Norfolk and Norwich Festival lauch

Four world premieres, two symphony orchestras, six choirs, an opera, a circus, some of the best jazz and world music together with countless classical musicians - this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival has it all.

Four world premieres, two symphony orchestras, six choirs, an opera, a circus, some of the best jazz and world music together with countless classical musicians - this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival has it all.

Tickets go on sale on Friday for the dazzling array of events which make up the oldest single-city festival in England.

Last year, under the new direction of Jonathan Holloway, the festival, which is primarily sponsored by 'one' railways, doubled its overall attendance and broke new ground by introducing a host of 'left-field' events.

But with the bar set so high, the pressure is on to make 2006 even better with the hope of higher ticket sales at venues across the city including St Andrew's Hall, the cathedral, Chapelfield Gardens and the Playhouse.

Jonathan Holloway, festival director, said: “This year's festival is like that difficult second album for me.

“But I know a lot more this year so the decisions are now taken with full knowledge.

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“The Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2006 will be an explosion of energy based on collaborations locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. It will be presented to surprise, delight and awaken curiosity in the widest audiences.

Opening with a free outdoor spectacular and culminating in a free family day of performances, workshops and parades, this year's festival is aiming to leave audiences breathless from screaming for more.

Academy of Ancient Music, Budapest Symphony Orchestra and Sir Willard White lead a strong core of classical music while the glittering festival gala sees the Philharmonia conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy with soloist Steven Isserlis.

Nordic sensation Tord Gustavsen and British star Andy Sheppard lead the jazz crusade.

Left field events, which tend not to fit under any other label, include the puppets for grownups in Low Life and Les Grooms with the Ring Cycle in 79 minutes.

Jonathan Denby, head of corporate affairs at 'one', said: “This is the third year 'one' has sponsored the event and the 11th year over all if include the time Anglia Railways sponsored it from 1995 but the links with the festival actually go back 16 years.

“The festival is a great opportunity to celebrate the artistic and cultural strengths of the region and we hope many festival goers will travel to and from events on 'one' train services. By working together, we create a better festival for Norwich and Norfolk and everyone who lives and works here.”

More events are taking place out of Norwich this year including festival walks at Mannington and Wolterton Estates.

There are 700 artists in 302 performances this year who will travel about 357,000 miles to attend the Norfolk and Norwich Festival between May 3 to 14.

It will be kicked off with a free launch event at Millennium Plain between 4.30pm and 10pm where there will be a carnival performance of giant animated sea creatures, an artistic hairdressing show with its own DJ soundtrack, a spiralling helionaut who will explore the city's airspace and spectacular insects and mythical creatures.

Other highlights include:

Saxophonist Soweto Kinch, one of the most versatile young musicians to hit the British Jazz scene in recent years, who appears at 8pm at the arts centre on May 3.

May 5 sees Circus Ronaldo's La Cucina dell 'Arte - a mixture of circus acrobatics, comedy, juggling, tricks and theatre - at 8.30pm at Chapelfield Gardens.

Former member and writer for the Divine Comedy Joby Talbot and his band perform Once Around the Sun at 8pm on May 7 at the Playhouse.

I Fagiolina and Sdasa Chorale is made up of an innovative British vocal ensemble specialising in early music and South Africans of almost all backgrounds who will perform on May 8 at 7.30pm at St Peter Mancroft Church.

Sir Willard White pays tribute to Paul Robeson whose love of people led him to work tirelessly as a campaigner for civil rights in an evening of music on May 9 at 7.30pm at St Andrew's Hall.

One of the world's foremost period instrument orchestras, Academy of Ancient Music, takes to the stage at St Andrews Hall on May 10 at 7.30pm for a concert of solo and triple concertos.

Susana Baca, once described as a “world music diva”, is an Afro-Peruvian singer whose graceful, smiling and natural presence will light up St Andrew's Hall from 8pm.

Festival director Jonathan Holloway will be in conversation with composer and saxophonist Andy Sheppard and director of Bigger Sky Sian Croose at 6.45pm on May 13 at the cathedral followed by a concert at 8pm.

While the last day of the festival is a free family event which will turn St George's Street into a four hour carnival, featuring the Norwich Samba band, Leandre the perplexed street clown, a dancer who on a bench that will not stay still, gigantic slinkies, the Urban strawberry Lunch drumming group, the Theatre of Adventure jazz troupe.

Norwich's resident orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, will also give free taster workshop for youngsters but places are limited and should be booked on the day at the festival information tent in the street from midday.

t For listings or to request a free festival magazine visit www.nnfestival.org.uk or call 01603 614921.

t To book tickets call the box office on 01603 766400.

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