In January 2016, as the centenary of the Battle of Somme approached, Writers’ Centre Norwich, 14-18 NOW and Norfolk & Norwich Festival co-commissioned a major new project, Fierce Light.
Poetry is commended for capturing the terror of the First World War, and this major commission invited a collection of international poets and visual artists to explore the war and its legacy in the 21st Century.
The opening night of Fierce Light (and the opening night of Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016) saw Simon Armitage (pictured), Paul Muldoon, Daljit Nagra and Jo Shapcott read their own poetry, alongside excerpts from a series of specially commissioned short films.
This opening night event was supported by an exhibition of films, poems and images at Norwich University of the Arts’ East Gallery.
Published in 1983, Graham Swift’s Waterland is set on the Norfolk Fens, and tells the story of a man named Tom Crick alongside the history of the Fens.
The novel focuses on Crick’s childhood, and his mother’s family, the Atkinsons, who were Norfolk brewers.
Whilst many elements of the narrative are recognisable as Norfolk, certain aspects of the Fens are fictionalised throughout the novel. Crick lives in a cottage on the banks of the (fictional) River Leem, which most readers consider is similar to the (actual) River Ouse.
The Fens have inspired huge amounts of culture, including The Goob and 45 Years.
The wide swathes of sand at Holkham Beach on the North Norfolk Coast have been popular with locals for centuries, but they gained a far wider audience in 1998 when they appeared on movie screens across the globe.
Location scouts had been searching for the beach with the right look for weeks when they stumbled on this Norfolk gem. A few months later Gwynneth Paltrow was delicately leaving footprints in the Norfolk sand as she filmed the closing scene of Shakespeare in Love.
In the centre of Ipswich stands a rotund old lady, scarf around her neck, brolly clutched in one hand, padlocked handbag in the other. She watches the world go by through a pair of glasses so thick they might as well have been WW2 pilot goggles. She is simply known as Grandma.
The statue is tribute to Carl Giles, the legendary cartoonist who worked for the Daily Express for nearly half a century. He lived in Ipswich, and if you follow Grandma’s gaze you’ll see the office where he used to work, drawing the adventures of the ever popular Grandma and her family as they made their way through a changing 20th century.
The East is filled with stories, from ancient myth and legend to tales of modern day heroes. Back in 2011, Ipswich-based Pacitti Company collected stories from people across the region, and identified 205 common symbols that appeared multiple times. This compendium of stories was titled A People’s Peculiar, and was a part of the company’s On Landguard Point project, part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
British jewellery-designer Victoria Johnson transformed these 205 symbols into individual silver-clay charms. The full collection of charms, plus real-life from the Museum of East Anglian Life’s permanent collection are currently on display in Abbot’s Hall in Stowmarket – there’s also the opportunity to add your own story to the ever-growing compendium.
Newfoundland was an exhibition of work by contemporary jeweller Romilly Saumarez Smith at Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts from December 2015 until April 2016.
The pieces on display reference the East’s ancient heritage. They all contain Roman, Anglo-Saxon or Medieval metalwork, dropped or discarded hundreds of years ago, and found by Romilly.
Romilly’s work transforms these items, which would have been commonplace domestic objects in their time, into marvellous celebrations of the region’s unique heritage. A small belt buckle becomes a delicate ring; a garment bin becomes a brooch.
Romilly adds contemporary detail, through tiny pearls, gold and diamonds, which amplifies each piece.
Alongside the collection, photographer Verdi Yahooda made some exceptional photographic prints of the original metal finds, which accompanied every piece.
As part of Norwich’s celebration of the sculptor Ana Maria Pacheco in 2015 (as explored in another 365 post), Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery exhibited ‘Enchanted Garden’, a new series of eight polychromed and gilded alabaster reliefs, in its Norman Castle Keep in January 2016.
The reliefs reflect the artist’s long interest in the famous medieval alabasters in the Castle’s collection and her friendship with the late Francis Cheetham, former Head of the Museum and an expert on alabaster.
The ‘Enchanted Garden’ series paid homage to the power of human imagination, drawing on literature and the wild and magical landscapes that Pacheco knew as a child.
On Hay Hill, in the centre of Norwich, are two pieces of art dedicated to the same man – Sir Thomas Browne.
Browne was one of the greatest thinkers of the 17th century; a well-respected, knowledgeable man who had a deep interest in matters of religion, philosophy and science. He lived most of his adult life in the Hay Hill area and is buried in the neighbouring St Peter Mancroft Church.
The first piece is a statue of the man, high on a pedestal. It depicts him sat contemplating a piece of broken pottery, which on closer examination turns out to be a burial urn.
The other piece of work was officially opened in 2007. Consisting of 20 pieces of sculpture and 22 lights it is called ‘Homage to Thomas Browne’. The stones are made by traditional craftsmen in Italy who used marble from the same area that supplied the stone to build Marble Hall in the Aviva building in Surrey Street. The black granite comes all the way from Zimbabwe. They are set out in a quincunx, a shape which Browne believed existed throughout nature.
You can find out more about these sculptures and the man himself at the official website.
And why not explore the rest of Norwich while you’re there? Plan your trip at Visit Norwich.
Described variously as a slow-burner, a gentle comedy, and a hidden gem, Detectorists is all this and more.
It centres on the lives of Andy and Lance, two middle-aged men who spend their spare time metal detectoring in the fields of Essex. Starring Mackenzie Crooke and Toby Jones, this BAFTA award winning BBC4 show actually films in Suffolk. The fields around Framlingham are home to their searches, while Great Glemham is home to the interior of Two Brewers Pub (better known to locals as The Crown). And the round-tower church from series two? That belongs to Aldham St Mary, eight miles west of Ipswich.
If you fancy exploring this part of Suffolk, metal-detector in hand or not, plan your trip at Visit Suffolk.
The Voice Project is an open-access singing project offering a whole range of creative ways to use your voice.
The Voice Project was created by singers Sian Croose and Jonathan Baker in 2008 and since then we have involved hundreds of singers in performances of great new vocal music as well as workshops designed to build vocal confidence and explore a wide variety of uplifting and inspiring vocal music.
In recent years, the project has performed new work in a variety of spaces in and around Norwich, as well as specially commissioned performances for Norfolk & Norwich Festival.