Dragons get set to descend upon Norwich and inspire people to learn about the city’s history
PUBLISHED: 15:05 08 February 2014 | UPDATED: 15:05 08 February 2014
Norwich has long had a link with dragons, and Norwich Heart (Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust) is hoping these fire-breathing beasts will help enthuse and excite people of all ages to explore our city’s history.
Schoolchildren and shopping centre staff get in the festival spirit
Schoolchildren have already been getting into the festival spirit and have been busy creating their own dragons.
About 45 youngsters from Magdalen Gates Primary School, in Norwich, have each created their own fire-breathing creatures.
Some are ferocious while others are friendly, and all of them will be displayed at the city’s Maids Head Hotel, in Tombland, throughout the Norwich Dragon Festival.
Yesterday the pupils proudly presented their dragons to the Lord Mayor of Norwich, Keith Driver, who gave them special certificates to mark their achievements.
Visitors to the hotel will be asked to vote for their favourite dragon, and the child who created the winning design will win a dragon’s feast for their family.
Across the other side of the city, intu Chapelfield has also been busily preparing for its dragon festivities and installing some oversized dragon photo frames in the shopping centre where, from February 10 to 23, shoppers will be able to pose for dragon-themed snaps.
Other intu Chapelfield events include Midweek Mayhem on February 19 and 20, with children’s craft workshops to decorate dragon puppets, and also interactive Meet the Dragon shows on February 22.
Two of the dragons from the Dragon’s Spell trail will also be taking up residence.
The organisation, a charitable trust, was set up to regenerate, manage and promote Norwich and Norfolk’s heritage, and Norwich Dragon Festival – which runs from February 10 to 23 – is one of many innovative ways Norwich Heart is working to boost the city’s profile.
Janet Robertson, communications co-ordinator at Norwich Heart, said: “We are a heritage organisation and we want people to discover, enjoy and learn about Norwich’s heritage and its often hidden heritage, so we try different ways to make people aware of that heritage, for example, we have a smartphone Heritage City app and an interactive game for children which is called n-Explore.
“Norwich Dragon Festival is an extension of all this work. It’s all about getting people involved in history and heritage without them maybe realising it. It’s sneaky learning!”
She added: “The dragon symbol has been part of Norwich history for a long time, and places like the Guildhall and Dragon Hall are all linked to that.
“The activities around the festival are exciting, visual and creative to try and engage with children and adults alike to get them interested in our heritage and history... I’m really excited about Dragon Heart Beats, the smoke-breathing dragon which is at the Forum... There are lots of different ways for people to get involved, with over 70 events.”
Alongside the heritage aims, the hope is Norwich Dragon Festival will help boost Norwich as a visitor destination.
“This is part of the reason it takes place in February, because traditionally it is not high tourist season,” said Ms Robertson.
It is the third Norwich Dragon Festival – the previous two were in 2009 and 2011.
About 22,000 people took part in the 2009 festival, and the 2011 festival attracted 75,000 visitors.
This time around it is hoped even more people will enjoy what the jam-packed festival programme has to offer.
Ms Robertson said the latest festival has been five months in the planning, and that as well as Norwich Heart there were also lots of other organisations involved, including Norwich BID (Business Improvement District), The Forum and the Norwich Town Close Estate Charity. She said there was a focus on involving as many businesses and organisations across the city as possible in the festival.
“A good example of this is The Dragon’s Spell, a trail across the city. We have been working with Writers’ Centre Norwich on this and commissioned poet George Szirtes to write The Dragon’s Spell which is spread across the city. People need to find the fragments of the spell and put them together to enter The Dragon’s Spell competition.”
The festival runs from February 10 to 23. Visit www.heritagecity.org/dragonfestival and follow @NorwichDragons and @NorwichHEART on Twitter or look for Norwich HEART and Norwich Dragon Festival on Facebook.