Full Programme for Holt Festival 2019

© Gary Clutterbuck

The full programme for the eleventh Holt Festival, North Norfolk’s award winning, international feast of the arts has been announced. 

From 21 to 27 July the Festival brings a vast range of outstanding events to North Norfolk. Music includes icons of the British music scene, award-winning contemporary jazz and the very best of Irish traditional music and classical music. Only in Holt do best-selling authors rub shoulders with national treasures and toe-tapping dancers. There’s funny and thought-provoking drama, one of the very best performance poets around and a great line-up of comedy. The Festival features two fabulous art loan exhibitions, not one but two art prizes, and new exciting art events around the town. An entire day is devoted to events and activities for children and young people while the fabulous opening-night circus cabaret for adults has thrills, spills and risqué fun.

The Festival features a host of big names including Sir Martyn Lewis, Kate Mosse, Toyah, Nigel Havers, Terry Waite and Georgie Fame. There are regional favourites like Luke Wright and Molly Naylor, and it all opens with a  vibrant street party and picnic. New Artistic Director Anwen Hurt said ‘I had several aims when I took on this role – introducing Holt Festival to new and wider audiences, involving the local community to a greater degree, and most importantly, remembering our loyal audience who have supported us over the last eleven years’.

Family and Children’s events
There’s a new opening event for Holt Festival this year with a Sunday afternoon of fun and food that’s free for everyone to join in. From mid-day on 21 July the town streets will come alive with all sorts of live music and entertainment, food stalls and a Norfolk produce market. From 3pm everyone is invited to take a picnic to Gresham’s Pre-Prep Field where there’ll be acrobats, face painting, street dancing, close up magic and marvellously entertaining street performer Maynard Flip Flap and lots of family orientated fun and frolics.

As a taster for the Festival fun to come there’s a special Children’s Saturday on 20 July when under 16’s are invited to Gresham’s Pre-Prep field to improve their sporting, dancing, music, art and literary skills. Afterwards, families are invited to head over to Holt Community Centre for a joyous sing-along performance of the wonderful Mary Poppins Returns (U) film.

Children’s workshops give 6-12 year olds the chance to create a Circus in a Day with Lost in Translation and to try body percussion with Oscillate choreographer Avalon Rathgeb. There’s also a joyful participatory celebration of sounds, using traditional and unusual instruments, with Japanese musician and inventor ICHI and English folk artist Rachael Dadd. Throughout the week Amy Finegan’s popular storytelling will entrance the under sevens.

Music and Dance
Music has always been a mainstay of the festival and this year’s line-up doesn’t disappoint. The big headliners in the weekend Theatre in The Woods concerts are Toyah, with a 40th anniversary retrospective featuring favourite hit singles and album classics, and Rn’B jazz legend Georgie Fame. Georgie is a true music legend who has amassed an impressive array of hits and worked with the very best in the business. Opening for him will be MOBO Award winners and Mercury Music Prize nominees Kairos4 Tet.

The Lewis Sisters are a trio who include Sir Martyn’s daughter Sylvie. They run the musical gamut from Hank Williams and Elvis to Bob Dylan and Harry Belafonte, as well as playing their own beautifully crafted originals.

Ireland’s Elsafty, O’Connor & Browne will provide a joyous evening’s entertainment of scintillating songs, heart-breaking laments and toe-tapping dance tunes as button accordion and Uilleann pipes combine with the delightful voice of Róisín Elsafty. They also host a lunchtime Ceilidh. The Britten Oboe Quartet, made up of virtuosos from the world famous Britten Sinfonia will perform a mix of standard classics and lesser-known works including Norfolk-educated composer EJ Moeran’s Fantasy Quartet. Cantabile – The London Quartet is one of Britain’s great vocal groups. For Holt they are promising wide-ranging programme including songs from William Byrd, Rossini, The Beatles, Billy Joel, Rodgers & Hart and Flanders & Swann as well as their own hilarious Strangers in the Night.

Oscillate is a ground breaking tap dance experience not to be missed. The especially composed electronic score combines with innovative choreography to totally update the tap experience. Finally, fans of 60s music can dance a Saturday afternoon away to the upbeat northern soul sounds of Cromer Soul Club DJ’s as they keep the faith.

Nigel Havers has been gracing our screens and stages for more years than any of us care to remember. His portrayals of a certain kind of Englishman in films from Chariots of Fire, A Passage to India and Empire of the Sun, to TV roles in Downton Abbey, Don’t Wait Up and even Coronation Street, alongside his perfect comedic timing, have led him to be described as a national treasure. He is coming to Holt to discuss his life and career in conversation with Anwen Hurt.

Sir Martyn Lewis retired from news reading in 1999 after many years of reporting the news on TV. He comes to Holt to discuss ‘A Constructive Future for Journalism’, arguing that the news should balance negative and positive stories. He proposes that journalists should acknowledge accomplishments and successes in positive stories rather than rely on the light, trivial stories that tend to characterise good news features. Kate Mosse’s books have been translated into thirty-seven languages and published in more than forty countries. She will talk about her life and work, including Labyrinth and The Burning Chambers, the first in a new sequence of historical novels.

Founder of perhaps the UK’s best known book chain, Sir Tim Waterstone will talk about his book ‘The Face Pressed Against a Window: A Memoir which includes tales of his time teaching at Gresham’s School.
Now hailed as both an erudite writer and a compellingly humorous public speaker, Terry Waite spent almost five years in solitary confinement after attempting to secure the release of hostages in Beirut. He will talk about this and his latest book, Travels with a Primate, which tells of his worldwide travels accompanying Robert Runcie, then Archbishop of Canterbury.

And is it a Gainsborough? is a talk by Hugh Belsey, one of the foremost authorities on eighteenth century art who has spent 14 years cataloguing portraits by Suffolk’s Thomas Gainsborough for his new book.
Writer, broadcaster and Norfolk resident Richard Mabey has written over 30 books, mostly centering on the healing power of nature. He comes to the festival to talk about his life, his writings and how reconnecting with the wild helped him break free from debilitating depression.

Theatre and live literature 
Two for one offers are always popular and Holt Festival has a stunning double bill of Norfolk-grown drama directed by TV scriptwriter, theatre maker and poet Molly Naylor. Lights! Planets! People! is an intimate and exhilarating play about space science, mental health and communication performed by Attleborough actor Karen Hill. In Sick, Norwich-based writer and performer Shey Hargreaves draws on her own experiences of working in a busy emergency unit to explore with warmth and humour, the way that austerity affects patients, NHS staff and their families and friends. Both shows have enjoyed acclaimed national tours and London runs.

Luke Wright is one of the UK’s leading poets, this year celebrating 20 years at the coalface of poetry. With his show Luke Wright, Poet Laureate he’s on a mission to write poems to unite a divided nation. The bill is completed with an opening set of poems from Molly Naylor.

Circus and Comedy
The Smallest Greatest Show on Earth is an evening of circus cabaret for adult audiences from internationally renowned, Norwich-based, Lost in Translation Circus. Colourful compère Abigail Collins introduces acts including Australia’s Annabel Carberry, Massimilliano Rosetti from Rome, London’s Joseph Keeley, Norwich’s Natasha Rushbrooke and the scandalous Vendetta Vain. Award-winning musical comedy sisters Flo & Joan are Radio 4 regulars who are bringing a brand-new show of dark, witty songs Alive on Stage to Holt. No Holt Festival would be complete without a stand-up comedy night and this year the pick of the London circuit gather for a night of laughter at The Feathers Hotel MC’d by laid back funnyman Jon Pearson.

Visual Art
Holt Festival has established an enviable reputation for bringing the very best of the fine art world to the town. There are two major loan exhibitions in the 2019 Festival, Two Lives in Colour features paintings by Fred Dubery and sculptures by Joanne Brogden who lived in Suffolk all their married lives up to their deaths in 2011 and 2013 respectively. Dame Lucie Rie and Hans Coper were potters with distinct styles, regarded as the preeminent British potters of the latter half of the twentieth century.

Additionally, Holt is renowned for its galleries, and many of them are taking part in the annual Art Trail which also includes an exhibition of children’s art in Holt Community Centre.

There will be exhibitions of the shortlisted entries to the Sir John Hurt Art Prize and the new Sworders Art Prize for younger artists. Also new this year is Paint Out Holt, a Plein air painting competition for which entrants will create new views of the town to be exhibited throughout Festival week. The final weekend of the Festival will also see a return for Open Studios with North Norfolk artists throwing open their studio doors to the public. ADD Car boot

Anwen Hurt has selected a short season of films to complement the Festival Programme. That Good Night (12A, 2017) was Sir John Hurt’s final film. One of the finest actors of his generation, and a great supporter of Holt Festival, he gives a tour-de-force performance in this story of a once famous, terminally ill writer.

Derek Jarman’s magical film version of The Tempest (15, 1979) will be introduced by Jarman’s producer Don Boyd. Toyah Willcox, who stars in the film, will be making a guest appearance prior to her concert in Holt.

Internationally acclaimed Oscar-winning drama Chariots of Fire (PG, 1981) is based on the true story of runners Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams’ journey to the 1924 Paris Olympics. It features Nigel Havers as fellow athlete Lord Andrew Lindsay.

There is also a full programme of Fringe and Community events, see the website for full details.

Chair of the Board of Trustees Adney Payne said ‘I would particularly like to welcome our new Artistic Director, Anwen Hurt. Anwen has supplied an exciting, eclectic and stimulating mix of artistic events, and achieved a brilliant balancing act of developing new innovations while maintaining the style of events that Holt Festival has become renowned for.’

Anwen added ‘It hasn’t been easy juggling all the different strands but I’m very pleased with the results. I’m particularly proud of the Town Picnic and Street Party on Sunday 21 which gives absolutely everyone from the town and beyond the opportunity be part of the Festival fun.  Do come and join us!’

Each year Holt Festival makes a substantial donation to the Holt Youth Project – one of England’s most imaginative, award winning youth schemes. Serving young people across north Norfolk, it prides itself on preventative programmes that allow young people to reach their full potential.

Tickets onsale now. For details of all these and other Holt Festival events, and to book, visit www.holtfestival.org or call the Box Office on 01603 598699.