Holt Festival Line-up

The full programme for Holt Festival 2017, North Norfolk’s award winning, multi-arts, international festival has been announced. Now in its ninth year, the Festival brings outstanding theatre, music, comedy, literature, children’s and visual art events to the picturesque Georgian town for eight days, from 22 to 30 July.

This year’s festival is the final year of Charles Pugh’s tenure as Artistic Director, and he has delivered a programme that combines the best of national and international talents with some of the cream of our own Norfolk performers.

Major new announcements include former Today/Women’s Hour anchor Sue MacGregor interviewed by Alan Johnson MP, an exclusive exhibition of original paintings by internationally renowned, Norwich born artist Edward Seago, and, by popular demand, a repeat appearance by Margaret Hodge, renowned as the scourge of the waste and inefficiency of successive governments. UEA graduate poet and broadcaster Luke Wright, who enjoyed massive multi award winning success with his first play ‘What I Learned From Johnny Bevan’ including a three week sell out season in London’s West End, performs his new show The Toll and Norfolk resident James McDermott brings his five star hit Rubber Ring back to the region that inspired it.

There are lots of free events for families and children too, with a full day of outdoor family fun and an extensive programme of free activities and shows for children through the week.

Outgoing Artistic Director Charles Pugh said:

‘I’m so proud of this programme. I think, perhaps the most diverse we’ve yet delivered. From the unabashed popularity of glam rocker Suzi Quatro and one of the country’s funniest comedians Jasper Carrott, to tales of warmongers, witch hunters, brain attacks and public money squanderers. We begin and end this year’s festival with tributes to radio broadcasting – my favourite medium and in between take in some of the finest music, theatre, comedy, cabaret/burlesque and literary events that Holt has seen.’


The Auden Theatre at Gresham’s School has always been a precious resource for the Festival and this year hosts five star hits and a brand new show that are sure to prove popular with audiences. Don’t Mime Me is a new, mime show that holds its world premiere in Holt. As a theatre handyman pursues his destiny around the world, a hat stand, a downtrodden housewife and a few countries are just three of the obstacles that prevent him finding his soul mate. A 1940’s radio studio is the setting for The Gin Chronicles, a vintage radio-style comedy that follows the adventures of two amateur detectives searching for a missing gin magnate. Four actors and a foley artist present this five star rollercoaster verbal and visual comic treat. Edinburgh hit Cautionary Tales for Daughters by Tanya Holt, described as having the ‘playfulness of Victoria Wood with the satrical bite of Tim Minchin’, features a mix of comic song, live action and animation. It comes to Norfolk, following a sell out London season that delighted audiences and critics alike, to take the festival audience on a musical foray to the dark heart of growing up and the dark arts of modern parenting. Rubber Ring, written and performed by Norfolk resident James McDermott, tells the story of sexually confused, teenager Jimmy; a Morrissey obsessive stuck in Sheringham. When Morrissey comes to London he flees to the city to find his hero and himself.  Based on James’ own experiences of his struggle with his sexuality and regional identity this laugh-out-loud one man play received rave reviews in Edinburgh and London.

Talks & Literature:

Luke Wright is now one of Britain’s most popular poets as well as a broadcaster, playwrite and curator of spoken word programmes for Latitude, Festival Number 6 and the Edinburgh Book Festival. Following the unprecedented success of his first play Luke has chosen poems for The Toll from his recently published collection of the same name. A wordsmith at the top of his game, his verse explores the flat-roofed pubs and half-bought couches of Brexit Britain and the toll it takes on us all. Wright’s poetry ranges from the laugh out loud funny to the tear-inducingly poignant and back again.

One of the UK’s most experienced and respected broadcaster’s, Sue MacGregor CBE will be in conversation with Alan Johnson MP to reflect on 50 years of broadcasting, including the tensions that can arise between politicians and the media. Margaret Hodge talks to former Director of Norwich Theatre Royal Peter Wilson about her book Called To Account that takes readers on a fascinating first hand journey inside the NHS, the BBC and defence, as well as tax avoidance from the likes of Amazon, Starbucks and G4S.

Professor Michael Trimble sheds light on the 17th century witches of Norfolk whilst writer and former editor Robert McCrum discusses matters of life, death and literature in conversation with Festival Artistic Director Charles Pugh. Doctor, scientist, TV and radio presenter, politician and IVF pioneer Lord Robert Winston discusses our obsession with our genes in Modifying Humans: When Does Genetics Stop? Drawing on more than 25 years of global reporting experience for the BBC and Sky News Tim Marshall shares his insights on the world of global politics as set out in his latest books: Prisoners of Geography and Worth Dying For.


The evocative open air Theatre in the Woods stage hosts some old favourites this year covering rock, pop and a little folk/country music. Suzi Quatro, the godmother of glam rock, is still rocking the leather jumpsuit and playing gigs around the world. Expect a rockin show featuring old favourites like Can the Can, Devil Gate Drive and 48 Crash. Jasper Carrott’s Stand Up and Rock closes the festival with a blend of comedy and the best 60s and 70s rock and pop music, played by an all star band featuring Bev Bevan, founding member of The Move and ELO, and Geoff Turton from the Rockin Berries.

Roots in the Woods brings together The Vagaband and The Wangford Bass Combo Featuring Bj Cole for a night of Americana, country and folk/rock. Featuring Norfolk’s finest exponents of original roots music, and Hank Wangford’s boombastic experimental country experience this will have everyone on their feet.

The musicians and dancers of Viva Cuba are a joyous combination of some of the biggest UK artistic talents in the genre. They bring their wide variety of latin styles, blending in dance heavy funk and R&B fusion along the way. Ronnie Scott’s All Stars Soho Songbook celebrates the unique world of London’s world-famous jazz club and its incredible history, combining world-class live jazz, narration and rare archive images. There’s more jazz as Suzie Heath returns with her trio augmented by harmony group The Samphires for a heartfelt tribute to Cole Porter.

Lovers of classical Spanish guitar will be pleased to hear that one of the world’s greatest classical guitarists Mariano Mangas is returning this year, following his sell-out show in 2015. Million selling, Brit Award winning (and former Gresham’s School pupil) Humphrey Berney takes temporary leave from Blake for an evening of songs and virtuosic piano featuring mezzo soprano Charlotte Tetley and pianist James Sherlock. Pop Up Opera bring their innovative performance of Emmanuel Chabrier’s deliciously madcap and witty Une Éducation Manquée to Holt. This rarely seen tale of two very young and very innocent aristocrats striving to solve the puzzles of a unfulfilled marriage in the time of Louis XVI is both a pleasure and a delight. There will be a UK exclusive visit from Spanish opera stars Javier Agulló (tenor) & Amparo Navarro (soprano) who will perform Jalousie, a story of operatic passion with arias and duets from Monteverdi and Mozart to Verdi and Puccini.

Children’s and Family Events:

There’s plenty for the kids and families. Rhubard Theatre’s Granny’s Game is a delightful tale for 4 – 10 year olds based on the real-life heroism of journalist and explorer Nellie Bly. A combination of physical theatre, song, puppetry, shadow and dance create a real theatrical extravaganza.

Tinderbox sees Norwich Puppet Theatre retell Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale for ages 3 – 8. A roguish soldier acquires a magic tinderbox giving him the power to summon three extraordinary dogs to do his bidding. Young people 8-18 are invited to join Sheringham Little Theatre to create A Musical In A Day. There’ll be coaching in singing and dancing and the fun-filled day will end with the creation of a new musical to be performed in front of family and friends. There’s also storytelling from Amy Finnegan and Paul Jackson and the opportunity for youngsters to run away to the circus with hours of fun with Foolhardy Circus Troupe’s Circus Skills Workshops.

The 2017 Festival also has a full day of outdoor events when the town centre will come alive with free fun for the young and young at heart. Music comes from Cromer & Sheringham Brass Band who recently celebrated their 60th anniversary and there’s jazz, folk and classical from Hoofbeat Street Band. Three Suitcases is a street-treat for all the family from Rhubarb Theatre. Three quirky characters waiting for a train pass the time with mime, physical theatre, music and fun. Close-up magician Robert Rathbone will amaze, amuse and astound as he performs astonishing feats that defy explanation.

Comedy and Cabaret:

As well as Jasper Carrott there’s an evening of stand up comedy with double Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee Andrew Maxwell, Piccadilly Comedy Club New Comedian of the Year 2016 Eshaan Akbar, deliciously dark musical comedian Kate Lucas and TV regular David Morgan as compere.

Cirque du Cabaret returns with a new show featuring thrills, chills and plenty of slightly inappropriate behaviour from cast members old and new. Amongst the newcomers are 1920’s burlesque starlet Bonnie Fox and circus thrills from international stars from as far afield as Russia.

Norfolk-based duo Kit & McConnel also return to their favourite festival for a riotous evening of freshly-minted, up-to-the-minute cabaret songs, musical improvisation and all-round silliness.

Visual Art:

It had become something of a tradition for Sir John Hurt to award the prize to the winning artist of The Holt Festival Art Prize, and following his untimely death in January, the prize was renamed Holt Festival – Sir John Hurt Art Prize as a tribute to one of the Festival’s most loyal and generous supporters. The winning entry will be announced on 23 July and will be exhibited in the foyer of the Auden Theatre throughout the festival alongside all short-listed entries.

Holt is renowned for its galleries and many of them are taking part in the annual art-trail. There are also two exclusive loan exhibitions running throughout the Festival with works drawn from public and private collections. The Instinctive Artist – Edward Seago features original works by the Norwich born, Norwich School artist best known for his landscapes and portraits. Largely self-taught Seago (1910 – 1974) received great acclaim during his lifetime with admirers including the Royal Family and the Aga Khan. Benton End and Friends features original paintings and sculpture telling the story of painters Cedric Morris and Lett Haines, their houses The Pound and Benton End, and their informal art school on the Suffolk/Essex borders. The show includes works rarely seen in the county by Cedric Morris and Lett Haines, Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Lucian Frued, Maggi Hambling, John Nash and others.  A series of free gallery talks from leading experts including Holt Festival visual art curator James Glennie will give an insight into the exhibitions and the stories behind them.

Chair of the Board of Trustees Adney Payne concluded ‘Once again I am astounded that Charles has managed to bring us an amazingly eclectic mix, there truly is something for everyone. I’d like to pay a special tribute to him as he completes his third and sadly final year as our Artistic Director. I’d also like to thank our Ambassadors, Sponsors, Friends, Subscribers and Advertisers who provide much needed funding, and to our wonderful volunteers, all 70 of them, for the work they put in over the year, as well as during the week itself. Our gratitude goes to our media partners North Norfolk News, Eastern Daily Press and Future Radio and of course to Gresham’s School, Holt Parish Church, the Community Centre and Holt Bookshop, without whom the Festival simply would not happen.’

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.

[box type=”info” align=”” class=”” width=””]For further details of the festival, these events and other Holt Festival events or to book visit www.holtfestival.org.[/box]