If 17 days (12 – 28 May) of jam-packed with amazing theatre, circus, live music, literature, exhibitions, free outdoor spectaculars and much more sounds right up your street, then Norwich is the place to be this May.
Presenting an incredible mix of arts-based entertainment, the historic Norfolk & Norwich Festival (one of the oldest surviving arts festivals in the UK, in fact) brings international acts from around the world to Norfolk, to dazzle, challenge, excite, and - above all - entertain you! Here’s our guide to the highlights (and they are only highlights, as there are plenty of incredible events across the 17 days) from the new, updated and only-released-today programme of events!
Image: Night Magic, photo by John Paul Bichard
A FANTASTIC FREE OUTDOOR PROGRAMME TO ENJOY
Image: Museum of the Moon
Luke Jerram is known all over the world for his public artwork, usually on a big scale, which in the past have included Play Me I’m Yours (pianos were left on the streets of 50 cities, including Melbourne, New York and London, for people to enjoy) and Park and Slide, which saw a giant inflatable slide in Bristol appear specially for members of the public to ride along. Now his unique large-scale public artworks come to Norwich; head over to The Forum during the first week of the Festival for Museum of the Moon (12 – 21 May, various times). You’ll see a giant inflatable moon which will feature detailed NASA imagery of the moon’s surface. Visitors can relax on deckchairs and soak up the atmosphere as they enjoy live music (lunar-inspired, of course), performance and dance, all taking place underneath – what else? – the giant moon! See their website for further details.
Image: VR Playground
Meanwhile the VR Playground (12 – 27 May, all day) sees various spots in Norwich offering the opportunity to try VR headsets whilst sitting on a swing! Hop on one of the playground swings and be transported into a virtual reality world! It’s all created by the only Thrill Engineer in the world, Professor Brendan Walker, and his Thrill Laboratory team (consisting of artists, designers, scientists, engineers and technologists who really know their VR stuff!). Who knows where or what you’ll experience – we’ve heard you could be atop a huge mechanical jellyfish or perhaps riding on a robot… the only way to find out is to give it a go! Suitable for ages 11+, this event is completely free; see website for exact locations and further details.
Image: Aurora Orchestra, photo by Dibs McCallum
An ever-popular event which always features as part of the Festival line-up is the Garden Party: two days (20 & 21 May, 12 - 6pm) of fun performances, entertainment and games which will take over Chapelfield Gardens. The Garden party is always a great opportunity to enjoy a day out (there’ll be food and drink stands) and meet up with family or friends. Expect the bizarre – the chance to build gigantic origami, or an appearance from a ‘roaming cottage on chicken legs’ – but one thing’s for sure: it will be fun… and free! More details here.
QUIRKY & EVOCATIVE PERFORMANCE
Image: The Rear View
The Voice Project returns to the Festival to present a world premiere of The Arms of Sleep: an incredibly unique, 10 hour, immersive sleep-over experience (22 – 26 May, 9.30pm – 8am)! Intrigued? Let us explain a little more… audience members will arrive at The Assembly House (an amazing Georgian building) and be given a bed, ready to be “surrounded by sound and shadows, balancing and drifting between sleep and wakefulness”. It’s an experience you’re unlikely to forget (that’s all we’ll say, though…!) Tickets £40 / £30 concessions. More details here.
Take to the streets of Norwich for a tour on a custom-built bus – but not your usual kinda tour…oh no! The Rear View journey (25 – 28 May) will start at The Great Hospital and wind its way around Norwich, in a unique adventure led by performance poets Cecilia Knapp and Jemima Foxtrot, creating an experience that will “blur the line between reality and fiction”. Performance times vary, suitable for ages 11+. More details (including times) here.
BBC3 COLLABORATION – NEW EMERGING ARTISTS
Image: Frankie Vah, photo by Idil Sukan
This exciting new addition to the festival line-up brings the chance to hear some of the most promising new talent from all over the world, right here in Norwich at The Playhouse. Artists who are performing as part of the New Generation Artists scheme include; Kathryn Rudge & James Baillieu (12 May, 1pm); Annelien Van Wauwe & Amatis Trio (19 May, 7.30pm); Calidore Quartet (20 May, 7.309pm) - plus enjoy plenty of other musical performance from fantastic artists including Frankie Vah, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Get The Blessing, to name but a few! See all the festival's music events here.
Image: Night Magic, photo by John Paul Bichard
This is the place to be for a fantastic atmosphere in Chapelfield Gardens, right in the city centre - expect plenty of incredible shows to keep you entertained day in, day out. There’s so much going on here that, with the fairyland-style lighting and décor, you could happily just pop over for an al-fresco drink outside the tent whilst you soak up the atmosphere – but there are far too many exciting events taking place inside that we highly recommend you book for!
One such highlight is Night Magic (22 & 23 May, 10pm), a “cabaret of musical delights and breath-taking feats” inspired by the vaudeville era – so expect burlesque, magic, breath-taking aerial acts and wonderful live music, all rolled into one enchanting evening. Presented by Hocus Pocus Theatre and Gossamer Thread’s Vaudeville Co, the performance will be followed by a DJ to take you into the early hours - what could be better? Tickets £15; more details here.
Image: The Ragroof Tea Dances - credit Dave Guttridge
If you’ve always dreamed of learning to dance, then why not do it in the charming setting of the Spiegeltent? On the same weekend as the Garden Party (20 & 21 May), there’ll be participatory dance lessons from The Ragroof Players at 1.30pm both days: on the Saturday enjoy City of Stars, an ode to the success that is LaLa Land, which will feature the American Smooth, Foxtrot, Jive, Jazz and much more, or on the Sunday dance the South American Way, featuring the Rumba, Samba, Mambo and many others. Tickets for each Ragroof Tea Dance event costs £10 and sessions will last approximately 3 hours. More details here.
For the full festival line-up visit the Norfolk & Norwich Festival website. But be warned – once you start flicking through, you’ll want to go to everything!
COMING TO VISIT?
Greater Anglia have Advance fares from £9 one way between London Liverpool Street and Norwich. Trains run every 30 minutes. Greater Anglia also serves Colchester, Ipswich and Diss on the Norwich line. Direct trains also run from Cambridge.
East Midlands Trains runs services from Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham.
Flights into Norwich served from Edinburgh, Manchester, Exeter, Aberdeen, Jersey*, Guernsey* and Amsterdam.