New season: Norwich Arts Centre

Trevor HeatonNorwich Arts Centre keeps up its reputation as just about the busiest East Anglian venue around with another packed programme.Trevor Heaton

It might be small when compared with the likes of Norwich Theatre Royal, King's Lynn Corn Exchange, UEA LCR or the Lowestoft Marina Theatre - but Norwich Arts Centre makes up for in size with the breadth and variety of its programme.

The venue is converted from the former St Swithin's Church at the 'city wall end' of St Benedict's and as our medieval forebears knew a thing or two about acoustics, it's no surprise that it's a pretty darn splendid place to catch live music.

But first, a stop-press announcement not in the new brochure. On Sunday November 29 Lightning Seeds frontman Ian Broudie is joined by Starsailor's James Walsh for a special evening featuring two acclaimed musicians behind millions of record sales. Tickets for what should be a very special evening are �16.50 in advance and �17.50 on the door.

The season proper gets under way on December 1 with multi-award-winning folk musician Chris Wood, with his Handmade Life project (�14, concs �12).

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Another treat for lovers of traditional music comes the following night when superb vocalist Thea Gilmore presents Wintertide, a Christmas concert with a difference. And to make the evening even more special, Lindisfarne legend Rod Clements is in support. Tickets �12, concs �10.

After a visit by popular local jazz combo the Red Shadow Quartet (December 3, �4), there's a December 4 Latin/Brazilian music benefit night in aid of local community arts charity NORCA (�6adv, �7 door, �5 concs).

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Former 'bad boys' of folk-rock, Oysterband, have turned into the godfathers of the genre over the years, and their live shows are always a treat. Catch them on December 5 (�16, concs �13).

Former Norwich resident Catherine Feeny - now back in the US - returns to Norfolk for a gig on December 6 (�8 adv, �9 door). You'll know her big (and infectious) radio hit Mr Blue, and the third album will be released in 2010.

She's followed on December 9 by Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Kevin Devine (�8 adv), and the return of popular Norwich cabaret night The Broken Piano Show on December with another evening of music, comedy, poetry and performance (�5).

Arts Centre regulars wombatwombat showcase another packed evening of music on December 11, headlined by the Joy Formidable (�7 adv, �8) for the collective's ninth birthday party and Christmas bash.

More indie the following night, when All Sorted! present the Paddingtons (�8 adv, �10 door).

The Soapbox Alternative Christmas Party on December 14 (�6, concs �5) features a night of outrageous comedy, exceptional music and stand-up poetry from some of Norwich's finest and funniest artists.

Dub collective Pama International are in town on December 16 (�10 adv, �11 door), while The Midwinter Moonshine (December 21, �6 adv, �7 door) features a triple bill of country, toots and swing from local favourites the Vagaband, the Loose Leaf Drifters and the Henry Brothers.

Party time too with Howlback Hum on December 22, present local favourites Alto45, the Gore Vidals and more (�5), and Norwich favourites the Ougadougous (December 23, �7, concs �5)

Comedy-drama on January 4 and 5 when Threepenny Theatre presents Jim Cartwright's Two (�6.50, concs �5.50), a funny and tragic picture of life in your local pub, in which two actors turn into 14 eccentric pubgoers.

Blues fans will enjoy the January 7 (�10, concs �8) visit of Skip 'Little Axe' McDonald, while more edgy and anarchic comedy, poetry and puppetry with the ****** Deal and Suitcase Circus on January 9 (�8, concs �6). Word of Mouth (January 11, �5, concs �4) features poets from Northern Ireland.

On January 15 it's melodic and contemporary folk with Stars of Sunday League, supported by local favourites Alex Sheppard and Adelaide's Cape (�5 adv, �6 door).

On January 19, Rupa and the April Fishers bring a heady mix of music style, with influences ranging from chanson to tango (�10, concs �8).

Critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter Laura Veirs (January 21, �10 adv, �12 door) is followed by the Beat American montages of Tom Russell (January 25, �13, concs �11). Comedy with Chortle Award Winner and Perrier Award nominee Alex Horne with his Wordwatching show on January 26 (�10, concs �8), with theatre and film on January 28 with the short play The Wrong Woman followed by a screening of classic thriller The 39 Steps (�5.50).

Soapbox marks its 100th event in style on January 30 (�8, concs �6) with music, poetry, comedy, visuals, walkabout performers and more.

Normal Lovett - the voice and face of the computer in Red Dwarf - headlines the Saltbox Comedy Club on February 2 (�10, concs �8). Singer-songwriter Jeff Lang is in concert on February 4 (�10, concs �8), while bluesman Otis Grand makes his annual visit to the venue on February 6 (�12, concs �10).

Poetry 'boy band' Aisle 16 are back on February 8 (�8.50, concs �8). All-action Celtic combo Dervish play on February 9 (�12.50, concs �10), while there are laughs with Laura Solon (February 10, �10, concs �8) and Russell Kane's Fakespeare (February 18, �10, concs �8). Award-winning folk comes to the arts centre on February 24 with the storming trio Lau (�12, concs �10).

March highlights include comic Dan Atkinson (March 9, �10, concs �8), a homecoming gig by singer-songwriter Lisa Redford on March 11 (�8 adv, �9 door), Yes legend Steve Howe and his trio on March 15 (�16, concs �13), and storyteller Hugh Lupton and the English Acoustic Collective (March 29, tbc).

And that's not counting the local acoustic showcases, Norwich Jazz Collective sessions, vintage fairs, courses, children's entertainment, art exhibitions and much more...

t Box office: 01603 660352,

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