Vibrant Norfolk and Norwich festival programme launched

A 'May Daze' of free street parties, opera for babies and a grand finale by the creator of the Sydney Olympics' opening ceremony are on this year's packed Norfolk and Norwich Festival programme.

At a launch at the EPIC gallery on Magdalen Road yesterday, the festival's new artistic director, William Galinsky, said there would be more free events and UK and world premieres at the May festival than ever before.

Tickets for the many world class concerts and shows go on sale today and include a host of circus, theatre, dance, literature, visual arts and classical and contemporary music.

'There are so many highlights, I don't know where to begin', said Mr Galinsky.

'It is such a diverse programme this year, there is something for everyone.'

Among the free events, sponsored by May Gurney, there will be a fanfare of 200 saxophonists on Millennium Plain and a reworking of the legend of the Pied Piper, by Deabru Beltzak,called The Wolves.

Young festival goers from across the city and county will also have a chance to review the festival and put on their own awards ceremony in the Children's Choice Awards.

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A specially commissioned piece of contemporary music, The Proportions of the Temple, will be sung in Norwich Cathedral by local singers in the Voice Project Choir and the vast Spiegeltent will reappear in Chapelfield Gardens with an Australian new circus production called Cantina.

The classical programme will see performances from the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra and the Britten Sinfonia, and shows and music will be heard in various venues right across Norfolk and Norwich.

Mr Galinsky said: 'We are quickly becoming an international destination festival attracting some of the world's best artists to our region and increasing numbers of visitors keen to experience what we have to offer.'

Mr Galinsky said the festival contributes �9.2m to the Norfolk economy.

People involved with the festival, including patrons, sponsors and volunteers, from across Norfolk were at the launch yesterday.

Derrick Murphy, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: 'We are very keen to make Norfolk an attractive place for people to come and work and live.

'The cultural offer of this festival is integral to that aim. It is an international class programme. I cannot wait to go.

'You could really feel the buzz in the audience at the end of the presentation.'

Steve Morphew, Norwich City Council leader, said: 'We have always been very committed to the arts and we can see the benefits to the city. It is about developing the cultural contribution to the economy because the payback that we get from the money we invest in this for the city is huge. You just have to see the figure that they come up with. It is good for morale, the economy and the reputation of the city. I am particularly pleased with the community stuff and the free initiatives to get more people involved because for me arts and culture is about the quality stuff, but also about the inclusive events. There are a lot of opportunities for people to get involved in the delivery of the festival by volunteering, but also through the free events.'

Festival patron Sir Timothy Colman said: 'I was delighted and impressed with all I heard today. I am sure it will be appreciated by the audiences and bring a lot of extra visitors to the region.'

The Norwich University College of the Arts is also getting involved in the festival for a second year running. Its gallery will be hosting an exhibition by Anglo-French artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz.

Prof John Last, principal of Norwich University College of the Arts said students had a chance to see how new and international artists are developing.

He said that the NUCA students also got involved as volunteers.

Jonathan Denby, head of corporate affairs at National Express East Anglia, the festival's principal sponsor, said they had a long established relationship with the festival because both organisations wanted the festival to be for Norfolk and Norwich.

'It is a sense of helping to make the place we serve a better place to be and to support the economy.'

He said that they wanted to bring people into the festival from outside Norfolk – from Cambridge, Ipswich and even London.

Have you got a story about an event coming to Norwich? Contact Evening News reporter Annabelle Dickson on 01603 772426 or email annabelle.dickson@archant.co.uk.

Booking for the festival opens today. You can book in person at the Norwich Theatre Royal box office, by phone on 01603 766400 or online at www.nnfestival.org.uk/nnf11

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