Dance, Drama and Norwich Castle After Hours

Happy Bank Holiday Monday! I hope you have had a wonderful bank holiday so far - mine has been split between roaming around London with a strawberry cider perpetually in my right hand and digging up the courtyard to plant a little summer garden, ready for when the sun actually decides to come out. In essence, Saturday was spent as a typical 23-year-old and on Sunday I saw all future bank holidays flash before my eyes in a blur of B&Q orange. It's not only the middle-aged that get excited over evergreen climbers, right?!

Today I thought I'd share with you the wonder that is the Norfolk and Norwich festival. Think the Edinburgh fringe, with less rain, less queues and less people. It's been running for a few years now and I have seen it grow from strength to strength. Cultures pervades every inch of my little hometown. Norwich has always been known for it's strong link with the arts, but at the festival we actually encourage people from outside the county to join in. (Sounds like a joke - it's not a joke!) I even saw adverts for the festival on the tube!

Ever the fan of popping back to my hometown, I jumped on a train after work to see what the festival had in store. One delicious BBQ later we headed into the city with our cultural hats on. To say the city was showcasing a diverse selection of the arts is an understatement! Dancers performed in parks next to especially showcased bee hives, children made little paper monsters next to a colourful tent housing a circus. 12 hours later I was exhausted by the breadth and scale of what I'd seen. I had to watch 'Keeping Up With the Kardashians' before bed just to calm my brain down.

It's no secret that I love Norwich, but when it's full of people lounging in the grass with ice creams in the sun I love it even more. The dancers pictured above were amazing. Not your average street dance that's for sure. I think they were expressing brotherhood and gang hierarchy. Then again it could equally have been about pepsi and drowning beetles - I'd be none the wiser.

After slurping down an ice cream (mint choc chip, as always) we headed over to Norwich Castle as we'd heard that it was open after hours for an event called 'Koonsbury'. It was not, as I thought, a night celebrating racoons (more's the pity), but instead a huge event celebrating the artist Jeff Koons. I find contemporary art quite challenging - perhaps it's the amount of forlorn and whimsical eighteenth century paintings I had to study. All I know now is that Jeff Koons was an eccentric chap who liked posing with really hot 90's model in the name of art. Fair play Jeff Koons, you know what you like and you made it your work!

Behind the blue wig wearing dancers and very creepy looking bears remained a place I absolutelylove. Nostalgia brews around every corner. Norwich Castle not only acts as a fascinating portal of Norwich history, but it has some amazing collections that haven't changed since I was a wee one, visiting with my Nanny on a Saturday morning. 

Not having a zoo nearby, we always went to 'see the animals'. No, not of the living variety, but the stuffed and glassy-eyed kind. The taxidermy collection is huuuuuuge and I, reliving the museum from the eyes of a 7-year-old, once again looked with awe up at the giant polar bear, his fur a little dustier than before. This time the 'Natural History' collection could only be viewed by torchlight, what with it being a night time opening. How. Cool. Is. That. I picked up a little dynamo torch and caught the reflection from hundreds of iridescent beetles, beady eyes peeking through the window as I passed over them with my light.

I'm not going to lie, it was a little odd running into Jeff Koons installations amidst the Norman and Medieval exhibitions that I know so well. Diversity, as they say, is the spice of life, so who's to say a pig photo booth can't be placed next to eighteenth century pastoral landscape paintings?! (to help my case, it is a mock-up of a famous Jeff Koons photograph...)

Of course, we couldn't leave without the obligatory dressing up opportunity. I tried this same costume on about 8 years ago (the photographic evidence of which is in an attic somewhere in Norfolk). I find this at once pretty cool and slightly gross. How many heads has that bonnet touched...

Did I mention that this whole event was free? The most wondrous thing about the festival is that so many of the events cost absolutely nothing, right across the county. I'm gutted that I missed out on a free pyrotechnic reenactment of the novel Fahrenheit 451. Oh well, next year!

Norwich - until we meet again...

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