Norfolk and Norwich Festival promises to be the best ever

EMMA LEE This year’s Norfolk and Norwich Festival – sponsored by One Railway – is the longest yet, with more acts than ever performing at dozens of venues in Norwich and further afield.


This year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival - sponsored by One Railway - is the longest yet, with more acts than ever performing at dozens of venues in Norwich and further afield. Dating back to 1772, it's the oldest single-city festival in England and ranks as one of the most important in the country.

At the press launch event earlier this month there was a sneak preview of the festival finale - a performance by award-winning trombonist Dennis Rollins with Sian Croose, Jonathan Baker and Sianed Jones. The Bigger Sky Choir will be performing a specially-commissioned piece written by Rollins.

He said that he's looking forward to performing in Norwich again, saying that he liked the “warmth” of the audiences.

“I'm fortunate to have performed at the festival a couple of times in previous years. This year I was approached by Bigger Sky who asked if I would like to take on the commission of writing a piece. It's not just a commission, though, it's a collaboration with them and we've been working on it for a few months now.”

The festival line-up includes world premieres with performers travelling from as far afield as Catalunya, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Russia, Spain and US.

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And with an increasing number of left-field and children's events, including a festival in St George's Street, the organisers are hoping to entice more people than before to get involved and enjoy what the event has to offer.

So, diaries at the ready, here is just a taste of what there is to look forward to.

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Once again Millennium Plain is the focal point for the celebrations to mark the start of the festival. At lunchtime a parade of bionic bugs from Norfolk and the Amazon will march through the city to the sound of Brazilian street music. The project has involved 11 Yarmouth schools. And at 5.30pm, a deserted bandstand will come to life outside the Forum courtesy of Zic Zazou from France. Both events are free.


This year's children's programme is so extensive it is being touted as a festival within a festival.

Everything from world class music workshops to street theatre is included in what promises to be the best line up ever.

A comprehensive range of events has been organised for every child from one to 100 - for some of the attractions are so sophisticated they have a reputation for being enjoyed by grown-ups too.

For those at the younger end of the scale there is Oogly Boogly (May 5-11, Cathedral Close), a mini luminarium in which the child becomes the star. For three-year-olds are up there is, La Fanfarra puppet show (May 13, Puppet Theatre) and Claytime story-and-modelling event (May 7 and 8, Puppet Theatre).

Those a little older are catered for with the Bionic Bugs show, a culmination of a collaboration between engineers and local schools (May 4, Millennium Plain).

The Teatro de los Sentidos (it translates as theatre of the senses) spectacular is something unique and is being billed as an absolute must-see. Groups of 12 are led around the Upside Down World where they have to use their senses to guide them. It's being held from May 12-19 at a secret location in Norwich.

Eight-year-olds and up can enjoy musical theatre such as Handel Top Secret (May 13, King of Hearts), the Bells of Paradise (May 4-19, St John Maddermarket) and Remote Dancing (May 4-19, St Margaret's Church).

Then for pre-teens there's story-telling with Children's Story Yurt (May 19, Cathedral Close) as well as Tales from the Saragossa Manuscript.

The little ones will be exhausted just thinking about it all.


Events this year include the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir conducted by Paul Hillier (May 4, Norwich Cathedral) and the Festival Gala Concert, Verdi Requiem (May 11, St Andrew's Hall).


From the favelas of Sao Paulo, Moleque de Rua mix traditional Brazilian rhythms with rap, rock and funk (May 4, Norwich Playhouse).

The renowned Lo'Jo is at Norwich Arts Centre on May 5, followed by the award-winning Swedish jazz act the Bobo Stenson Trio at Norwich Playhouse on May 6, with a Hawk and a Hacksaw, who hail from Albuquerque, New Mexico, mixing up a variety of folk styles at Norwich Arts Centre the same night.

Also appearing are Julian Joseph and Mark Latimer (May 19, St Peter Mancroft Church), John Surman will be at Norwich Cathedral on May 12 and Jacqui Dankworth is at Norwich Playhouse on May 18.


There will be free events on offer every day for the duration of the festival.

As previously mentioned, there will be Remote Dancing - a video installation where the interaction of viewer and on-screen dancer becomes an intimate pas-de-deux, using sensors and projected video - in St Margaret's Church. And in The Mall, there's Stereo Dances where each participant can create a private duet with a partner as they listen to instructions played through headphones.

And Terry Mann - the Bells of Paradise is at St John Maddermarket, every day 11am-6pm.

Basque street theatre company, Deabru Beltzak, which has wowed audiences all over the world, will be performing the spectacular night-time fire show Les Tambours de Feu, starting out from Cathedral Close on May 5.

And during the Festival Family Day, in St George's Street on May 12, entertainers will include Antigua and Barbuda's festival money-laundering machine, the Whalley Range Allstars in Compost Mentis - a brand new show starring a large compost heap with a life of its own - and, back by popular demand, Sienta la Cabeza's funky hairdressing show. And if you need a break from the action Cinema City at the Playhouse will be showing vintage cartoons.


The Endellion String Quartet, will be performing Beethoven's works at St Peter Mancroft Church throughout the festival on May 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20. The programme also includes Telemann in Paris, flute quartets and trio sonatas (May 5, King of Hearts), the Philharmonia Orchestra (May 7, St Andrew's Hall), the Myrios Quartet (May 7, Assembly House), the Royal Academy of Music Oldak Quartet (May 9, Assembly House) and Natalie Clein and Katya Apekisheva (May 10, John Innes Centre). Plus there's Robyn Archer, Song Cycle (May 10, Norwich Playhouse), the London Mozart Players Chamber Ensemble (May 14, Salvation Army Citadel), Czech National Symphony Orchestra (May 15, St Andrew's Hall), Brook Street Band: Mad Bad and Dangerous (May 15, Octagon Chapel), City of London Sinfonia (May 18, St Andrew's Hall) and Danny Evans (May 18, Assembly House).


The left-field events are an increasingly popular element of the festival. The stunning and athletic show, The Race, performed by the up and coming Gecko theatre company is at the Playhouse on May 8.

Leading performance artist Bobby Baker opens up her Therapy Empire for two nights only, offering life-changing techniques in a show guaranteed to affect ordered and disordered minds alike. How To Live, at the Playhouse on May 15 and 16 features a live 'open session' with an unusual patient - a frozen pea with a personality disorder. Watch the pea unfreeze as it learns new coping skills and develops a life worth living. On the heels of a hugely successful season at the 2005 Edinburgh Festival, legendary New York ukulele-playing performance artist Taylor Mac has quickly developed a loyal following in the UK. He'll be at Norwich Playhouse on May 17 in the Be(a)st of Taylor Mac.

And due to overwhelming popular demand, Circus Ronaldo returns. On the first of their three nights at last year's festival there were less than 100 people in the big top. By their final night, due to rave reviews, they were turning people away. The show, which is in Chapelfield Gardens from May 10-14, is an absolute delight. Performed by brothers Danny and David, who are sixth-generation performers), it's set in a pizza parlour - La Cucina dell'Arte - and is one of the most inventive and hilarious circus show's you'll see.


Events aren't just happening in the city. The Hippodrome in Yarmouth hosts the Armonico Consort Touring Opera's production of the Fairy Queen by Purcell (May 9).

Concerts by artists from the Royal Academy of Music will be staged at Sheringham Little Theatre (May 9 and 16), Swaffham Assembly Rooms (May 11) and Wymondham Abbey (May 14) and Horning is the departure point for a cruise with the Eureka Jazz band along the river Bure (May 5).


The festival will finish in a suitably celebratory style with a double-bill at St Andrew's Hall on May 19. Norwich's own Bigger Sky choir will perform a specially commissioned piece by award-winning trombonist Dennis Rollins, who has played with the likes of Courtney Pine, Baba Maal, Jamiroquai and Blur. Then, during the interval, the chairs will be cleared away for a set by his band Badbone and Co, where dancing is encouraged.

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