Curtain up on arts, music and drama festival

A packed programme of theatre, music, literature, cinema and performance will get under way in Holt on Sunday, July 22 with the launch of the town's annual arts festival.

Tickets are selling fast for the seven day event, which this year features its biggest line-up ever.

With just a few days to go, a number of events are now fully booked, but Steve Forster from the festival said tickets were still available for a variety of exciting performances.

'There are two jazz concerts coming up with absolutely stunning singers on Wednesday, July 25,' he said. 'Ian Shaw and Liane Carroll have won five BBC Jazz Awards between them and Liane has just won best album in the Parliamentary Jazz Awards.

'Christine Tobin has an amazing voice and her new album is being praised everywhere. People are saying she is a jazz version of Nick Cave, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.

'We have also got The Angel in the Forest on the same day, which is poems written by a Jewish German man who died in Auschwitz set to music. Ian Belton from the Brodsky Quartet is conducting, world famous tenor James Gilchrist will be singing and there will be a small choir and six cello players. It is the first time this will be performed outside of London and Holt is very lucky to get it before it goes on a world tour.

'At the other end of the spectrum is Paprika's joyous world music with strong Eastern European influences. It is one of those really uplifting get up and dance sort of things.'

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Other attractions include a closing concert from singer Courtney Pine, showings of 1920s films Beyond the Rock, Flesh and the Devil and It accompanied by live piano playing and a grown-up puppet show called The Table from puppeteers Blind Summit, which was a hit at last year's Edinburgh Festival.

There will also be free events going on around the town including children's storytelling every morning, Dickens readings, workshops, buskers and street theatre.

Shortlisted works for the inaugural Holt Festival Art Prize will be on display in the Nicholson Gallery at Gresham's School and there will be an exhibition of British impressionists at Art & Antiques Appraisals, Unit 3, High Silver in High Street. Visitors can also follow an art trail around the town's galleries and view a North Norfolk Photographic Society exhibition in the methodist church.

Mr Forster said: 'There is going to be a lot going on in the town and it is amazing so much has been crammed in to one week. This year has really got a great buzz about it. Holt Festival is really starting to attract national attention, which shows by the big names it is pulling in.'

Sold out events include Dickens' Women and dinner with Miriam Margolyes, Ayanna, Stand-up Sunday, John Cooper Clarke, Mark Steel and La Boheme. Tickets for all performances of The Incredible Book Eating Boy have also now been allocated. A number of the workshops are also fully booked and there is limited availability for Kitty McConnell, Andrew Motion and Alan Bennett.

The Holt Festival runs from Sunday, July 22 until Saturday, July 28. Tickets, which are priced individually, are available by calling the box office on 01263 711284.

Free town centre parking for festival-goers is available at Gresham's Prep, Pre-prep and main schools in Holt.

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