Norfolk & Norwich Festival Announces Programme for 2021

Image of: Maya Law

Norfolk & Norwich Festival has today announced the full programme for its 2021 Festival (17 – 30 May). The 14-day event is set to be a specially created one-off adaptation including outdoor and socially distanced performance, art and music as well as a digital strand. The programme is designed to be as adaptable as possible given current circumstances, and created with a desire to provide employment opportunities for artists, as well as entertainment and a sense of community pride. 2021 Festival organisers and partners recently announced that the vast majority of the smaller than usual programme would be available on a free or ‘pay what you want’ basis to encourage as many people as want to find something within the Festival that they might enjoy.

The Festival will take place in venues across the city and county, as well as at the newly reopened Festival Gardens where a brand-new Festival music weekend is announced in collaboration with Wild Paths – Garden Sessions. Festival Gardens will also see the return of the much-loved Garden Party over the middle weekend.

2021 kicks off with a socially distanced live launch, Don’t Touch Duckie! on the first legal day for live performance. South London cabaret legends Duckie present a drag showbiz speakeasy hosted by Bourgeois & Maurice. The live cabaret magazine includes a chat with Festival Director Daniel Brine. There will be a socially distanced audience, a virtual audience on Zoom and 150 special guest life size cardboard cut outs. Elsewhere across the opening weekend is The Band Wagon, a brand new initiative taking work from contemporary dance to classic music on the back of a truck to communities who can’t reach the Festival, such as residential homes, schools and community squares.

Further performance highlights include: a show for families inside the historic prison cells below Norwich Guildhall, where artist Tim Spooner invites audiences one at a time to visit an installation of moving sculptures; contemporary sci-fi dance show Future Cargo from trailblazing artists Requardt & Rosenberg in Festival Gardens; at Diss Corn Hall and Sheringham Little Theatre, singer/writer Jessica Walker and composer Luke Styles hold a mirror up to the times we live in to create a scratch of The People’s Cabaret – cutting edge cabaret for today, using original protest songs from the Weimar cabaret years, along with a brand new cycle of music.

Much of the offering this year is outdoor performance and art and the programme sees some new commissions and returning shows that were scheduled for the 2020 Festival. Kaleider return to the Festival with the premiere of Robot Selfie – a huge portrait of the public by a robot that draws on walls. Audiences around the world can take a selfie and Kaleider’s non learning AI will interpret it into a line drawing, so that the picture joins hundreds of others in a giant mural. Emergency Exit Arts (EEA) brings Recovery Poems – artists Robert Montgomery and Deanna Roger have created a poetry installation made from light that will visited beautiful public spaces around Norwich commemorating loss and celebrating hope for the future. Award winning sound artist Ray Lee shows his monumental kinetic sound sculptures – Ring Out, a dramatic outdoor spectacle where giant industrial towers hold suspended and swinging bell-like speaker cones that soar up over the heads of the audience. Artist duo YARA + DAVINA present their interactive installation about birth, death and the journey in between Arrivals + Departures. Taking the form of a station or airport arrivals and departures board, the artwork invites visitors to share the names of people who have arrived and departed as a way to celebrate a birth or commemorate a death.

Across the middle of the Festival the Garden Party will return for two days of magical outdoor arts in the park. Featuring circus, dance, theatre and more the programme from Without Walls includes: MEarth Mothers a trio of climate clowns in extraordinary costumes from Beady Eye, IRMA-sister by Damae Dance, Why? an ariel duet by Gravity & Levity, The Rascally Diner, a messy performance about food by LAStheatre, Roll Play, a circus and hip hop mash up by Simple Cypher, The Hidden Music of Trees, an augmented reality outdoor installation by Jason Singh; Good Youtes Walka hip hop piece by Far From the Norm; The Invisible Man, using H. G. Wells’ novel as source material for a 2-person promenade by Altered States.

Music will be across the city this year, with the programme focused in Festival Gardens and at St Andrew’s Hall. Across the final weekend the Festival is teaming up with Wild Paths for two days of park-based gigs with headliners Moses Boyd and Poppy Ajudha. More music highlights include: South African cellist Abel Selaocoe; music maker Nabihah Iqbal, one of the most exciting and progressive talents in UK music today, also a human right’s lawyer and a black belt in Karate; the self-taught Japanese vocal performer Hatis Noit from Shiretoko in Hokkaido brings her work inspired by Gagaku and operatic styles, Bulgarian and Gregorian chanting, to avant-garde and pop; Sarathy Korwar brings his blend of Indian folk music and contemporary jazz and electronics; a double-bill of two large ensembles featuring some of the most exciting improvisers from around the UK – new Norwich-based octet Holding Hands, and Manchester-based guitarist Anton Hunter’s 11 piece Article XI. Expect brass textures, post-minimalist vibraphone patterns and free improvisation.

The classical music programme for 2021 includes: Manchester Collective and Mahan Esfahani in a programme of Bach, Gorecki and Horovitz alongside a new work from Laurence Osborn; Festival favorites I Fagiolini with the first in person performance of Re-Wilding The Waste Land, inspired by T S Eliot’s epic poem – the concert, narrated by Adjoa Andoh celebrates 100 years of the poem written in the wake of the First World War and the ‘Spanish Flu’; Mezzo-Soprano Lotte Betts-Dean returns to the Festival with Joseph Havlat to present an intimate journey through the world of folk song featuring arrangements of traditional tunes from around the world and world premiere arrangements from Josephine Stephenson and Isabella Gellis; Norwich Chamber Music present Elias String Quartet, one of the most intense and vibrant quarters of their generation; pianist Samson Tsoy will perform Bach’s Partita and Brahms Variations; Britten Sinfonia presents Surround Sound: Norwich Playlist with special guests Norwich Cathedral Choir and cellist Abel Selaocoe where audiences will experience the music from all around the building; in Compline by Candlelight, The Girl Choristers, Lay Clerks and Choral Scholars of Norwich Cathedral Choir sing the ancient monastic office of night prayer in the candlelit surroundings of Norwich Cathedral.

Each year the Festival presents a literature programme in collaboration with National Centre for Writing and for 2021 they bring seven experiments in writing reflective of the past year including the annual Harriet Martineau Lecture delivered by critic and editor Ellah P. Wakatama, with a new visual score by film-maker and poet Julian Knox. The Book Hive’s Page Against The Machine will also be back at Plantation Gardens. The literature programme for 2021 also includes Future & Form, an ambitious collaboration with University of East Anglia (UEA) in celebration of the 50th anniversary of their world renowned Creative Writing programme. Involving over 400 people, the project explores what the next 50 years of writing will look like. The six resulting multi-modal works are from six writers – Ayòbámi Adébáyò, Mona Arshi, Tash Aw, Imogen Hermes Gowar, Mitch Johnson and James McDermott.

Many of the visual art galleries and spaces across the city and country will reopen alongside the Festival on 17th May and a whole host of those offerings are included within the Festival; internationally acclaimed Spanish installation artist and sculptor, Cristina Iglesias, presents two major sculptures at the Sainsbury Centre, UEA – Celosía XI (Hafsa Bint Al-Hayy) (2006) and the immersive installation Vegetation Room III (2005) where the interior walls of a space are casts of organic vegetation; GroundWork Gallery’s exhibition, Japan Water looks at the significance of water in Japanese art and culture; major works by celebrated British sculptor Tony Cragg go on show in the grounds and historic interiors of Houghton Hall; East Gallery NUA present The Vanity of Small Difference, a series of large-scale tapestries by the TurnerPrize-winning artist Grayson Perry, the exhibition explores the British fascination with taste and class; Somewhere Unexpected, Norwich Castle Open Art Show, invites artists to submit work that acknowledges the significance of our immediate environments in the shifting context of a global pandemic; Plants, Porcelain, People is an exciting new collaborative installation made by ceramicist, Katie Spragg in response to and in partnership with a group of young refugees, through the Norwich based charity, Norwich International Youth Project.

A section of the 2021 programme is designed to be experienced come what may. This includes experience packs to do at home, digital performances and interactive work that audiences can take part in alone. American duo, 600 Highwaymen’s new piece, A Thousand Ways (Part One): A Telephone Call was born of the duo’s desire to create a piece of participatory theatre that obeyed the rules around social distancing. It is an interactive performance, connecting audiences to an automated voice that prompts a shared experience that, even in times of social isolation, brings them intimately close to a stranger. Pre-pandemic, the Festival co-commissioned Javaad Alipoor’s Rich Kids – a stage and social media fusion about wealth and consumption in Iran. Alipoor has since revisited the piece to remake it solely online and this version will be shown in the 2021 programme. Blast Theory’s Rider Spoke predates Covid-19 by more than a decade, but its use of technology and solo cycling experiences is apt. Participants discover how games and new technologies can create exciting new social spaces where the real and the fictional world intertwine. Finally, part of the City of Literature programme, Theatre maker Jack McNamara and composer/ violinist Angharad Davies deliver The Group, a three-part play told live via WhatsApp. Alongside these projects, the Festival has commissioned a group of artists to make Experience Packs – kits designed to be completed in audiences’ own time with physical-distancing in mind. The four packs include: Andy Field & Beckie Darlington’s A Rain Walk, designed for a walk in the rain and accompanied by the recorded voices of children from across the UK and Ireland; Sheila Ghelani’s Rambles With Nature Kit comes carefully presented in a pouch containing six tools with instructions that encourage attentiveness to nature; Noëmi Lakmaier’s illustrated Going Somewhere is an exercise in slowness and drawing in space that takes participants on a purposeful 1,000 meter stroll; Theatre company Frozen Light’s Something for your Shelter is an outdoor sensory experience designed for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities and their families.

Finally, Creative Norfolk is a new strand to this year’s programme that celebrates a county at the artistic edge through a series of new commissions, exhibitions, workshops and discussions. The Norfolk Presents… part of the programme is a series of new works that explore the social and physical landscape, from coast to Cathedral. In Peregrinations, Holly Bodmer is joined by fellow artists in paying tribute to ten years of Norwich’s nesting falcons, through a four-part performance that combines live art, theatre, kinetic sculpture and spoken word. JMCAnderson takes inspiration from the 1968 Memphis civil rights riots to highlight diversity and culture within Norfolk, as part of her workshop series I Am…. Genevieve Rudd transports audiences to the coast with the Yarmouth Springs Eternal exhibition, featuring participatory activities, hobbyist curiosities and living plant-based displays that explores the natural world through contemporary art. The Practice & Process strand invites audiences backstage to see the mechanisms of artistic creation. The Festival’s Creative Individual Norfolk award recipients discuss Making Art in a Time of Mayhem, or join a public seminar reflecting on the potential of a Norfolk-wide contemporary art programme, asking Why Biennials?

All Festival events will be in line with government guidelines. To stay in touch with the latest news and programme announcements visit or follow the Festival’s social media channels.

Norfolk & Norwich Festival usually takes place in Norwich and around Norfolk for 17 days each May. The programme is multi-artform, contemporary, international and audience-centred, collaborating with artists from down the road and around the world. Full information and listings for all Norfolk & Norwich Festival events at

Public Booking Opens at 10AM on Thursday 15th April, with priority booking opening to Supporters at 10am on Friday 9 April and Friends at 10am on Tuesday 13 April. Box Office 01603 531800, online, or in person at Chantry Place. All tickets are free or pay what you want.

Previous articleCambridge Arts Theatre Receives Second Round Of Government’s Culture Recovery Fund
Next articleLegendary Godfather of UK Funk to Play Rare Set