New season: Norwich Arts Centre

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor Norwich Arts Centre is celebrating its 30th anniversary later this year. And it shows no sign of slowing down its packed programme of music, comedy, drama, poetry, art and much more. Trevor Heaton reports.


Spring at Norwich Arts Centre - based off St Benedict's - promises a feast of delights, from Mock the Week star Russell Howard to folk-superstars-in-waiting A Hawk and a Hacksaw, waspish and always outspoken art critic Brian Sewell to influential singer-songwriter Roy Harper.

Music first, and - as ever - the breadth and volume of programming at the Norwich venue is excellent. Po Girl (March 10, £12/concs £10) bring a winning mix of Cajun, jazz, beat poetry and inner city blues, while the following day sees hotly-tipped indie quartet Air Traffic, whose anthemic songs are likened to Coldplay (and the arts centre should know, Chris Martin's combo having played there three times). Tickets £7 adv, £8 door.

Another name to watch out for on March 12, with guitar outfit New Rhodes in concert (£5 adv, £6 door). That's followed the next day by Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys, showcasing his quirky solo album Candylion (£10 adv, £11 door), while funk, jazz and the sufi music of North African come together in trumpeter Byron Wallen's Meeting Ground project (March 14, £10, concs £8).

Dance-based guitar band the Longcut play the venue on March 18 (£6adv, £7 door) followed the next night by Malcolm Middleton, co-founder of Scottish cult band Arab Strap (£10/£11).

World music follows on March 20 with the compelling sounds of Palestinian oud player and composer Adel Salameh, with Naziha Azzouz (singer) and Adel Shams El Din on percussion (£8, concs £6). Salsa Celtica (March 21, £10, concs £8) are old favourites at the art centre, an 11-piece high-energy fusion of Latin and Celtic sounds.

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From an established band to promising young local acts with the first (March 23) Great Leap Forward Promotions showcase - this time round it's the Interpreters, Abstract Harris and more. Adults must be accompanied by under-18s! (£4 adv, £5 door).

Tell Me How (March 24, £4 adv, £5 door) brings together members of Magoo, PostaLowa and Bavarin Rocket Groop for some quirky electro-folk-pop.

Another returning act is infectious Spanish Latino-reggae outfit Go Lem System (March 26, £10, concs £8), while ever-popular band showcase Howlback Hum has another session on March 27 (also April 12 and May 29). Shades of Neil Young with the rich harmonies and country rock sound of alt-popsters Tiny Dancers (March 30, £6 adv, £7 door). New York's Ill Ease (aka Elizabeth Sharp) presents addictive rhythms, catchy guitar and more the following night (£5 adv, £6 door).

Two excellent singer-songwriters on the same bill on April 1 - and you'd be a fool to miss it - with the prolific and critically-adored Thea Gilmore, supported by Erin McKeown. Tickets £12, concs £10.

And there's a chance to see one of the new singer-songwriting kids-on-the-block on April 4 when Polly Paulusma brings her classic melodies and lyrics to the St Benedict's venue (£7 adv, £8 door). Jack Peñate has toured alongside the Maccabees and Lily Allen, and his witty 'Sarf London' style will also win over fans of Jamie T. He plays on April 5 (£5 adv, £6 door).

Grunge-influenced rockers Six Degrees of Separation play on April 7, with Lynchburg Tenn (and more) in support. Tickets £5 adv, £6 door.

Much-acclaimed alt-folk songster Laura Veirs - bracketed with the likes of Joni Mitchell and Björk - makes a return visit on April 9, showcasing songs from her third album, Saltbreakers (£8 adv, £9 door). Voodoo Glow Skulls (April 11, £9 adv, £10 door) blend hardcore punk, ska and the Mexican music of their background.

It's a lucky Friday April 13 with the latest wombatwombat session - the edgy punk pop of London-based Parisian trio Underground Railroad, plus local outfits KunK and Compact Pussycat (£5 adv, £6 door). Another one to watch out for is the offbeat popsters Mumm-Ra, who bring their lush and quirky sound - including Top 40 single What Would Steve Do - on April 17 (£7adv, £8 door).

Three Countries of Folk - coming the next day - brings together music from the traditions of Wales (with Fernhill's Julie Murphy), England (Lisa Knapp) and Scotland (Jenna Reid). Tickets £10, concs £8.

Danish star Tina Dico plays the venue on April 19 with her passionate and intense songs (£8 adv, £9 door), while on April 20 folk-pop and electronics come together in the shape of Fields (£8 adv, £9 door).

Arcadia's Condensed Musical Soup (April 21) is a celebration of legendary artist Andy Warhol, featuring fellow New Yorkers Ellis Island Sound, plus folk-tinged Lowery, the Arcadian Record Selectors and more. £6 adv, £5 concs, £7 door.

There's a double helping of Mississippi country blues - from Robert Belfour on April 23 (£10, concs £8) and then T-Model Ford on April 26 (£10, adv £8). There's a special ticket deal if you want to catch both shows.

April 26 sees Burnley/ Manchester favourites the Earlies (£10 adv, £11 door), while American Music Club frontman Mark Eitzel is in concert on April 29 (£10 adv, £11 door), followed by the soundscapes of Triosk and Colleen (April 30, £6 adv, £7 door).

And a quick word about May's attractions: Americana with Ollabelle (May 1), Renato D'Aiello (jazz, May 2), Albert Lee and Hogan's Heroes (rock/country, May 3), Lo'Jo (French jazz/chanson/world hybrid, May 5), A Hawk and a Hacksaw (folk, May 6), Mike McGoldrick, John McCusker and John Doyle (folk, May 8), Edson Cordeiro (Brazilian, May 9), Zoe Galant (singer-songwriter, May 10), Emma Pollock (ex-Delgados, May 11), Frankie Gavin and Tim Edey (folk, May 14), Fitkin Wall (folk/electro hybrid, May 17), friend-of-the-Floyd Roy Harper (May 18) and Alex Sanders and Liam Wells (May 20).

Comedy comes in the shape of internationally renowned stand-up Shazia Mirza (March 22, £10, concs £8) whose show touches on everything from her strict upbringing to a Buckingham Palce invitation - and her love of Primark.

Russell Howard has received a big profile-jump just lately with his excellent performances as part of the Mock the Week show on BBC2. So make sure you buy a ticket early for his March 28 show at the arts centre (£10, concs £8).

And laughter (of the waspish kind) won't be far away the following night when the inimitable Brian Sewell presents The Adventures of an Art Critic. He'll be talking about everything from being rude about LS Lowry to classic cars, from animal rights to his great love for the art of Turkey. Provocative, straight-talking and utterly un-PC, this is unlikely to be a dull evening! Tickets £12, concs £10.

There's tons of other stuff too. On March 16 transvestite poet Chloe Poems presents How to Be a Better Gay, blending avant-garde with bittersweet realism with a veritable catherine wheel of language. Tickets for the show - suitable for ages 16-plus - are £5, concs £4. April 3 sees Take the Space theatre company's production of Hanging Hooke, Siobhán Nicholas' acclaimed play about the 17th-century scientific genius Robert Hooke (for ages 14-plus, £6, concs £4).

Edgy theatre/comedy with Axis of Evil's Bombing for Dummies (April 14-15). Who would want to kill innocent people? This thought-provoking and sometimes darkly-comic presentation aims to answer some of the questions. It's running at 7pm and 9pm on the Saturday, and at 7pm on the Sunday. £5 adv, £6 door.

On May 24 Jackie Kay presents Wish I Was Here - performances of two of her moving and darkly funny short stories, set to a specially commissioned soundscape by composer Jon Nicholls. Tickets £6, concs £5.

Among the other attractions there's an exhibition (April 30-May 29) of the outspoken political cartoons of Steve Bell (The Guardian), plus more Art Centre Film Club presentations, including Pollock (March 25), A Clockwork Orange (April 29) and A Hard Day's Night (May 27).

More information and bookings: 01603 660352.

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