Centre stage

PUBLISHED: 06:25 27 October 2014

Artistes and supporters gather to launch the 2014 Hostry Festival with Stash Kirkbride, front right. Photo: Bill Smith

Artistes and supporters gather to launch the 2014 Hostry Festival with Stash Kirkbride, front right. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

A large team of volunteers works behind the scenes (as well as front-of-house and centre stage) to help create an annual Norfolk arts festival.

The Hostry Festival was launched just four years ago to bring an autumn feast of dance and drama, music and conversation to the city. More than 100 people give up their free time to help create the festival, centred on the new Hostry building alongside ancient Norwich Cathedral.

The October 22 to November 2 festival is led by four directors, staged by experts and enthusiasts, and enjoyed by thousands more.

Festival founder and artistic director Stash Kirkbride says: “People enjoy being involved because they know we take our work seriously but we don’t take ourselves seriously at all. We have a lightness of touch and we have fun. And what makes it such a perfect fit for volunteers is that we are able to include people with an enormous array of interests in the arts.”

Volunteers get involved in acting, directing, producing, stage management, front-of-house, set and costume design, make-up and hair, graphic design, painting, set building, dancers, photography and more.

Students and pensioners, professionals and amateurs, experts and novices, work alongside each other to create the festival and Stash says: “People return year in, year out, because we work and play hard. For two weeks each year, we turn the Hostry into an arts centre, with a fully functioning stage and all the trimmings that go with it. It’s a bit like bringing a rock concert into town.”

This year there are 20 projects ranging from theatrical productions to orchestral concerts and interviews to exhibitions, and he explains: “We don’t buy in shows, we create them from scratch. We nurture and encourage people with no or little performance experience, as well as providing an elevated platform for people with vast amounts of experience to feel confident to take part.

“The Hostry building is a wonderful place to celebrate talent. Projects sound and look good there and the Dean and Chapter have been enormously supportive and encouraging.”


The Hansells Hostry Festival is produced by the PBSK Partnership, set up by Peter Beck and Stash Kirkbride. They are directors, along with Peter Barrow, and Rebecca Chapman who founded the inclusive theatre project, Total Ensemble Theatre Co.

Highlights this year include Debut, a chance for Norfolk teenagers to showcase their creativity in words and music; an outdoor painting festival taking place at six of the city’s loveliest locations on October 22 and 23 and culminating in an exhibition from October 24 to November 1; and the Norfolk Arts Awards, presented in association with our sister newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press on October 24.

Chamber Orchestra Anglia presents Echoes of Change, an evening of words and music commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, at the Hostry on Saturday, October 2. Drama includes a play focusing on conversations between Jesus and God, which will be performed in both the Anglican and the Roman Catholic cathedrals, and the Restoration comedy The Country Wife.

Hostry Festival tickets are available from the Norwich Cathedral box office on 01603 598676. For the full programme, visit www.hostryfestival.org

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