Norwich Fringe Festival

EMMA LEE Prints by comedian Vic Reeves and renowned pop artist Sir Peter Blake are among the highlights of the eighth Norwich Fringe Festival, which runs from October 7 to 22. EMMA LEE takes a look.

EMMA LEE

He's best-known for his surreal sense of humour. And it shines through in comedian Vic Reeves' art too. A selection of his work, alongside prints by renowned pop artist Sir Peter Blake is being exhibited as part of the eighth Norwich Fringe Festival, which runs for two weeks from Saturday.

Although he's best known for his collaborations with Bob Mortimer on shows such as Vic Reeves' Big Night Out and Shooting Stars, before turning to comedy, Vic, real name Jim Moir, studied art at St John Cass College in Whitechapel in the mid 80s.

Prints of four of his bird pictures, including the coot and the curlew and three cartoonish black and white prints are being displayed at the Bally Shoe Factory in Hall Road, which again has been transformed into a huge urban gallery, with pieces by around 200 visual artists on show.

Norwich Fringe Festival patron, pioneering pop artist Colin Self, explained that he got to know Vic when they were approached for a TV programme about the Royal Academy last summer.

It emerged that Vic was an admirer of Colin's work, and despite Colin deciding not to take part in the series, the pair became 'penpals'.

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“I was a huge fan of his comedy,” said Colin. “He mentioned that he had a show coming up at the Eyestorm gallery in Ipswich. I got invited and went down there. We ended up going to a wine bar next door and had a nice time and ended up getting to know each other. I asked Trevor Chiddicks [of the Eyestorm gallery] if he had any of Vic's work left [for the Fringe] and he had. And then he asked if I would like some of Peter Blake's work too. I said yes.”

Trevor, whose wife Sally runs the Eyestorm gallery, said that Vic's work shows the two sides to his character.

“The birds show Jim Moir the artist and the cartoons show Vic Reeves the comedian,” he said.

Sir Peter is best known for his iconic sleeve for the Beatles' Sgt Peppers' Lonely Hearts Club Band album and pieces inspired by popular culture.

The prints on display at the factory are screen prints of 'found' items he has collected - there's a frayed Union flag, which looks incredibly real - you can't tell it's a print until you get up really close to it, and a series of cigarette packets.

Colin says that, as Norwich Fringe Festival patron, he wants to bring a “showbiz” element to the event and exhibit work by people who are famous, but not necessarily their art, such as Bryan Ferry.

He said that the popularity of the annual event showed that there was demand for a permanent art gallery in the city.

His works on show at the festival are inspired by the circus, which is also the overall theme for this year's event.

The former shoe factory is owned by Targetfollow which allows it to be used free of charge as part of its arts development programme, which was initiated in 2003. The event is being opened by award-winning Norwich artist Susan Gunn.

Arts development manager Sarah Cannell says: “Targetfollow is passionate about encouraging and supporting art within local communities and is involved with a variety of different community-based arts projects.”

And there is much more happening across the city - including music, poetry and dance.

Marion Catlin, who is among the organisers, says: “The Fringe team is very proud of the way the festival has grown in size and popularity in the last few years.

“It has managed to stick to its ethos of inclusivity by encouraging artists and helpers from the city and the surrounding areas to develop their talents and gain experience as well as reaching audiences that don't always enjoy the arts. It is a huge community effort which involves many artists and venues, and the whole of Norwich should be as proud as we are.”

t The artist behind the cover of the Norfolk Black History Month brochure is exhibiting her work as part of the Norwich Fringe Festival.

Gloria Ojulari Sule's exhibition Afo Juba Ajo will be at the Bally Shoe Factory from Saturday until October 22. Gloria is of Nigerian British heritage and grew up near Diss.

She completed a degree in fine art at Norwich School of Art and Design in 1996 when she was in her 40s and has worked as a community artist in Bristol for 10 years.

Her artworks are figurative narratives, using painting, drawing and mixed media. Gloria sees her commissioned work for Norfolk Black History Month as “my own tribute to Black people and our complex histories. I mourn our tribulations and celebrate our successes within a collage of references to Black culture, beliefs, histories and identities, to artists and musicians, places, events, heroes and heroines”.

She will be sharing her experiences of attending the Seventh Dakar Biennale of Contemporary African Art in May 2006 as well as speaking about the background to her work and career in a free talk and presentation at the Bally Shoe Factory on Thursday October 19 from 7pm-9pm.

She will also host a free family drop-in art workshop from 10am-noon on Saturday October 21.

Her activities have been organised by Norfolk Education and Action for Development (NEAD), a charity working locally to challenge global issues of equality and justice.

NEAD helps to co-ordinate Black History Month, delivers services for schools and community groups and also runs the World Shop on Exchange Street, Norwich, selling fairly traded goods from around the world.

FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS

t The Fringe in the City Art Trail in the city centre will have 28 stops of original art to follow.

t Fringe at the Factory: Almost 200 artists and performers come together for an art and performance showcase. Jonathan Parsons is another guest artist this year. His recent exhibitions have included venues in Los Angeles and Stuttgart. Last year he exhibited at CAN.05 in the city and produced the controversial work, the monochrome Union Jack. And artist Nick Ball has produced an eye-catching installation made from bicycle frames. It's open from Saturday October 7 to Sunday October 22. Opening times are 10am-6pm daily, except on the last day when it closes at 5pm. The factory is in Hall Road, just past Homebase and Sandy Lane if you are travelling out of the city. The café is open from 10am-5pm daily.

t The Great Fringe Art Auction: Wednesday October 11, 6.30pm-9.30pm at the Factory. Viewing is on Tuesday October 10 from 10am-6pm and on the day of the sale from 10am-5pm. There will be more than 150 lots of original art for sale.

t Art Car Boot: Sunday October 15, at the Factory car park. Fringe artists and performers will be selling their work as well as other interesting bits and pieces.

t Four visual artists taking part in the festival have been inspired by the Shoes: The Agony and the Ecstasy exhibition at Norwich Castle. A giant shoe made by Helen Litterick will stand outside the main entrance to the Castle. In the rotunda area three sculptures by Louise Richardson incorporate children's shoes and Andrea Price has created an installation including archive photographs of workers in Norwich shoe factories. And Nick Ball's installation, Redundant Soles, inspired by the imprints left on shoes by their wearers, is at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library.

t Suzie Hanna will be telling the story of the Unfortunate Underwear Merchant at the factory on Sunday at 3pm and at 5pm on October 13.

t Described as Rolf Harris with bricks, one-man performance brick layer Tom Sharp will be performing at the factory at 11am and 2pm on Sunday October 15.

t DJ78 will be mixing nostalgic sounds on his wind-up gramophone decks at the Fringe Theatre Showcase at the Crypt, St Andrew's Plain, on Friday October 20.

t Music highlights of the festival include a number of gigs at Norwich Arts Centre - the Fringe Rock Showcase, featuring Elephant Dress, Natural Disasters and Rigo Jansci is being held on Tuesday and John Peel Day will be marked on October 13 with a gig presented by local promoters Wombatwombat featuring Bearsuit, Mimas and Pfaff.

t For full programme details visit www.norwichfringe festival.co.uk

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