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17:04 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 18:04 UK

Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2009

Taylor Mac, an icon of the New York drag scene

The Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2009 is set to put the county on the map as a home to one of the great celebrations of music, arts and culture.

The prestigious annual event is one of the oldest city festivals the UK.

"In scale and ambition, this ancient festival is now one of the top five in the UK," said festival director Jonathan Holloway.

The festival, featuring an international line-up, takes place from Friday, 1 to Saturday, 16 May, 2009.

"Festivals have never been as popular as they are today," said Jonathan.

"I may not know the value of my house in these times of turmoil in 2009, but I will always remember the first time I was moved to tears by great music or my first 'gasp' at a piece of theatrical magic."

"Extraordinary experiences of art and creativity are priceless and last a lifetime," he added.

Free events

Opening the festival this year will be two free musical-comedic performances by French-duo Ulik and Le SNOB outside The Forum, Norwich, on Friday, 1 May, 2009.

Dressed in cone-shaped gowns and hats spouting flames, the pair will showcase a contemporary art fiesta with music, humour and the promise of bizarre irregularities!

Les Commandos Percu will provide a loud and spectacular show on Saturday, 2 May, 2009, at Earlham Park encompassing pyrotechnics and fireworks along to the beat of their highly percussive performance.

World-wide reputation

The annual festival of the arts has a reputation for drawing upon an artists' roster from around the world.

Philip Glass

This year's line-up includes contemporary composer Philip Glass, jazz pioneer Courtney Pine and soul sensation Mica Paris.

Philip Glass will be performing his first UK solo show since 2007. He has composed a number of operas, symphonies and has collaborated with artists Twyla Tharp, Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen and David Bowie.

His solo performance at the Norwich Theatre Royal on Friday, 15 May, 2009, is a festival exclusive.

Courtney Pine and his Jazz Warriors will perform with their funk and reggae-influenced Afro-Caribbean jazz music and Mica Paris has been performing for more than two decades as a singer, working with artists such as Prince, but she also shot to fame in her own right as an actress and a TV and radio presenter.

Voices raised in song

Festival regulars The Voice Project Choir, based in Norfolk, makes a welcome return to this year's festival, showcasing Norfolk voices in song with a concert at Norwich Cathedral.

The Voice Project Choir performing in Norwich (Photo: Alexandra Bone)

"The cathedral is beautiful and I think the moment the choir arrive in it, the whole gear changes and the performers love the space," said Sian Croose, conductor of the choir.

"To actually stand at the altar end and sing down the nave is quite an extraordinary experience," she added.

The community choir will be singing I Prefer The Gorgeous Freedom, a major new work for choir and jazz quartet, written and performed by BBC award-winning jazz composer Gwilym Simcock.

The festival's classical programme also includes performances by the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Royal Academy Of Music, the Tallis Scholars and Nicola Benedetti, part of the Benedetti Trio, who made a name for herself as the 2004 BBC Young Musician Of The Year.

Family fun

The N&N Festival is keen to offer something for all the family. In 2009 the festival presents it's most extensive children's programme to date.

The Norwich Puppet Theatre invites you to relive the drama of 18th Century murder courtesy of Sweeney Todd.

Venues taking part in the N&N Festival

International puppet company Finger In The Pie, somewhat appropriate for Sweeney Todd, will be performing a new musical interpretation of the story of London's demon barber.

And Le theatre Oz Grouba from Belgium are a group of acrobats who will perform at the Norwich Playhouse on Sunday, 3 May, 2009.

If their task wasn't difficult enough, they'll also manage to juggle their act while playing the bagpipes, violin, accordion and various percussive instruments.

This year's festival also sees Chapelfield Gardens in Norwich being reinvented to house various contemporary art shows.

The Garden Party takes place from Saturday, 9 to Sunday, 10 May, 2009, and the family fun can all be viewed free of charge.

Herbie Treehead will showcase a carnival of dancing, juggling and anything else that is plain ridiculous. From the Netherlands, the Odd Enjinears also present The Concert Of Your Life, created especially for you!

The festival will also see variety in kid's stand-up from Ian Billings and a circus performance by Spanish trope Circ Panic.

Vik Ellis, an artist from Norwich

Norfolk Open Studios

Under the festival umbrella, the Norfolk Open Studios project once again takes place.

From 16-31 May, 2009, more than 200 local artists will hope to display their works of art to around 27,000 cultural enthusiasts.

In 2008, visitors to the open studios bought an estimated £223,717 of work and commissioned 200 new pieces.

"As a full-time professional artist, Norfolk Open Studios is an important date on my calendar," said Vik Ellis, an artist from Norwich.

"It is by far the best way of reaching local art buyers and interested people, not just through visits to my studio, but also via broader events such as the taster exhibition," she added.

The Norfolk & Norwich Festival runs from 1-16 May, 2009, with the Norfolk Open Studios following between 16-31 May, 2009.

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Norfolk & Norwich Festival
Norfolk Open Studios
The Voice Project Choir
Gwilym Simcock
Courtney Pine
Mica Paris
West Norfolk Artists Association

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