New season: Norwich Arts Centre

The first of a bumper selection of new season previews gets under way with one of the region’s brightest small venues – Norwich Arts Centre.

Norwich Arts Centre, housed in a church off St Benedict's, might not be the region's biggest venue but, boy, does it punch above its weight.

With another programme for which the word 'packed' is a sorry understatement, the centre has an impressive record of booking performers on the cusp of hitting the big time.

Canny Norfolk audiences know that a visit to the venue will often furnish them with the chance to prepare one of those “ah, but we saw him/her/them before he/she/they were famous” anecdotes for later.

One such name in the new programme is new singer-songwriter Stephen Fretwell (September 8, £7 adv/ £8 door). Stephen's works are influenced by the Beatles and Dylan and their stripped down nature and his emotional vocals provide the perfect songs for the broken-hearted. He's already supported Travis, KT Tunstall and Keane, but is set to become a star in his own right.

From a star of the future to an established favourite. Roddy Frame (November 8, £12/£10 concs), the man behind such great Aztec Camera tracks as Oblivious, is playing the venue in a solo acoustic show which will highlight his amazing songwriting abilities. When just in his teens, Roddy was already being compared with the likes of Elvis Costello.

Or how about traditional Celtic folk music from the Poozies (September 22, £10 / £8 concs)? The fabulous group has evolved over the years, and you can expect impressive and imaginative treatment of traditional and contemporary music, glorious harmonies and excellent musicianship from Karen Tweed (piano accordion, vocals), Eilidh Shaw (fiddle, vocals), Patsy Seddon (electro-harp, clarsach, fiddle, vocals) and Mary Macmaster (electro-harp, clarsach, vocals).

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More exciting folk music comes from Oysterband (October 24, £12.50 / £11 concs), who play a unique brand of rock with traditional roots. If this isn't enough, how about the Seth Lakeman Trio (October 25, £5 adv / £6 door)? Talented roots fiddle player and singer Seth has worked with Kate Rusby and Cara Dillon, and his Kitty Jay record has just been shortlisted for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize alongside Coldplay and the Kaiser Chiefs.

Fans of the bizarre will lap up two return visits: US band the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players (October 19, £8 / £6 concs). This indie-vaudeville family art-rock pop group (mother, father and drummer daughter) take vintage slide collections from jumble sales or charity shops and turn the lives of anonymous strangers into pop-rock musical exposes, and Russian throat singers Yat-Kha return on September 23 (£10 / £8 concs), combining their roots music and an avant-garde taste in covers - how about Led Zep, Joy Division and Captain Beefheart for starters?

More world music comes from Imbongi and Albert Nyathi (October 15, £10 / £8 concs), who play a fusion of African hi-life and township jive and are fronted by Zimbabwe's foremost performance dub poet, Albert Nyathi.

Black History Month and the Norwich Jazz Festival both inspire a raft of events, with some overlapping between the two strands.

US spoken word artist/poet/musician Ainsley Burrows will be leading two workshops plus an evening performance (October 25, evening show £5 / £3 concs). The two afternoon workshops, geared towards developing performance and poetry skills, are by top performance poets; one for children (eight to 12 years) and one for adults (ages 16+). For more information on the workshops, please contact the box office.

In Dennis Rollins Presents: Griots t'Garage - a Musical History of the African Diaspora, (October 1, £12 / £8 concs), Dennis - acclaimed musician, composer and educator on the British and international jazz scene - presents his personal tribute to more than 500 years of black music. The music is complemented by Vijay artist Nick Hillel.

Denys Baptiste (October 14, £12 / £10 concs) returns to pay tribute to one of the great masters of jazz saxophone in A Tribute to John Coltrane. Denys has carved out a successful career as a major artist and composer on the UK jazz scene, as well as being a brilliant saxophonist. A Tribute to John Coltrane promises to be an exceptional show in which audiences will be able to witness the true power and beauty of Denys' saxophone playing.

The Norwich Jazz Festival runs from October 7 until October 29 and will feature events across ten venues including the Arts Centre, The Forum, the Playhouse and the Green Man in Rackheath. It will also seek to support regular local jazz organisations such as Dereham Jazz Society and will have an educational aspect for aspiring young jazz musicians in the form of creative workshops.

Another act in the Norwich Jazz Festival is the Chris Cooper Trio with special guest the Norwich blues legend Albert Cooper (October 27). The programme will include instrumental and vocal jazz standards, bop and blues classics.

Comedy and theatre are also heavily featured in the new programme. Simon Munnery - creator of Alan Parker Urban Warrior and The League Against Tedium - launches the centre's autumn season on September 6 with his new freewheeling and hilarious show. Tickets £8/£6 concs.

More alternative comic ramblings come from the marvellous John Hegley (November 12, £12.50 / £10 concs), who as well as sell-out shows at the Edinburgh Festival, cites appearances on Richard and Judy Show and Blue Peter as personal highlights. John's Family Favourites show muses on fatherhood, own goals, toffee, building sites and blancmange (he's nothing if not diverse).

New theatre includes Swanky Geezer Nonsense (November 3, £8 / £6 concs, ages 15+) a biting satire from Big Wow Theatre about violence as entertainment through a merciless parody of the Brit gangster movie, while Backwater (November 24, £8 / £6 concs) is a highly imaginative visual production that tells the moving and comic story of a young Norwegian girl, Nora. Startling stage stunts are employed by Spike Theatre company including blank paper that turns into photographic prints, which then come to life!

For further information visit pick up the new brochure or call the box office: 01603 660352 to be added to the mailing list.