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Norfolk and Norwich Festival fever sweeps the country.

PUBLISHED: 16:29 05 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:08 20 February 2013

Norfolk and Norwich Festival fever sweeps the country.

Norfolk and Norwich Festival fever sweeps the country.

Sarah Cassells previews the people and performances to catch next month.

Sounds like a celebration!

That building cresendo reverberating on the horizon is Norfolk and Norwich Festival fever sweeping the country. Sarah Cassells previews the people and performances to catch next month.

Be a part of the audience or be a part of the action. This year, the Norfolk and Norwich Festival programme promises plenty of opportunity to get involved whether its watching world-class performances from the likes of John Cale and Chlo Hanslip, or taking to the stage with its ever-popular circus events.

Now in its 238th year, organisers say there will be more festival frolics than ever. Every year we break new ground, says artistic director Jonathan Holloway. And every year more people discover the festival and love it.

From May 7 to 22, the city will transform into an arts extravaganza, with visual treats like sensational fireworks, giant red balls and nostalgic ice cream vans, set to a soundtrack of classical music, choral performances, juicy jazz and a little rock and roll.

For first-time festival goers, Jonathan says the Spiegeltent is a must: Its a remarkable circus, burlesque, upbeat music show that will blow peoples minds. Over the 16 days, the atmospheric Spiegeltent in Chapelfield Gardens will host a variety of grown up theatre, aerial acrobatics, wicked music and even cheeky cabaret courtesy of Norwichs own Bo Nanafana Social Club.

A rare performance by rock legend John Cale, founding member of Lou Reeds band Velvet Underground, is also an unmissable delight. He will appear at Norwich Theatre Royal, performing his seminal solo album,
Paris 1919, accompanied by The Heritage Orchestra.

The theatre will also welcome acclaimed composer Michael Nyman; dance performances from rock-inspired Michael Clark; and the UK premiere of Jordi Savalls Jerusalem, where 38 musicians present the rich music heritage of the holy city.

Those with more traditional tastes wont be disappointed by the festivals core classical programme, which boasts appearances from violinist Chlo Hanslip and the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, a performance of Vivaldis Four Seasons by the Academy of Ancient Music, and Chopins tudes and Nocturnes by French-Canadian pianist Louis Lorties.

While visitors with contemporary interests are sure to be charmed by the festivals three circuses and free events programme, which includes the explosive Bird and Fire Firework event at Earlham Park and two days of theatre and childrens activities at the Garden Party in Chapelfield Gardens. And keep an eye out for seven traditional ice cream vans, which will be weaving a nostalgic route across the citys suburbs as part of Dan Jones Suburban Counterpoint: Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans.

However, for those who prefer to be participators rather than spectators, there are several ways to get in on the action. Untrained singers can lend their voices to The Voice Project and perform with world-class musicians, or you could simply run away to join NoFit States circus at Eaton Park. Talented community groups from BMX riders and freerunners to brass bands and fire swingers are invited to come along and explore what they do in a circus context.

Not sure where to start? We asked four performers and artists to tell us why their work is worth a look.

For a more detailed programme or to book tickets, call 01603 766400 or visit

Undressed to thrill

Spectacular and saucy, former Miss Exotic World Julie Atlas Muzs (pictured above) burlesque performances are unforgettable shows. Catch her in the Spiegeltent on May 7 and 8.

What attracted you to being part of the festival?
Norwich is a city Ive always been curious about and Ive heard such wonderful things about it from former festival performers Mat Fraser and Ekaterina the wonderful Russian contortionist.

What can we expect from a burlesque performance?
Well as I dont want to give anything away, I think the audience should come with an open mind and heart, and a drink in the hands! The show will be sexy and funny with a heavy splash of glamour. The audience will leave with a feeling of punk rock glamour and big class sleaze.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from music, film, visual art you name it. Every dance is different and has a different feel. I always try to make some kind of joke and have some kind of political satire although it isnt always obvious.

What are your burlesque costumes like?
You want a sneak preview of what Ill be wearing? Okay, take off all your clothes, dump about a kilo of glitter on your naked body and voila!
Bright ideas
Visual and performance artist Tim Etchells will be showcasing three pieces of interactive work at locations across the city.

What attracted you to being part of the festival?
The vision of it being an exciting mix of art forms.

What three pieces are you bringing?
The first is a six-hour performance by Forced Entertainment called Quizoola! that audiences can dip in and out of. Three performers will ask each other questions, from whats the capital of Spain? to why are we here? and then improvise answers; it has a live, fun and vulnerable feel.
The second is a series of neon signs positioned in window spaces featuring short phrases like Wait here Ive gone to get help. They all invite the reader into a story thats not complete and ask them to use their imagination to fill in the gaps.
The third is the Short Message Spectacle. Subscribe to a particular number and during the festival youll receive text messages describing scenes from an imaginary performance; like: The ballerinas have taken to the stage, where you picture the images from the words.

Whats the inspiration behind your work?
Its all about enlisting the imaginative participation of audiences; opening people up and making them think about their own potential and agency.

What festival events do you plan to attend?
I heard John Cale is doing something so Id love to see that.

Looking round
From May 7, artist Kurt Perschkes RedBall Project (pictured above), a travelling 15-foot inflatable red ball installation, will be popping up in unexpected places around Norwich.

What attracted you to being part of the festival?
RedBall Project is visual artwork, but it has a performing element too so its interesting to bring into the context of a performing arts festival.

What is the RedBall Project?
Its an inflatable piece moving between architectural sites in the city. People will be able to pick up on the way its playing with architecture by being wedged, fixed and squashed into spaces. It encourages people to look at the citys architecture, use their imagination and get drawn into the story of where the ball is going.

RedBall has travelled all over the world, why Norwich?
The project works well in cities with medieval layouts and Norwich has these amazingly tiny streets. Im excited about seeing how its going to fit.

Where will the ball be?
Its starting beneath the entrance archways at the train station but will move through the city towards the Cathedral and take in some significant modern sites like the Sainsbury Centre. People can follow updates of where it is at

Charged conductor
Acclaimed conductor David Parry (pictured below) and the Festival Chorus will be performing Beethovens First and Ninth Symphony at St Andrews Hall on May 8.

What attracted you to being part of the festival?
Jonathan Holloway hes such a fantastic, imaginative person, and working with the chorus is delightful because you build it up and it becomes something special.

What is the Festival Chorus?
Its a choral society of around 100 non-professional singers many from the areas major choral societies specially put together for the festival.
Why did you decide on Beethovens First and Ninth Symphony?
We wanted something which reflected a beginning and ending. As the first and last symphony theyre perfect. Whats special for me is that as I conduct all over Europe its great to do something on my doorstep for people I know.

What should people expect from this performance?
To come and listen to one of the greatest pieces of music that exists.

What festival events do you plan to attend?
I love the classical performances because its what I do for a living, but I also like things like the Spiegeltent because its a very charming venue and something completely different.

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