festival, which is now acknowledged as the fourth largest city festival in the UK, included an Electric Hotel at the Forum and Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans as a well as a host of music and performance events, including the children of Catton Grove School giving haircuts to 96 different people.

A new report illustrates that turnover was up by 33pc to 2.4m in 2009/10 and likely to be around �2.7m in the coming financial year.

Figures for 2009/10 show that the Norfolk and Norwich Festival Ltd made a pre-tax profit of �7,485 in 2009/10 and that is forecast to increase to �13,325 in 2010/11. Ticket sales increased by 12pc from 25,901 in 2009 to 31,054 this year, but the overall audience has risen by a massive 387pc to 320,000 people including participants, on the back of the increase in free events and a visual arts programme including a giant Red Ball which appeared in 14 different spots across the city.

The festival also played a key role in Norwich's bid to become UK City of Culture in 2013, which saw the city reach the final four stage before losing out to Londonderry/Derry.

And the report also underlines the multitude of events taking place year round both in Norfolk and beyond including the Norfolk Open Studios event, and the 49 creative partnerships with schools across the county.

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But while the team behind the festival are delighted by the figures, they sounded a cautious note about the prospects of future growth in the wake of looming funding cuts from the Arts Council and local authorities

Artistic director Jonathan Holloway said that 2010 was a 'remarkable' year for the festival.

'Our events in May attracted record audiences and brought more income to the local economy than ever before,' he said. 'We worked with communities throughout the year to prove that creativity and the arts really can transform people and places. We have helped make the world take notice of Norwich, Norfolk and the East of England.'

'But these are unprecedented times and we face uncertainty,' Mr Holloway added. 'If we are to continue to make this level of social, economic and political impact, we will have to use our ingenuity and imagination, collaborating with the best people locally, nationally and internationally.

'Quite simply: there has never been a more important time to invest in creative industries and the arts.'

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