SYMPHONY by Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Tom Wells
Theatre meets live gig and stand-up comedy as three of the UK's hottest writers collaborate with Fringe First winning new writing company nabokov to present a hilarious and eclectic mix of stories told through raucous live music and spoken word.
First commissioned by Lyric Hammersmith, Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, Watford Palace Theatre and Latitude
The New Current
"touchingly beautiful and powerfully frank... an unmissable gem"
The Public Reviews
" treads a blurred line between theatre and gig…one of the highlights of the programme"
“Three plays about growing-up, relationships and romance are belted out by an incredibly versatile five piece that not only act their socks off but sing and accompany each other on a variety of instruments.”
"Overflowed with witty heartfelt lyrics and dialogue. A cross between a gig, a musical and a spoken-word event"
"Perfectly pitched, funny and at times strangely emotional, the detail and observational wit is flawless."
Los Pacaminos fronted by Paul Young – top night after a slightly shaky start.
After work and a torrid getaway, we headed out Friday night, to the lovely Voewood, a beautiful Arts & Crafts house on the outskirts of Holt. If you haven’t been there, it is worth going to the Festival just to see the house and gardens. Although of course, there are plenty of other reasons to get your Festival tix.
Simon Finch, the guy who owns Voewood is also an antiquarian book-seller, well, he’s not that old but his books are, and as he hails from Notting Hill Gate, he has lots of well-known friends and connections. So he manages to attract some great names from music – some of them a bit of a blast from the past – out to deepest Norfolk for fun and funk.
Voewood Festival has become rapidly established as a premier literary and music festival, with, it has to be said, a bit of a quirky reputation. Set in the grounds and gardens of Voewood it has been different each of the years I have been – sometimes more ambitious and sometimes less.
Going out there on the first night, I wasn’t sure what to expect – hopefully crowds of people buzzing about the place chatting, drinking Pimms and gin cocktails, with literary types performing at odd moments and tents full of activity.
In the event, I was somewhat disappointed. When we arrived it all had a bit of an unready feel and there were few people about. The wet weather may have put people off, or maybe the £30 evening ticket price, or maybe they were all saving themselves for the proper weekend but they were scarce. No-one at all in the drinks and food tents. However, when we got to the main performance tent it was full of people hiding from the glum weather, with a proper stage and lights and everything at one end and a couple of hundred peoples at in chairs. So that is where they all were.
Taking a seat with a warmish bottle of white wine from sponsors Adnams between us, my friends and I settled down. The first act, Sacha Luffman was pretty ropey. But it was her first festival live performance. She is just starting out on her music career and as a debut she did very well, supported by her enthusiastic family in the audience. And she had a lovely stage manner too.
Sacha was followed by The Rebelles who were old enough to do better – it definitely wasn’t their first gig – three women backed by four guys – through the first couple of numbers I began to seriously regret coming. To be fair, they did warm up and get going but I still thought they were pretty weak. They worked so hard to get the crowd going but they weren’t having any, they were firmly stuck in their seats, arms folded. Till Simon called bass player Guy Pratt up on stage who he had seen in the audience, and he pretty much changed the pace and upped the game single-handed. With a row of musicians onstage, Pratt got things going at last.
So, I was chatting to a friend in the interval and thinking that it was a bit of a sad Friday when I heard the sound of horses’ hooves from the direction of the stage. The whole evening pivoted on that point. The stage was filled by 6 guys, all wearing white Stetsons and cowboy gear as they crashed into the first number and just kept going. They kept up the pace, song after song of TexMex, Americana, a bit of Ry Cooder, cowboy classics. Apart from the Stetson’s, no hats or homes to be seen. And for a set of guys in their late 50s/60s (pardon to those that aren’t) they had lost nothing of what had made them famous. Famous because Paul Young was a big name in the 80s and so was their ‘stand-in’ guitar Hamish Stuart from Average White Band. He was brilliant and so cool, confident and sure of what he was doing. Paul Young was trim and tanned, sporting a small goatee, far from past it, and his fellow band members had their own style, all easy in their cowboy skins it seemed.
We were immediately up at the front, spellbound. They had it all – the drama, command of the stage, the musicianship and the easy confidence of knowing what they do and doing it well, looking fit and healthy and as though they know how to live, they were a real pleasure. And they were playing for pleasure - they evidently enjoyed their music too. We danced – although it has to be said that most of the audience didn’t till the last number - and felt totally revived.
Which about sums up the Voewood Festival – it’s a bit odd and the organisation is strange but it can turn on a ha'penny. It is all there, and more – you never know what it will hold and what’s just around the corner. It’s trogging along and suddenly something sublime happens to change the picture and wow your socks off. It's worth taking the risk of going, even if you are not quite sure what is going to be there or how it all works.
I couldn’t stay for the rest of the weekend unfortunately though we did the boost the local economy by staying in a hotel in Holt but I hoped that the Festival-goers of the weekend had a great time, There was lots in store from John Hurt to Eimear McBride, Glen Matlock to Owen Sheers – and hopefully they got the wine chilled by Saturday morning and found some Pimms!
Good luck Voewood. Thank you Paul Young and Los Pacaminos
ps keep an eye out for their new album A Fistful of Statins
I have a good weekend ahead. Weekends in August have to be fun in order to add up to a holiday as I can't seem to get away for proper holiday this year this year. But Norfolk is a good place to have summer adventures...
Friday night we are off to the Voewood Festival at the very gorgeous Arts & Crafts house near Holt known as Voewood. If you are a nosy sort, it is well worth going to the Festival just to see the wonderful house and gardens. But actually there are plenty of other reasons too. Voewood Festival has developed over the years into a fantastic literary and music festival. Director and owner of the house Simon Finch is very well connected and seems to be able to attract some well-known and rare names to deepest Norfolk for lots of fun.
Actor John Hurt is apparently wandering the place undertaking impromptu performances of The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll, one of my favourites as a lovely friend of mine, Jay used to recite it - he weighed 28 stone with a big red beard and the earth literally quaked when his huge voice boomed out. I am assuming John Hurt will be a bit more subtle!
But I am looking forward to soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the main acts tonight – Los Pacaminos, The Rebelles and young and funky songstress Sacha Luffman. If the weather is good then it will be lovely just being in the grounds and dipping in and out, there's food and no doubt lots of friends to catch up with. If it is wet? Well, last year they had a fantastic cocktail tent so I think I shall be in there - especially as we have booked a room at The Feathers in Holt - making it a real holiday.
Sadly I can't get out there during the day but the Festival runs till Sunday evening and you can buy tickets for the whole weekend or in sections as you choose. There will be lots of folk there, some you know from Norwich but also people from London and other parts of the country as it has now got quite a literary profile across the country. There are tickets left for today (Friday) and also there's camping nearby as well as onsite 'glamping' but that might be sold out I guess. So if you are not planned up to the eye balls and love a bit of culture in a very different and beautiful setting then the Voewood Festival is a good choice. The website tells you the whole lineup and ticket prices too.
Saturday we are planning a trip to Felbrigg Hall where Norfolk Contemporary Arts Society has a four artists commissioned intervention called The Tourists, which is in situ until October and then down to Aldeburgh for the Snape Proms (30 days of music) where we have tickets to see Penguin Café. Now I booked these ages ago, otherwise would have stayed at Voewood for the weekend but I love Penguin Café so it will be fun. Maybe take our camper van this time and look for somewhere to stay down there.
So that is me for the weekend. Back on Sunday for a bit of allotment action and Norwich Fringe Festival planning. We have just confirmed our main venues and so have extended the submission deadline till the end of the month. If you have an idea of what you would like to do, please let us know via the submission form here. The Fringe dates are 11-25 October and we have the Undercroft booked for whole of October so there is plenty of scope for ideas. We will be choosy though so that we can make best use of our slim resources but please do let us know what you would like to do. If you would like to help out with the Fringe, please get in touch
Happy Birthday to The Garage
The Garage in Chapelfield is celebrating its 10th birthday in September with a new visual identity and logo, a birthday party and a new programme of performances and workshops. You can get a sneak preview of their new logo on their programme - I really like it as It is a bit neon-ish and I love neon. It will launch officially in September.
I have been a fan of their touring theatre programme for sometime as I have seen some great Edinburgh Fringe-style shows there. And in fact, director Darren Grice is off up to Edinburgh this month to find more good stuff for to bring to us here in Norwich. The new season starts in the first week in September with a show by nabokov, who brought BLINK here earlier in the year. The show is called Symphony and is on Saturday 6 September. There are some free warm-up performances in the few days before at The Fat Cat Brewery Tap, St Gregory's Green, The Forum and the Mash Tun but I will let you know more about that soon. Meanwhile check out their website and be ready to come out to a whole series of good new theatre for all ages.
In the Forum on Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 next week, 10am-6pm.
The artists Me and 'Er aka Doo and Alison have been working really hard on this for a while I know, so if you can go and have a look and 'have a go'.
Havago is a celebration of the creative skills that are right here in Norfolk! Illustrators, weavers, fashion designers, hat makers, furniture designers, musicians, dancers etc
The Havago Festival, is a free to the public event giving YOU the chance to join the stall holders and 'havago' at something creative!
For more details please visit www.havagofestival.co.uk
Coming up! Carnival events and workshops
NORCA's Carnival Company Project has a lot of events coming up. It's a mixture of entertainment such as Head Out, Not Home on Thursday evenings in Norwich city centre to workshops in music, dance and carnival costume. There is a full list on the website here but they are running a very special Samba workshop in September which is a real opportunity if you have some Samba drumming experience, because of the experience of the workshop leaders.
Samba percussion workshop
Run by Chris Quade Couto, one of Europe’s leading Sambistas (based in Köln) and Thalita Santos, one of Rio’s few female Directors of Bateria
Saturday 13 / Sunday 14 September 10am to 4pm on both days
£50 full / £30 concessions
South Hall, Hewett School, Gate 4, Hall Road, Norwich NR1 2PL.
£30 a day/£50 for both
Concessions £20 a day/£30 for both
This is for percussionists with some experience. Participants must attend Saturday if they wish to come on Sunday, unless they are very experienced. Please contact Marcus Patteson on 01603 76052 to discuss if necessary.
Chris Quade Couto is a musical director of Bloco X (Köln, Germany), singer and percussionist of the forró trio Capangas, and regular Tamborim player with Rio Samba School, Unidos da Tijuca. He has taught all over Europe.
Thalita Santos founded Bloco Saias na Folia, becoming the first woman Mestra de Bateria and in 2012 founded Bloco Patuá (which mixes traditional Brazilian rhythms with modern music). She has played in several Samba schools, such as Salgueiro, Grande Rio and Vila Isabel.
Creative writing course at Sainsbury Centre
Writer and artist Patricia Mullen www.patriciamullin.com is running a creative writing course at the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, linked to the ‘Reality’ exhibition. I recommend booking early as places go quickly, you can telephone the SCVA to book on 01603 593199.
Art in Norwich
There are lots of art exhibitions around at the moment, and a new edition of Art in Norwich booklet is on the streets, plus the website www.artinnorwich.org.uk where I try and keep everything listed. You can download a pdf from there so here is a link.
But specifically coming up is a favourite event for many people, 19th Norwich Print Fair from 8th-20th September at St Margaret's Church in St Benedict's Street www.norwichprintfair.co.uk
And at the Norwich University of the Arts Gallery in St George's Street is AfterYears: Reflections on British Art 1946-1952, an exhibition devised by students of the MA Curation course. I missed the private view but am assured that I mustn't miss the exhibition as it's fab - it's on now and runs till 13 September.
World of Walls
Moosey Art are looking for walls which they can paint. Moosey Art is an online gallery who specialise in the work of street artists and illustrators. They are looking for large outside walls which they can use as a large canvas. Some might call it graffiti but it isn't, it is street art and of very high quality. So if you have a blank and ugly wall, why not let them use it? Get in touch with me if you know of somewhere.
Porkstock 2014 27 September 11am-6pm then a Knees Up till late
Last year we gave you Longitude Festival, and in July the Art Car Boot and coming up at Redwell Brewery on 27 September is Porkstock. It's a food festival but with added music and entertainment with hot street food by the social enterprise Feed which aims to get people back into work, cookery demos and sausage-making classes (which I am going to have a go at). So put that in your diary too with the usual caveats about parking and getting the bus down here to Trowse Millgate. The day is free but there is a party in the evening with live music by Night Train tickets £12.50. Book online here
Sorry if I have forgotten anyone's events. There are lots more in my head, but I have to get on with the next edition of Music in Norwich , a flyer for Cromwell's Head, a project plan for Creative Futures 2015 (on 5th March by the way) and a budget and marketing for the write2screen and Cinema Plus event for Norwich Sound and Vision which is an extravaganza of the Gothic genre - readings from 5 writers and a screening of the 1922 classic Nosferatu with a live film score played by Minima - but I will tell you all about that next time.
See you after the weekend! Have fun and let me know what you get up to
I was really pleased to hear that Norwich-based Eimear McBride has won this prestigious literary prize (and £30,000) for her debut novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, which is a fantastic coup for Eimear, for Norwich as a City of Literature and also for small publishers Galley Beggar Press who took a chance on a book that no other publisher had been confident or courageous enough to take on.
And this is also one book that UEA Creative Writing course can't take the credit for, as Eimear wrote the book in her home country of Ireland nine years ago.
It is an unusual book with a flow and syntax unlike any other. It is described as stream of consciousness writing but it starts with the unformed voice of an unborn child and continues to reflect thoughts and a thinking process that is disjointed and incomplete in the way that the language of our thinking is.
I heard Eimear read an extract at the very first launch in The Bookhive in Norwich sometime around August 2013. I was captivated - Eimear's lovely soft Irish voice and perfect delivery, almost shy but with the confidence of knowing the text inside out, made me want her to read the whole thing. It was like poetry almost but not. I bought the book (did I get her to sign it? I can't remember!), a beautifully designed and presented edition in the 'uniform' of all of the Galley Beggar publications.
Reading it myself was not quite as mesmerising and compelling as hearing Eimear read it (I did try to get her to read the whole thing as a piece of theatre for the Norwich Fringe Festival) but I still loved it, and better still admired it.
So now, in the glow of the news that she has been rewarded again (she won the £10,000 Goldsmith's Prize for original fiction, was shortlisted for the new Folio Prize, was named the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year and is nominated for the Desmond Elliott Prize for first-time novelists) I am very pleased for Eimear, dead chuffed for Norwich who is, after all, a City of Literature and did attract Eimear to live here, and above all proud to be in at the begining, in the same city as the people with the foresight, dedication and drive to realise what had arrived in our midst. Well done all - and go out and buy it! It's now published by Faber & Faber .
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Marion Catlin, principal creative consultant for The Shift with extensive experience in cultural development and design for the arts, heritage and culture sectors