New season: Norwich Arts Centre

Trevor Heaton The former St Swithin's Church in St Benedict's - better known these days as Norwich Arts Centre, of course - has a reputation for packing in more stuff into its schedules than other venues manage in twice the time.

Trevor Heaton

The former St Swithin's Church in St Benedict's - better known these days as Norwich Arts Centre, of course - has a reputation for packing in more stuff into its schedules than other venues manage in twice the time. And not just 40 days' worth either. The winter season continues that proud record, with plenty of its trademark adventurous music programming, but also plenty of drama, live literature, new comedy, exhibitions and more.

The backbone of any arts centre season is its music, and this one is no exception.

There's a whole gamut of music, including a radical electronic reworking of traditional Japanese folk music (Setsubun Bean Unit, December 3, £8 adv, £9 door), boogie woogie rock'n'roll (Ben Waters Big Band, December 1, £10, concs £8), rising jazz stars (Gwilym Simcock Trio, December 6, £10, concs £8), afropop (Nneka, December 5, £10) and a whole host of indie/rock/pop Christmas specials, from wombatwombat, Howlback Hum, NROne Records and more.


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One of the most eye-catching visits is from the critically-acclaimed (and iTunes chart-topping) Kate Walsh on March 5, who's been championed by the likes of Radcliffe and Maconie for such tracks as Your Song.

Tickets £10adv, £11 door.

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Look out for contemporary jazz from Theo Travis' new Double Talk project (January10, £8, £6).

The music is bluesy, atmospheric and melodic, and incorporates multi-layers of saxes and flutes improvised live, as well as the soulful Hammond organ of Pete Whittaker, the guitar of Mike Outram and the drums of Roy Dodds.

Another highlight is the excellent Carolyn Mark (January 30, £8, £6), one of the new wave of country stars, and who started out in the all-girl surfy twang popsters the Vinaigrettes and played with Neko Case in the duo the Corn Sisters.

Carolyn's music conjures up a Sunday evening spent playing instruments and singing songs on the back porch of the cabin, coupled with a (sometimes dark) sense of humour and a willingness to have all the fun humanly possible.

Also get along for your last chance to see one of the region's most popular folk bands, Mooncoin (January 31, £6, £7).

Musically diverse, you never quite know what's coming next, an English song, slick Irish tune or Balkan weirdness, plus there's classic country from Gretchen Peters (January 28), bossa nova, jazz style and Sixties pop interpretations of punk/new wave classics from Nouvelle Vague (February 4), innovative rock-influenced jazz from Mercury Music prize nominees Basquiat Strings With Seb Rochford (February 27), post-punkcountry from American Music Club (March 20), and classic Jamaican ska meets Cuban mambo from Ska Cubano (March 28).

Moving to comedy and theatre, Justin Moorhouse - aka Phoenix Nights' Young Kenny - brings his new show Who's the Daddy? to the venue on January 23 (£12, concs £10), while Josie Long returns with her offbeat comedy on February 5 (£10, £8), and Alun Cochrane (as seen on Mock the Week, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and more) waxes lyrical about Things That Have Happened to Me In Life, or In Cafés on February 21 (£10, £8).

Or how about Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf on February 28 (£7.50, £5)? This delightful show is a very personal, satirical and sharp comic odyssey on board Toby Hadoke's TARDIS - charting the rise, fall and rise again of a television legend.

For the younger book lovers, Potted Potter: The Unauthorised Harry Experience (March 26, two shows, £9, £7) takes in all the Potter books in 60 minutes - this funny hour features all your favourite characters, a special appearance from a very frightening fire-breathing dragon, and even a game of Quidditch involving the audience! Performance and drama kicks off with a rescheduled date for the controversial art critic Brian Sewell (December 2 at 3pm, original tickets are not valid, £12, concs £10).

Christmas Champions on December 16 (£10, concs £8) is a new show from the award-winning partnership of Chris Wood and Hugh Lupton based on the English Mummers' Play and commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and The Sage Gateshead.

The show builds upon the music of midwinter both choral and instrumental with new songs and reworkings of established carols.

There's also the return of The Broken Piano Show, with their Christmas Cabaret of music, magic, poetry and performance, featuring the Middle Ones, Marc Mathison, DJ78 and more (December 20, £5).

Poetry comes from the captivating Irish writer, poet and performer Aoife Mannix with her intimate, enchanting and funny show Growing Up an Alien (January 24, £8, £6), plus the excellent and fast-rising Norwich performance poet Luke Wright with his coming of age show Poet & Man (February 13, £7, £5).

And then there's the dry humour of comic poet John Hegley, when he returns with his Letters to an Earwig show (March 12, £13, £10).

That's backed by a busy programme of exhibitions, including a 3D one from Tristan Burfield (January 5-29), which includes the Stereoscopy Series, a series of images which explore the depth of the photographic canvas and challenges the flat print. All images were devised on a 35mm stereo camera and are viewed through 3D glasses

t Box office: 01603 660352; www.norwichartscentre.co.uk

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