Five things not to miss in Festival Gardens this month

The Garden Party in Festival Gardens is an opportunity to see world-class performances for free

The Garden Party in Festival Gardens is an opportunity to see world-class performances for free, including Daryl Beeeton Productions & Mimbre's Look Mum, No Hands! - Credit: Norfolk & Norwich Festival

With only a few days until the Norfolk & Norwich Festival opens its doors for its 250th anniversary celebrations, the arrival of the festival also means that Chapelfield Gardens will soon be transformed into the hottest ticket in town.  

Every May, this gorgeous area of greenery in the heart of Norwich becomes Festival Gardens for 17 days - a hub of activity to enjoy some of the world’s finest performances. From May 13-29 pop-up shows, live music, outdoor dining and the legendary Festival Bar will bring Festival Gardens to life, rendering it the perfect place to unwind and enjoy the evening sun.  

We’ve rounded up the top five things you can expect in the Festival Gardens this year, so get yourself down and enjoy the party.  

Rapper and producer Avenhue and producer and vocalist Latekid performing

Rapper and producer Avenhue and producer and vocalist Latekid will be among those performing on The Band Stand in Festival Gardens - Credit: Norfolk & Norwich Festival

THE BAND STAND  

Launching Festival Gardens is The Band Stand: five evenings of outdoor music that celebrate the best new musicians around. The recently announced line-up champions local artists, including the likes of singer-songwriter Molly Willis, rapper-producer and producer-vocalist Avenhue x Latekid, soul-rock band MAMA OH NO, Ben Auld and producer Malana.  

Curated in collaboration with BBC Music Introducing, each night boasts the stars of tomorrow. Catch them first from Friday, May 13 to Tuesday, May 17 at daily performance slots of 7pm and 9.30pm. 

Gandini Juggling’s Smashed2

Gandini Juggling’s Smashed2 is one of the acts in the Adnams Spiegeltent and takes a witty look at the strained relations between men and women using plenty of explosive fruit - Credit: Camille Greenwell

THE ADNAMS SPIEGELTENT  

Most Read

Returning to the Norfolk & Norwich Festival for the first time since 2019, the iconic Adnams Spiegeltent will take pride of place in the Festival Gardens from May 18-29.  

Hosting an eclectic variety of family-friendly shows, music, circus, cabaret, late nights and comedy, the decadent 300-seat venue is sure to be a firm favourite throughout the month.  

Circus troupe Cirque Alfonse performing Barbu

Circus troupe Cirque Alfonse will perform Barbu in the Adnams Spiegeltent - Credit: Norfolk & Norwich Festival

Kicking off the programme on May 18, the renowned Canadian circus troupe Cirque Alfonse will perform Barbu, a jaw-dropping experience where music, video, circus and general mayhem collide to explore the origins of the Montreal circus as you’ve never seen before.  

Circus, music and acrobatics act Flood

Stand under your own personalised ‘sound umbrella’ with circus, music and acrobatics act Flood - Credit: John Ferguson

GARDEN PARTY 

Filling the gardens with a dazzling array of the UK’s finest outdoor entertainment, Garden Party will take over the Festival Gardens on Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22. 

 Proudly boasting eight new shows (all for free!) visitors will be able to enjoy the idyllic bar and delicious food offerings alongside world-class performances.  

From the electrifying hip-hop dance theatre of Scrum to the family-friendly, treasure-seeking interactive mission of Community Chest, there is something for everyone to enjoy. And if it starts to rain, Flood will see audiences stand under their own personalised sound umbrella in an epic feat of acrobatics.  

A woman in the Unfurl installation

Discover a garden like no other at Unfurl, which uses cutting-edge robotics and large-scale inflatables to develop a dreamscape of interactive gentle giant plants - Credit: Norfolk & Norwich Festival

UNFURL  

Growing in the Festival Gardens from Saturday, May 14 to Sunday, May 15, Unfurl is a garden like no other. Nature, art and technology have combined to create something spectacular. The plants know you have come to visit, and they reach out to connect with you.  

Creative robotic studio Air Giants has applied cutting-edge robotics to large-scale inflatables to develop a dreamscape of interactive gentle giant robots that tower up to 5 metres high. Unfurl is a garden of light, colour and sound, where the plants have ever-changing personalities just waiting to be discovered.  

Explore this beautiful intersection of art and technology in a 21st century horticultural experience.  

Inside the Deception Island hut

Discover the immersive storytelling experience of Deception Island in Festival Gardens as part of the City of Literature Weekend - Credit: Norfolk & Norwich Festival

CITY OF LITERATURE 

In case the Norfolk & Norwich Festival’s 250th anniversary wasn’t enough of an occasion - this year also marks the 10th anniversary of Norwich becoming a UNESCO City of Literature, where the power of words have changed lives for hundreds of years.  

From Friday, May 27 to Sunday, May 29, the festival will host the City of Literature Weekend. Why not join an Antarctic expedition in Deception Island, where an immersive storytelling experience awaits you in Festival Gardens in an exact replica of an Antarctic hut?  

Writer Kit de Waal

Globally-renowned writer Kit De Waal will deliver the Harriet Martineau Lecture in the Adnams Spiegeltent as part of the City of Literature Weekend - Credit: Sarah M Lee

In the Adnams Spiegeltent, globally-renowned writer Kit De Waal will deliver the Harriet Martineau Lecture on Saturday, May 28, not to mention thought-provoking talks by acclaimed authors Mieko Kawakami (All the Lovers in the Night) and Richard Mainwaring (Everybody Hertz) as they discuss their latest work. 

For the full programme of Norfolk & Norwich Festival events and to book tickets, visit nnfestival.org.uk