News: Programme announced for 2020 Norfolk & Norwich Festival

Norfolk & Norwich Festival has today announced the full programme for its 2020 Festival (8 – 24 May). The vast and wide-ranging programme across 17 days showcases artists from around the city and county, welcoming performers from across the globe exploring whilst Norfolk’s local identity. Presenting a huge variety of events including theatre, music, visual arts, literature, circus, outdoor and free and family activities, this year the Festival includes two world, and eight UK premieres. 2020 sees a brand-new Adnams Main Stage alongside the much-loved Adnams Spiegeltent in Festival Gardens, the heart and hub of the Festival will be offering street food and pop-up bars, and the beginning of a three-year programme dedicated to celebrating the festival’s incredible 250th birthday in 2022.

Daniel Brine, Artistic Director said: “For 2020 we’ve put together a programme reflecting, celebrating and exploring what the Festival is to our audiences, artists and communities in the city of Norwich and county of Norfolk. This year, at the start of a trio of Festivals as we celebrate our 250th anniversary in 2022 we have begun to focus on the local and international themes of time, community and environment – looking both forwards and back.

Across this year’s festival we have over 100 shows and events morning, noon and night at iconic Norwich buildings, pop-up spaces, outdoor stages, urban streets and remote countryside. We have a new stage, a Festival hub for food and drink, world premieres, international headliners, and work by and for local people. I truly think that there’s something for everyone this year and we can’t wait to welcome people in – whether you’re passing through, a regular or it’s your first visit.”

The Festival includes world premieres such as contemporary sci-fi dance show Future Cargo from trailblazing artists Requardt & Rosenberg and Fire Songs by Frozen Light which presents an immersive sensory sound experience for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) that will travel the cosmos with an hour of original music. The Festival also presents a brand-new collaboration between writer Robert Macfarlane (The Old Ways, Lost Worlds, Underland) and special guest musical visionary Cosmo Sheldrake, created especially for the new Adnams Main Stage.

Other world premieres include MEarth Mothers by Beady Eye, Irma-Sister by Damae Dance, Why? by Gravity & Levity, The Rascally Diner by LAStheatre, Community Chest by Matthew Harrison and Roll Play by Simple Cypher, all across the Garden Party weekend in Festival Gardens.

UK premieres include a new rooftop parkour piece from the freerunners of La Fabrique Royale – Zéro Degré and Benjamin Vandewalle’s contraption-filled traveling art fair Studio Cité.

Much of the work in the 2020 programme is concerned with The Passing of Time, as the Festival heads towards its 250th anniversary in 2022. Three projects in particular that explore this topic include – Common Ground will inspire new forms heritage interpretation in partnership with National Lottery Heritage Fund, Lost & Found Films of Norfolk sees artists and children create videos of the ‘very true’ history of Norfolk, and The Two Fifty will see artists Lone Twin create a guild of 250 volunteers over the next three years who will take part in acts of kindness and art – all culminating in three years’ time. Community is key this year, in a nation that has felt divided, the Festival looks at how we come together to celebrate, collaborate and create. From community groups across Norfolk making a radio show in Live Art Collaboration Hunt & Darton’s Radio Local and broadcasting live from the city centre for 24 hours straight, to Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir coming together in Mahler’s Third Symphony on the opening weekend – rarely performed, due to its sheer scale. Environment and climate change also come to the fore, from writers in the City of Literature Weekend to family theatre Backup at the Norwich Puppet Theatre, artists are responding to the climate crisis throughout the Festival.

Music takes centre stage in Festival Gardens and around the city: with performances from names including Noisettes’ lead singer Shingai, Camille O’Sullivan singing Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Norfolk local Oscar Jerome making his Festival premiere, Nils Frahm collaborators, the vocal-led Shards, and Sarathy Korwar presenting his fusion of traditional Indian folk music and electronics. John Grant opens the Festival with a very rare, stripped back show in a duo format playing songs from across his celebrated career in one of only two UK dates, Kandace Springs brings her soul-drenched vocals and unique piano style to perform a tribute to great female singers who inspired her, singer Elaha Soroor and award-winning music producer Kefaya present their take on Afghan folk music, and Tamikrest brings things to a close with their electronic dub-supersound on the very last day.

The classical music programme for 2020 includes Oliver Pashley and The Aquinas Trio performing Messiaen, Vox Luminis’ return, Ian Bostridge will give a defining performance of Shubert’s Winterreise, Britten Sinfonia perform their family piece Billy & The Beast as well as a concert – Mysteries of the Macabre – with Alison Balsom, internationally-acclaimed pianist Robert Goode performs Beethoven in his 250th year and I Fagiolini celebrate Leonardo Da Vinci 500 years after his death with an immersive concerts, including projections of his most iconic artworks. This year’s BBC New Generations Artists, set to be generation-defining artists, are tenor Alessandro Fisher, one of the UK’s most talented jazz guitarists Rob Luft, Monte Carlo World Piano Masters winner Alexander Gadjiev, and rapidly emerging early Romantic musicians Consone Quartet.

A diverse performance programme for 2020 ranges from fancy dress burlesque parties with Neon Moon’s Electric Rodeo Circus and Frisky & Mannish’s pop cabaret Poplab to a giant punning competition in Pundemonium! Live and a one man musical about Bon Jovi – We’ve Got Each Other. Circus has a double bill this year with the return of Gravity & Other Myths and Casus Circus, both former Festival favourites performing in Festival Gardens. Gob Squad present Super Night Shot, a multi-screen film where the city becomes a film set, fifteen years after it made its premiere at the Festival. Javaad Alipoor brings his Edinburgh Fringe hit Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran, a play that encourages audiences to use their phones to interact and the iconic Hot Brown Honey makes its Norfolk premiere – a smash hit piece of comedy and theatre about dismantling stereotypes.

The City of Literature Weekend returns (22-24 May) featuring Ali Smith, Olivia Laing, Max Porter, A.C Grayling, Preti Taneja, Owen Sheers and Syaka Murata, and inviting audiences to reflect, connect and discuss the global issues in the turbulent twenty-first century. This year’s Harriet Martineau Lecture will be from Ella P. Wakatama, literary critic and Editor-at-large for Cannongate Fiction. The lecture celebrates the legacy of a remarkable, pioneering woman discussing their life and work each year at Norfolk & Norwich Festival. Throughout the weekend, the National Centre for Writing will also host a poetry exchange and writing workshops.

2020 sees more visual arts commissions for the Festival than ever before, with many spread across the county focusing on the theme of environment. Kings Lynn will host an interactive immersive film projection and VR experience exploring our planet’s fragility by Michael Faulkner // D-Fuse and an all-day retreat at GroundWork Gallery on environmental writing. Festival Gardens will receive its own art piece with The Clunker – an art-themed vending machine showcasing work from over 40 artists from Norwich and around the world. The Festival also includes Anish Kapoor at Houghton Hall and Norwich University of the Arts, Bugs: Beauty and Danger at GroundWork Gallery, Tim Sandy’s Citizen at East Gallery and more.

Norfolk & Norwich Festival takes place in Norwich and around Norfolk for 17 days each May. The programme is multi-artform, contemporary, international and audience-centred, collaborating with artists from down the road and around the world.

Full information and listings for all Norfolk & Norwich Festival events can be found at

Photo credit: John Fisher 

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