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Big themes for a tiny village

PUBLISHED: 17:20 08 June 2015

A reconstruction of the The West Runton Mammoth.  Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

A reconstruction of the The West Runton Mammoth. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Archant Norfolk.

A festival celebrating both art and science erupts in a mid-Norfolk village this month, writes Rowan Mantell.

From volcanoes to visual art and mammoths to music, art meets science at a village near Dereham this month. The 11th Welborne Festival, over the weekend of June 13 and 14, has the theme Arts Meets Science.

Events, in the village hall and church, and on the village meadow, include art exhibitions, workshops, circus shows and workshops, drama, street performers, dance and music – and this year much of it will be inspired by science.

Find out how to save the world in 45 minutes with science performer Dr Ken. Watch a reconstruction of the prehistoric mammoth, discovered in the cliffs of West Runton and see a preview of a play about Marie Curie before it hits the Edinburgh Festival.

An art exhibition called Inspired by Science is being curated by Andrew Logie, and the programme has more drama with a science theme, arts and music workshops, an interview with author Louis de Bernières, including the chance to hear him read a short story, and some poetry, performances and workshops with Norwich Puppet Theatre and Circus Ferrel, street theatre in the meadow and an exhibition of work by the West Norfolk Artists Association. The music programme includes interactive live looping to continue with the arts meets science theme.

Children from nearby primary schools at Yaxham, Barnham Broom and Mattishall will be able to enjoy workshops with experts in volcanoes, earthquakes and plate tectonics from the University of East Anglia and the John Innes Centre, before teaming up with writers and artists to create art works. They will then become scientists themselves, to explain their work to visitors during the festival.

A highlight of this year’s festival will be the chance to see the life-sized articulated replica of the West Runton steppe mammoth taking a stroll. It was first seen walking along the north Norfolk coast last summer and will be wandering through a meadow in Welborne for the festival . . . And as well as seeing the fabulously crafted reconstruction, festival-goers can find out about the science and geology behind the original excavation and preservation of the bones.

Dr Margaret Boulton, who is co-organiser of the festival, alongside founder Mike Webb, is also a scientist. She is particularly looking forward to seeing the convergence of art and science, and the celebration of the creativity of both, at the festival.

“I have always wanted to bring art and science together,” she says. “I think there is still a perception that science is frightening.” She recently retired from working as a researcher in plant genetics at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, and her husband Andy Maule, also a retired scientist, is now a sculptor.

Almost everyone in the village of Welborne gets involved with the festival, which is organised by a committee of 14 from the community and surrounding villages. The weekend, which began as a few events centred upon an art 
exhibition, now attracts visitors from across Norfolk and beyond. ◆

Welborne Arts Festival is on June 13 and 14 with tickets priced £6 for adults and £2 for children aged five to 15 in advance, or £8 for adults and £2 for children, on the gate; www.welborne.org.uk

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