In 2012 Norwich received the permanent accolade of becoming a UNESCO World City of Literature, making it the first city in England to hold this status. Now it’s 2016 and Writers’ Centre Norwich, one of the key leaders in bidding for UNESCO status back in 2011 is firmly settled into its new premises in the magnificent Dragon Hall. Let the story unfold...
Toppes was a wealthy merchant who had his fingers in many pies. Landlord, money-lender, exporter of cloth and importer of all kinds of foreign goods, Toppes was also an alderman, four-times mayor of the city, and part of the Norwich political elite. He was a member of the religious Guild of St George, the symbolism of which would directly influence him in the design of one of Norwich’s most impressive Tudor buildings: Dragon Hall.
A merchant at heart, Toppes needed a place to display his merchandise. Using St George’s dragon as his inspiration, he designed a trading hall that incorporated the principles of art, architecture and commerce, at the centre of which was a vast Great Hall. The hall would be filled with wool, cloth, timber, spices, pottery and other items that could be bought and sold, and decorating its lofty arches were ornately carved and painted dragons.
Over 600 years later and Dragon Hall is still standing, restored to its original splendour (though sadly, only one dragon remains). It’s the only Tudor merchant hall built by one man that still stands in England, probably in Europe and is now home to Writers’ Centre Norwich (lucky them). But also ‘lucky us’ as they hold regular literary events and tours of the building.
City of Literature Weekend: Day One: The World As It Is And As It Has Been
Saturday 21 May, Dragon Hall from 11am
Gender, Identity and Overcoming Trauma with Una & Nicola Streeten, 11am
Join graphic novelists, Una and Nicola Streeten, in conversation on how graphic novels have enabled women to talk about their lives and address personal and painful issues. Book now - call 01603 630000.
Life in the World's Largest Refugee Camp with Ben Rawlence, 12.30pm
With 350,000 inhabitants, Dadaab Refugee Camp is the largest in the world. Join Ben Rawlence as he reads from City of Thorns, a unique account of his four years spent getting to know this extraordinary place. 'Timely, disturbing and compelling' - The Guardian. Book now - call 01603 630000.
Julian of Norwich and the Voices in our Heads with Charles Fernyhough, 2.30pm
From hearing the voice of God to a sign of mental illness, how have attitudes to hearing voices in our head changed? Acclaimed writer and psychologist Charles Fernyhough leads a discussion on Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe, two of the first women ever published, and how words weave together in our consciousness. Book now - call 01603 630000.
Surviving War; Surviving Peace with Matthew Green, 4pm
Every decade thousands of people are sent to war on our behalf – but what happens when they return home? In his book Aftershock: The Untold Story of Surviving Peace, former Financial Times and Reuters correspondent Matthew Green documents post-conflict experiences of British soldiers and exposes a system in crisis. 'Unsentimental but horribly affecting tales of lives destroyed by combat' - The Guardian. Book now - call 01603 630000.
Murder, Morality and the Penny Dreadful with Kate Summerscale, 5.30pm
In her latest novel The Wicked Boy, bestselling author Kate Summerscale tells a fascinating true tale of murder and morality which places Victorian ideas of criminality, childhood and insanity under the microscope. Book now - call 01603 630000 (limited availability).
City of Literature Weekend: Day Two: The World As We Might Make It
Sunday 22 May, Dragon Hall from 11am
Don't Let My Past Be Your Future with Harry Leslie Smith. 11am - Sold out!
Second World War veteran Harry Leslie Smith brings his unique perspective to NHS cutbacks, benefits policy, political corruption and the cost of education. With a huge Twitter following, the 93-year-old has become a celebrated activist for the poor. Dont Let My Past Be Your Future is a memoir and survival guide to persevering through difficult times with your dignity and optimism intact.
The End of Alchemy with Mervyn King and Charles Clarke, 12.30pm, Sold out!
Mervyn King was Governor of the Bank of England from 2003 to 2013, when the global financial crisis hit and started its recovery. Here, he examines what went wrong and why, along with what needs to be done to ensure a more stable future.
Free Speech in an Interconnected World with Timothy Garton-Ash, 2.30pm
Timothy Garton-Ash argues that the way to achieve combined freedom and diversity is to improve and increase freedom of speech. Using examples such as China’s Orwellian censorship and Charlie Hebdo, he proposes a framework for civilised conflict in a world where we are all becoming neighbours. Book now - call 01603 630000 (limited availability).
Neurotribes: Thinking Smarter About Difference with Steve Silberman, 4pm, Sold out!
After 70 years of research on autism, why do we still seem to know so little about it? In Neurotribes, award-winning investigative reporter Steve Silberman’s pioneering viewpoint changes the way we think not just about autism, but also about creativity and innovation.
Read more for further Literature events and performances at Norfolk & Norwich Festival.