Guest Blog: Festival Director Daniel Brine On The Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2018
I grew up in Adelaide, an Australian city known for its international arts festival, and my festival memory as a teenager is of the city coming alive.
At the time I didn't know how lucky I was, but I saw amazing performance - including Peter Brook's The Mahabharata and Pina Bausch's Wuppertaler Tanztheater's Kontakthof - and I also participated in community events and outdoor arts.
I'm now privileged to be Festival Director of Norfolk & Norwich Festival, and this May will be the first Festival under my stewardship. I say 'stewardship', because this year the Festival has been put together by all of our team.
My predecessor William Galinsky laid the foundations with major commissions and partnerships, and the team - along with our principal programming partners Britten Sinfonia, Serious and Writers' Centre Norwich - has given flesh and life to the programme.
I arrived in post in January and I've been warmly welcomed in Norwich. Just like Adelaide, Norwich has a strong identity which relies heavily on a commitment to and engagement with culture. In the next few years, I'm really interested in how we embed this sense of city and community identity in the festival and bring Norwich alive as a 'festival city.'
There's a lot I'm looking forward to in this year's Festival. We're presenting a range of flagship projects, from Transe Express's outdoor promenade of giant dolls and dazzling aerial display in the city centre, through And Now:'s Wayfaring - a site-specific event on the beach at Wells-next-the-Sea - to Britten Sinfonia conducted by Thomas Adès at the Norwich Theatre Royal.
The music programme is particularly strong, with headline sets from Mary Chapin Carpenter and Ben Folds and a lively programme in the Adnams Spiegeltent, including Le Gateau Chocolat and Les Amazones D'Afrique.
It helps to bring our city alive when we activate spaces across the city, and I'm delighted that this year we have a really strong programme at Norwich Cathedral - including Talvin Singh, The Sixteen, Three Cathedral Choirs and the Voice Project.
It's important that UK international festivals commission new work, and this year in Norwich we have premieres of shows by Improbable and Barely Methodical Troupe.
As well as these flagship projects, we've been an active partner in Without Walls - the consortium of festivals dedicated to raising the profile of the UK outdoor arts - and together we've commissioned artists including Ockham's Razor and Mind the Gap for the Garden Party, our free outdoor family weekend.
Alongside the commissioned work, we're presenting a great selection of UK and international performance. I'm looking forward to Hofesh Shechter's Grand Finale and Forced Entertainment's Real Magic.
I'm also really interested to see the work of Portuguese film and theatre director Marco Martins. His new piece Provisional Figures is produced by SeaChange Arts and gives voice to the Portuguese community in Great Yarmouth.
My stewardship means that I get to enjoy this year's Festival in a different way. Of course, I'm working with the team to ensure smooth delivery, but I get to sit back a little and to observe - artists, audiences and our own organisation. I'm acutely aware of making this Festival a success, but I'm also imagining a future and how we build on our achievements and what we might do differently.
At the forefront of my mind is my experience of growing up in Adelaide, and I'm thinking about what a 'festival city' can be in the 21st century. I'm considering the physical fabric of the city and the beauty of the landscape of Norfolk, but also the social make-up of the communities.
Norfolk & Norwich Festival has a long history as a celebration of community identity and aspiration. Founded in 1772 as a fundraising event for the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital, it has been at the cultural heart of Norwich ever since.
While art forms and artistic practices change over time, I suspect our future - and the way we will build our identity as a festival city - will hold true to the central commitment of the first events: to celebrate, to build community cohesion, and to share extraordinary cultural experiences.
Photo credits: Nick Read, Mark Dawson Photography, Ville de Dijon