Blog: How Like A Festival


Everyone loves a Festival. In my hometown of Norwich we’ve got loads – at least 12 big annual ones as well as others that sprout up, growing on the back of the larger ones or just those that just want to provide something different, like mini fringes that are able to showcase the home-grown talent. Norwich is a city that harvests creativity well, with loads of different venues and creative types to make them it happen.

This time round I’m talking about The Festival – the world’s largest ever programme of arts events made up of over 12,000 performances and where 18 million people have already taken part in it via the Cultural Olympiad. The Festival is the grand finale of the 4-year long Cultural Olympiad.

Amongst the busy nature of my job as the East’s Inspire Programmer and being the lead-up to the Olympic Torch Relay’s arrival into the region, I’ve managed to cram in the time to attend some of the local highlights of this year’s cultural calendar.

I’ve often walked through the beautiful grounds of Norwich Cathedral, regarded as a city centre haven where it peacefully away from the traffic and noisy hubbub of a busy city. I’ve attended Shakespeare in the cloisters, services and concerts inside the Cathedral too but last Tuesday night was something different – no I didn’t spot another peregrine egg or other form of nesting bird wanting it’s clutch of fame – but Tuesday evening was a new way to explore the Norman Cathedral – its architecture and its atmosphere.

We were handed mini torches, to share in our groups as we entered the magnificent venue via the Cloisters. It was dark – gloomy is too much of a solemn word to use because there was a sense of excitement – as everyone eagerly anticipated the arrival of whatever we were to be expecting. Stewards dimly lit the way like guardians sent to protect the spiritual ambience. We were instructed to be quiet but not many obeyed this command, as it was a new experience to be wandering around the beast of a building late at night.

The show was almost promenade style, with three spots for action in the famously long nave. How Like An Angel is a collaboration between Circa (an Australian circus company) and I Fagiolini (although Italian sounding, a UK-based vocal ensemble). Circa amazed everyone with daring feats of great height, strength, balance and human endeavour. The harmonic skills of I Fagiolini were wonderful. Both of the two art forms demonstrated the highest skill in their specific fields.

Flattery aside, there was no obvious narrative and I’m still struggling with the marriage of the two works, but it was still an amazing evening – animating the cavernous space of the 900 hundred year-old building in its feast of juxtaposition for the ears and eyes.

The Dance of the Stewards, a multiple-moving scenic piece of adjusting a performance space using ropes and barriers aided by clipboard and radios, did provide some light relief in between the intense moments albeit it not purposely part of the artistic action.

The London 2012 Festival has much more to offer for a few more months and (after tomorrow night’s adventure through time) I hope to be able to catch more of it.

Check out the London 2012 Festival website for more information on the programme of dance, music, theatre, fashion, food, art or film – events that have embraced the ‘greats’ (venues and people of the arts-world) and events that are just simply out-of-the-ordinary in unusual places.

How Like An Angel also plays Ely Cathedral (2-3 July), Gloucester Cathedral (16-17 July) and Ripon Cathedral (19 – 20 July).

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