Meet Norfolk and Norwich Festival’s new director
PUBLISHED: 14:56 07 March 2018 | UPDATED: 14:56 07 March 2018
Copyright: Archant 2018
As the countdown begins for this year’s Norfolk and Norwich Festival, a new leader is at the helm of the organisation behind the colourful May arts extravaganza.
Daniel Brine, who for the last six years has been artistic director and chief executive officer at the arts venue Cambridge Junction, joined the NNF team in January as festival director and he has been having a great time getting to know our fine city and county and exploring new ways to celebrate it with innovative art.
“Norwich is interesting because it is far enough away from London not to be totally drawn to London and so therefore it has its own identity,” said 51-year-old Mr Brine.
“My first impression is that Norwich is just beautiful, it’s lovely, and it has a sense of independence which I love. It feels like a proud city.”
He said there were great things in store for audiences at this year’s May festival, although he was keen to point out that it was the festival team and his predecessor William Galinsky that should take credit for the lion’s share of the 2018 line-up which was revealed last week.
“They’ve done a brilliant job putting it together, there’s something for everyone and there’s also depth to it. I think there’s really good programmes in all the different places,” he said, before listing countless events he was excited to see.
“I like it when we commission new work. There’s some really good new projects, there’s the Barely Methodical Troupe with their new work which is in the Adnams Spiegeltent and that’s an exciting new circus show, and also works like Talvin Singh at Norwich Cathedral, I think that will be amazing, to hear his music in the cathedral space will be brilliant.”
Running alongside the build-up to this year’s arts extravaganza, Mr Brine is also looking further into the festival’s future, and he said among the key things at the top of his list was ensuring fun and the chance to enjoy innovative new experiences remained at the heart of the festival programme.
“In my job interview they said, ‘what do you want to do?’ and I said, ‘I want to enjoy myself because audiences really should be enjoying themselves, and even if you don’t know exactly what something is, take a punt, have a go, try something new and just relax and enjoy it because that’s what the programme is about.’”
He also said he wanted to work out ways to make the festival feel more connected to the city and the county and to celebrate the area’s unique identity more.
“There’s something very special about the city and how we make the festival within it, so I think we should be looking at that, and that might be about more events on the streets, more engagement for audiences, audiences participating in different ways, and I think we can really build a festival that feels like it truly belongs here, and that is what I am looking forward to helping the city do.”
He added: “It’s a challenging thing to do because some people will think that means employing a lot of local artists all the time, but that’s not necessarily the answer, it might be about bringing international artists in who help us see ourselves in a different way.”
Mr Brine’s career to date has given him a huge amount of experience in championing cutting edge art in both the UK and Australia.
Mr Brine – who is married to composer Jonathan Cooper - originally trained as an architect before working in a variety of roles that focussed on blurring boundaries and bringing different spheres of the arts world together.
He said his “breakthrough job” was working as associate director at the London-based Live Art Development Agency where his many projects included bringing performance art into the gallery spaces of Tate Modern for the first time.
He was also artistic director and CEO at Performance Space - an arts organisation based in Sydney, Australia, which champions interdisciplinary art - before becoming artistic director and CEO at Cambridge Junction. The latter was a role which saw him both run the business side of the venue and develop a programme which mixed experimental work in with a more mainstream programme.
“That is the trajectory of my background, it’s about trying to challenge things, question things, try things in new ways but not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but experimenting, giving artists the space to do new things, seeing what it’s like,” he said.
Reflecting on his own favourite types of art, he said: “I like art to help me see or understand the world, and it can be my world or the whole world or it can be somebody else’s world…I really like it when art says something to me about where we are, who we are.
“The form doesn’t always matter, it can be theatre work, it can be a dance work, it can be a painting, it can be a choral piece, it really can be anything.”
And with just over two months until the start of the 2018 Norfolk and Norwich Festival, he encouraged audiences to be similarly eclectic in their cultural tastes, to take a risk, and try something new in the NNF18 programme.
“If you dare to go out and try something new you will have a good time!” he said.
Norfolk and Norwich Festival runs from May 11 to 27. Visit www.nnfestival.org.uk
Some of Daniel’s NNF18 highlights:
• Barely Methodical Troupe’s Shift - May 16-27, Adnams Spiegeltent
“Barely Methodical Troupe are super exciting. They are a young circus company and for Norwich to be the commissioner of this work is super special. It will probably tour the world and go everywhere.”
• Improbable’s The Paper Man - May 14-19, Norwich Puppet Theatre
“It’s a new work about challenges in life. It’s framed around a football game but also around a point in history where there were tensions between different groups.”
• Three Cathedral Choirs - May 24, Norwich Cathedral
“It’s going to be an exciting event to bring those three choirs (Norwich, Ely and Peterborough Cathedral Choirs) together at Norwich Cathedral and also there’s a new work commissioned especially for that performance.”
• The array of free performanace at The Garden Party - May 19 and 20, Chapelfield Gardens
“We’ve got some really good new commissions (for The Garden Party). The work in the gardens is a chance for people to get up close and really get involved with new works with exciting companies.”