Fringe festival takes art to the people

EMMA LEE The seventh Norwich Fringe Festival runs from September 24 to October 9 and promises one of its most diverse programmes yet. EMMA LEE takes a look.


From the outside it looks like an ordinary van. But hidden inside is a treasure trove of paintings, sculptures and abstract photographs. And during the Norwich Fringe Festival, which runs from September 24 to October 9, they could be brightening up the walls and nooks and crannies in your living room.

The Norfolk-based collective Art- Syndicate is running Art 2 Rent - a kind of art lending library.

For between £20 and £100, people can have a piece of art installed in their home or office. At the end of the festival they have the choice of buying it or giving it back.

Art-Syndicate member Elizabeth Armstrong explains: “You choose the one you want to rent from a catalogue of sculptures, paintings and photos in the former Bally shoe factory, then get in touch with us and we will come round to your home and hang it or install it for you. If you decide not to keep it, we come and take it away at the end of the festival.”

The catalogue includes 60 works, in a variety of sizes, and if people are not sure whether the work will fit in their home or office, syndicate members will make suggestions.

Most Read

Photographer and sculptor Mary-Colleen Rabb, who is responsible for the group's marketing and website, says: “People feel apprehensive buying art that they might not like when they get it home - it's not like buying clothes, you can't return it.”

The members of Art-Syndicate range in age from 27 to 60 and they all took the same MA course at Norwich School of Art and Design.

They formed the group, which be-came a limited liability partnership at the start of the year, to give their work and that of others a platform.

The other members are painter Paul Power and Val Redington, who creates sculptures in bronze and stone.

Ms Armstrong says: “One of the themes of this year's festival is getting art out into the community.

“An art trail is running thoughout the city, which I think is a good way for people who might be intimidated by going into a gallery to enjoy art. We wanted to reflect that in our contribution to the festival, and we are taking art right out to the people. You can enjoy art in your home, or it can brighten up your workplace.”

t Now in its seventh year, the Norwich Fringe Festival is a voluntary organisation that aims to make all kinds of arts - from still life to animation - accessible to everyone and give new and emerging artists the opportunity to display their work.

One of the highlights of this year's festival is again Fringe at the Factory. For the past three years, the former Bally shoe factory on Hall Road has been transformed into a huge exhibition space, aimed at forming a creative link between business and the arts. There will be a series of workshops at the factory and other venues across the city includ-ing knitting, hat-making, drama and Japanese Manga cartoon drawing.

And a series of new music showcases, featuring up and coming acts, will be held at Norwich Arts Centre and the Waterfront.

t For a programme of Norwich Fringe Festival events, call 01603 621935 (answerphone) or visit For information about the Art 2 Rent scheme, visit


During the Fringe, there will be a visual art trail throughout the city.

Sculptures, textiles, paintings and photographs are being installed at 30 sites including charity shops, Elm Hill, Jarrold, Habitat, Take 5, Fabulous Frames, the Millennium Library, Age Concern, UCI, the Granary, New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Archant offices at Prospect House.

The trail ends at the former Bally shoe factory in Hall Road.

Around 150 artists will be showing work, making it the largest exhibition in the region.

Pop artist and festival patron Colin Self is exhibiting at the factory and, continuing the rock theme, international artist Zacron, who designed the famous Led Zeppelin III record cover, will be showing his work on the factory floor.

As well as visual art there will be free workshops, events and performances. Self-appointed HM King Nicholas of Just Outside Sheringham will be making guest appearances with his mobile stately home at the factory.


In the '80s, the flamboyant band Frankie Goes to Hollywood courted controversy when the single Relax was excluded from the Radio 1 playlist for its risqué lyrics.

The act's frontman Holly Johnson is exhibiting some of his recent work at the Norwich Fringe Festival as a guest of patron Colin Self.

Johnson describes the invite as “an offer I couldn't refuse”.

“Colin's endorsement of me as a visual artist is a great honour. He is a true original and one of the great geniuses of modern British art, and in a contest could talk anyone under the table.”

Johnson briefly attended Liverpool Art College in 1983, just before Frankie Goes to Hollywood. A fan of Andy Warhol since childhood, Johnson met him in 1985. He will be exhibiting paintings from the collection When Holly Met Andy.

Self says: “This year, Holly Johnson has kindly accepted our inaugural invitation to exhibit with us, the first in what we hope will become a slot for those rock icons who work between music and art.

“Having more than one string to their bow, some of them experience being greeted with that special deafening silence reserved for those who dare to have broader experimental vision.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter