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Celebrate wonderful Weird Norfolk on Heritage Open Days

PUBLISHED: 14:03 30 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:04 30 August 2018

Richard Hughes from the Norwich Assembly House in the building's crypt Piicture: Nick Butcher

Richard Hughes from the Norwich Assembly House in the building's crypt Piicture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

Take a walk on the weird side, discover more about Norfolk’s rich folklore, hear ghost stories and legends, make a lucky charm to ward off bad dreams and celebrate the county’s oddities during this year’s Heritage Open Days, which has chosen Weird Norfolk for one of its main themes.

Something weird this way comes: Heritage Open Days in 2018 has a distinctly strange flavour and the Eastern Daily Press’s Weird Norfolk has lent its theme to a whole host of unusual activities held across two weekends.

Heritage Open Days is England’s biggest free heritage festival, giving people the chance to explore the hidden gems on their doorstep and learn more about the heritage in their area – and this year, one of the festival’s themes is inspired by Weird Norfolk and the tales told on p13 of EDP Weekend each week.

The Weird Norfolk team – Siofra Connor and myself – in conjunction with Archant and The Forum will be presenting A Collection of Curiosities in The Gallery at The Forum in Norwich, from September 6 to 16, 10am to 4pm.

Step into the strange world of Norfolk’s weird and wonderful folklore and spooky supernatural tales in this special exhibition based on material from the Eastern Daily Press and Evening News’ popular feature Weird Norfolk.

East Somerton Church for Weird Norfolk.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYEast Somerton Church for Weird Norfolk. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The spirit of a witch trapped in an oak tree, a cursed goat, magical stones and curious beasts all come together for a collection of tales carefully curated by the Weird Norfolk team in an exhibition which includes photography, film and artefacts to bring some of Norfolk’s weirdest folklore to life.

“Weird Norfolk is a celebration of our county’s myths and legends,” said Siofra, “this is our first Heritage Open Days event and we’re really excited to be part of it. We hope to inspire people to go looking for weird things themselves – there are so many hidden gems, you just need to know where to look.”

There will be drop-in activities, including the Little Legends activity sheet designed by world-renowned artist and illustrator Gemma Correll (whose work can currently be seen before and after the advertisement breaks in Great British Bake Off on Channel 4) to help younger visitors enjoy the Weird Norfolk exhibition and Witch Stone Making drop-in sessions where youngsters will make a clay witch stone to hang by a door for good luck (all materials provided, drop-in events on September 8 and September 15 from 10am to midday),

Norfolk Folk Tales from Other Lands will be at The Auditorium at The Forum on September 15 from 12pm to 1pm, a family-friendly storytelling session where local yarnsmith Dave Tonge will tell magical tales of dark dangerous dogs and other local legends (prebook at https://bit.ly/2MtQVAs).

Weird Norfolk: Folk Tales of Old Norfolk will be at The Gallery at The Forum on September 8 at 12pm to 1pm when yarnsmith Dave Tonge will be dipping into some of Norfolk’s weirdest and strangest folk tales, from demon dogs and meddling sprites to pitch-dark perilous pits and flimflamming folk (drop-in event, no booking required).

Also on September 8, from 2pm to 3pm, at The Auditorium at The Forum, there will be a fascinating talk about Norwich’s history through plaques and other signs (prebook here: https://bit.ly/2wxIWIa).

At Norfolk Record Office on Martineau Lane, some of the county archive’s weirder pieces including a witch’s spell, Lord Nelson’s hair and an inspirational bone pen (drop-in event, September 14 from 12pm to 2pm).

Find out all about Ingham’s ghostly knights, dancing monks and a secret tunnel at a drop-in talk at Holy Trinity Church and Priory on Mill Road in Ingham at 10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm.

The Weird Norfolk team is also joining forces with The Assembly House in Norwich for a special event, A Walk on the Weird Side: The Weird Norfolk Norwich Trail, a guided walk around Norwich led by guest storyteller Richard Hughes.

The tour, which was fully-booked within minutes of Heritage Open Days events going live, will take in some of the city’s most unusual landmarks and spellbinding tales of the unexpected. Walkers will find out about wild boys and phantoms, kings that sleep under castles and ghosts that lurk in stockrooms and discover the stories of a wise woman of Norwich and a graveside scandal that saw the dead rise up in the heart of the city.

The trail around the heart of Norwich will end as The Assembly House opens its cavernous crypt which lies beneath the historic house and is usually closed to the public.

The festival programme in Norwich and across much of Norfolk is coordinated and promoted by The Forum with support from Norwich City Council and Norwich Tourist Information Centre. The programme is also delivered in partnership with Broadland District Council, Breckland Council, Thetford Town Council, Great Yarmouth Borough Council, South Norfolk Council, North Norfolk District Council, Visit North Norfolk and many local organisations and individuals. Find out more about Heritage Open Day events in Norfolk.

Heritage Open Days in numbers

• This year, Norfolk has 364 events across the county. There are 206 events in Norwich – an increase of 13 per cent on last year

• In 2017, Norfolk had 340 events compared to the next biggest programmes of events in Tyne & Wear (186) and Lincolnshire (143)

• There were 182 events in Norwich compared to the next biggest programmes of events in Oxford (141), Gloucester (137), Bristol (130) and Brighton and Hove (122). This means there were more Heritage Open Days events in Norwich than any other city in England.

• Organisers estimate that there were 74,500 visitors to the festival in 2017 and almost 4,000 free tickets to pre-bookable events were issued

• It is believed that the festival generated £1.7million for the local economy in 2017

• Almost 95 per cent of visitors to HOD events in Norfolk lived locally, 77 per cent of people asked said that going to a HODs event would encourage them to visit more heritage/cultural sites in the future and 99 per cent of people asked said that they found the festival enjoyable!

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