Spring is in the air, and Norwich is waking up from its wintery hibernation. Slowly, people are heading back outdoors, the sun is shining, and all over the city, those recognisable square day-glo brochures are appearing. This can only mean one thing: The Norfolk and Norwich Festival is back for 2018.
Title Image: Trans Express, Vile de dijon
If you’ve not been to the festival before, then it is truly unmissable. A varied programme of diverse events, the Norfolk & Norwich Festival is the oldest international arts festival in the country and the largest of its kind in the East of England. From Friday 11th – Sunday 27th of May this year, you will be treated to spectacular performances, big outdoor events, theatre, dance, contemporary circus, music and installation art. Set mainly in Norwich (but also out towards the coast and country), the festival’s backdrops include St Andrew’s Hall, Theatre Royal Norwich, The Playhouse and Norwich Puppet Theatre – as well as the streets of the city itself.
This year’s programme between 11th and 27th May looks as spectacular as ever. You will see shows on their way to London or Edinburgh, shows that have wowed audiences across the world and shows that are making their début too. Catch our highlights below for your quick look guide (of course you can find the whole thing in the festival programme, or on the N&N Festival website).
Every year, the festival opens with something immense, and this year is no different. Kicking off the whole thing will be Transe Express (Friday 11th of May at 9pm), who will transform the historic streets of Norwich into a fantastical open air opera house as carnivalesque drummers and enormous singing dolls parade from Cathedral Close . Also in the city, 'Timepiece' is a beautiful choral performance running from midday to midnight in the atmospheric Cloisters and Garth of Norwich Cathedral (Friday 25th May). Towards the coast, experience incredible dance to folk music, by renowned inclusive dance company Stopgap at Great Yarmouth Seafront on Saturday the 26th and Sunday the 27th of May.
Over the course of the festival, the buildings and theatres of the city will house some of the world’s leading lights in the arts. Music highlights include five-time Grammy Award winner Mary Chapin Carpenter at Norwich Theatre Royal on Thursday 17th May, David McAlmont presents Billie Holiday at Carnegie Hall at Norwich Playhouse on Friday 11th of May, and the exhilarating sounds of Jyotsna Srikanth & Bollywood Brass Band at Norwich Playhouse on the 19th of May.
There’s an extensive programme of classical music too: Britten Sinfonia perform Beethoven with Thomas Ades at Norwich Theatre Royal on Sunday 27th of May, and The Trout Quintet at Norwich Playhouse on Friday 25th of May.
Aside from music you can also catch a world premiere performance by innovative theatre company Improbable: The Paper Man tells the story of what happened when Austrian football star Matthias Sindelar humiliated the Nazi regime in 1938, by refusing to throw a match (performances Monday 14th – Saturday 19th of May, Norwich Puppet Theatre). Also see comic, bleak and beautiful dance by Hofresh Shechter Company in ‘Grand Finale’, critically acclaimed comedy by Forced Entertainment on Saturday 26th May, and groundbreaking literary events and talks featuring Rosy Carrick, Ben Okri and Judy Murray.
You’ll probably already know that one of the biggest, most recognisable artists of our time – Damien Hirst – will be debuting work at Houghton Hall as part of the Festival. There are still tickets left to see Colour Space in this magnificent 18th century house and gardens, so get them now while there’s still some left! And if you’re a fan of visual arts, the Norfolk and Norwich Open Studios will be held from the 26th May – 10 June, which is completely free and held right across the county.
AND IN THE CANVAS OF THE SPIEGELTENT
In Chapelfield Garden the magnificent Spiegeltent will be installed, bringing with it dances, circus, talks, and a late night bar. It’s the perfect way to spend the weekend. Outside the Spiegeltent is one thing, but inside you can catch a wide variety of acts for adults and children alike. Highlights include ‘Shift’ by Barely Methodical Troupe (gravity defying circus and a world premiere too!), a powerful fusion of opera and lycra by the ‘earth shaking’ cabaret sensation ‘Le Gateau Chocolat’ in his new work, Icons, and modern jazz performances by Binker and Moses, Ashley Henry and Maisha.
The Spiegeltent is also home to some great events for little ones too: Kid Carpet and the Noise Animals are taking us on a Noisy Holiday with Kid Carpet, The Millenium Library Bounce and Rhyme session for 0-5 year olds will be held in the magical tent, and on Wednesday the 23rd of May there will be a very special free Toddler Tea Dance for toddlers and their parents.
SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Of course, there is a lot more on offer than we could possibly write about here – this is just the start. If you’re considering paying Norwich a visit, there really is no better time: this is the city at its most vibrant, most effervescent, and most spirited. If you’re looking for places to stay we can recommend plenty here, plus some help with getting here if you’re still undecided on your mode of transport.
What’s more, the food scene in Norwich is absolutely thriving, with more and more people taking the trip east just on the basis of the food offering alone. Find out more here, but some of our favourites include Benedicts, Figbar, Namaste India, and Amaretto and Saporita for a continental lunchtime pick me up. So what are you waiting for?
COMING TO VISIT?
Greater Anglia has Advance fares from £10 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.
To plan a trip to Norwich check out our website www.visitnorwich.co.uk