Adventures in the dark at Norfolk Museums at Night

From torchlight trails to spooky tales there is plenty of nocturnal fun to be had this weekend as museum throwe open their doors late into the night. SIMON PARKIN previews Museums at Night.

Many of Norfolk's museums and heritage venues will be opening their doors after dusk tonight and tomorrow as part of the nationwide Museums at Night weekend.

Norwich is hosting seven events of nocturnal goings-on tonight and tomorrow night and there are similar events happening in Great Yarmouth. Meanwhile Cromer, Sheringham and Wells are jointly hosting the first ever Victorian Nights Festival.

All events in Norwich are free to attend, and there's something for everyone - from twilight tower tours, torchlight trails and pyjama parades to food tastings, live music and chilling tales. Most events do not require booking, giving you the chance to drop-in.

Rachel Barrett, of Norwich HEART, said: 'Museums at Night is a great chance for people to see museums and attractions in a different light. Whether you fancy a torchlight trail at Norwich Castle, storytelling for adults at The Guildhall, or want to see Norwich at dusk from the top of the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, there are plenty of after hours activities to suit everyone — all for free!'

Barry Stone, cabinet member for cultural services at Norfolk County Council, said: 'What a fantastic event this is; one that captures people's imaginations and celebrates the city's rich and diverse cultural heritage.'

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Cromer/Sheringham/Wells, May 18-20, 12pm-9pm, free admission,

The first-ever Victorian Nights Festival is a chance to go back in time more than 111 years. The packed programme of free events includes with fire-eaters, escapologists, an old-fashioned photo parlour, fairground attractions, circus acts, a steam train ride, craft workshops, film, guided walks and the chance to meet lots of costumed characters. Tonight's events include A Victorian Journey at Sheringham station (7pm), A Walk Through Time: The Victorians (6pm, also tomorrow), Shipwrecked! Back to 1897 (6pm, also tomorrow) at Fishermen's Heritage Centre. Tomorrow's events include a Parlour Portraits drop-in event from 1pm-9pm at the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum, talks about the pier and Victorian walks from 4pm and An Evening of Victorian Entertainment at Cromer Museum (4pm), and at Sheringham a Tremendous Victorian Circus Drop-in event (The Mo, 1pm-9pm, also Sunday 12pm-4pm).


John Jarrold Printing Museum, Whitefriars, Norwich, May 18, 6pm-8pm, free admission,

A special late opening at the Jarrold's print museum. Experience a pre-1950s working letterpress printing office and see the impressive collection of printing machines in action, chat to expert volunteers about the fascinating history of print, and even have a go at hand setting type from the case.


Time & Tide Museum/The Tolhouse/Elizabethan House, Great Yarmouth, May 18, 6pm-10pm, free admission,

Watch pirates set siege to The Tolhouse and descend into the deep, dark basement, with its grisly 13th century cells to hear stories of witches and their craft from the mystic storyteller. At Time and Tide Museum, the 1950s-style Row shop will be open, where visitors can meet the shop keepers, enjoy performances from the Swing dancing group and celebrate all the things that made the 1950s so memorable. Meet costumed characters at the Elizabethan House telling stories and revealing its secrets.


Row Houses, South Quay, Great Yarmouth, May 19, 5.30pm-10pm, free admission, 01493 857900,

As dusk falls experience how families in Yarmouth used to live at English Heritage's Old Merchant's House with a special trail for children. Site manager, Simon Tansley said: 'This house was a house and a home, to both the original merchants who built it in the early 17th century and to the countless families as it was subdivided into smaller tenements. The light changes in the property during the early evening and there is a real feeling of warmth that you don't get to see during daylight hours.'


Guildhall, Norwich, May 18, 7pm/8.30pm, free admission, pre-book via

This adult storytelling performance with Dave Tong, Yarnsmith of Norwich, will be a fusion of factual stories taken from the Mayor's Court in the Guildhall of Tudor Norwich with traditional stories from that time. It will be a humorous mix of all manner of 'evil' behaviour with tales about beggars, thieves and tricksters, merchants, mayors and Kings.


St Laurence Church, Norwich, May 18, 7pm-10pm, free admission,

Set in the spectacular surroundings of St Laurence Church, this exhibition will showcase the history of circus starting from the early 1800s to our present day. Circus acts happen around you as you move through the exhibition, bringing to life events that happened hundreds of years ago. The event is free, just drop-in.


Norwich Castle, May 19, 5pm-10pm, free admission,

Experience Norwich Castle after dark. Explore the Castle Keep by torchlight, encounter strange characters from the Castle's past, handle replica armour, real medieval objects and find out about medieval food. Make a jester's hat and enjoy music and dance performances. Grab a torch and help the Victorian ratcatcher. There will be live music and comic book artists Savage Pencil and Eyeball will also be performing their live action drawings as part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival.


Nelson Museum, South Quay, Great Yarmouth, May 19, 5.30pm-10pm, free admission,

The independent Nelson Museum explores Nelson's childhood in Norfolk, his career, famous battles and tragic, heroic death. Visitors can pop in for a look around, experience life below decks as HMS Victory sails into battle and discover what it was like for Nelson to write left-handed. Try on replica costumes and in the maritime courtyard you can have a game of giant draughts or dominoes or try their hand at the Nelson quoits.


Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, May 19, 5pm-12am, free admission,

Join in with an evening of art, music, performance all on the theme of night. There will be performances by Nunah Theatre at 5.30pm, 7pm, 8pm plus random acts of physical theatre and improvised pieces by UEA's Minotaur Theatre Company. Join in the Pyjama Parade at 9pm, there will be music by Iceni 5 and Hannah Butcher. Indulge in a night-cap of cocoa and biscuits from the coffee bar (fortified for grown-ups). Artist Liz Ballard will be on hand to help dress up your dressing gown, add sparkle you slippers and pimp your pyjamas.


Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Norwich, may 19, 7.30pm/8pm, free admission, pre-book,

Enjoy fantastic views of Norwich by twilight from the tower at the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, or explore the hidden spaces of this magnificent cathedral with these two special after-dark tours. The refectory also will be open for light refreshments prior to the tours. Limited places per tour, so entry is on a first-come, first-served basis.


Potteries & Smoke House, Blackfriar's Road, Great Yarmouth, May 19, pre-book on 01493 850585

This fascinating old Smoke House is packed to the rafters with shipwrecked treasure collected from Great Yarmouth's beaches and memorabilia from the days when Yarmouth had a large herring fishing fleet. Admire locally produced pottery and stunning seascape paintings by local craftsman and artist Ernie Childs. Eerie Tales Tours start on the hour every half an hour from 6pm-9pm (tours at 6pm and 6.30pm suitable for ages 3 to 6 years, subsequent tours for over 7 years only).