Flashdance festival launch for city event

Shaun LowthorpeThey looked like ordinary passengers waiting for a train.But then there was music, and laughter, and dance as Norwich railway station became a stage for a moment to mark the launch of the 2009 Norfolk and Norwich Festival.Shaun Lowthorpe

They looked like ordinary passengers waiting for a train.

But then there was music, and laughter, and dance as Norwich

railway station became a stage for a moment to mark the launch

of the 2009 Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

About 30 people from the Norwich dance collective Swing City took to the stage for the impromptu 'flashdance', a Norfolk version of the T-Mobile advert in which crowds start dancing at Liverpool Street station.

Between now and May 16 more than 70,000 people are expected to enjoy more than 100 different performances.

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They range from cabaret star Ute Lemper and soul singer Mica Paris to soprano Dawn Upshaw.

Novelist Martin Amis will be in the city; there is also stand-up comedy; and there is a special children's festival for younger audiences.

This year will also see a new Spiegeltent at Chapelfield Gardens, with a range of cabaret-style acts and a free outdoor programme geared at families, starting at 5.30pm today with a performance by Ulik and Le SNOB outside the Forum.

Jonathan Denby, from event sponsor National Express East Anglia, said the festival was now rated as one of the best of its kind in the country.

The railway operator and its predecessors have been involved with the festival since the early 1990s and became sponsors in 1995.

'For us it works on a number of levels,' he said. 'As a train operator, we are part of the fabric of the region and integral to the day-to-day life of the community.'

Over the years, timetable changes have seen trains out of Norwich, including services to Cambridge and Sheringham, running later and later into the evening.

Train operator chiefs hope that this development will encourage as many people as possible to travel to enjoy the festival events.

'It's important for us to play our full part, and it's something that puts Norwich and Norfolk on the map,' said Mr Denby.

'Having a festival like this allows us to get some really world-class artists to Norwich. It's one of those vehicles by which you can really make that happen. It's fantastic for Norwich, and it gives people a chance to see things they wouldn't otherwise have seen.'

Jonathan Holloway, festival artistic director, said he was really looking forward to the festival and was confident there was something for everybody to enjoy.

'It's bigger than it's ever been,' he added. 'Last year our audiences

grew by 20,000, and we are hoping to do the same this year, although

it's slightly more difficult circumstances.

'Our ticket sales are holding up and we hope to hit those targets.'