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On the fringe: festival fever

  • Date: 9 June 2010
  • Area: South East
Uz Jsme Dome performing at PULSE10

Uz Jsme Dome performing at PULSE10. Credit: Photo: Milan Stryja (c) www.stryja.com 2010

The arrival of summer can mean only one thing: festival season. But it’s not all muddy wellies and water-logged tents; the East of England holds host to some of the most exciting and innovative arts events in the country.

First up was Norfolk & Norwich Festival in May, which enjoyed phenomenal success, attracting nearly 300,000 people to a range of exciting arts events. Highlights included a ground-breaking dance spectacular Electric Hotel performed on Millennium Plains and the return of the ever-popular Spiegeltent in Norwich's Festival Gardens hosting cutting-edge shows such as La Vie - an adult-themed mix of music, theatre, dance and acrobatics.

Pulse 10 festival followed, from 27 May to 12 June, in Ipswich. Now in its 10th year, it provides a platform for new work by regional, British and international artists across a range of art forms including theatre, dance, comedy, music, event-led visual arts, participatory theatre and circus-led work.

The event has nearly doubled in size, with 67 planned events over the 17-day festival. The unprecedented scope of the 2010 programme built on the enormous success of Pulse 09, which achieved national press acclaim.

Festival Director Stephen Freeman was even more ambitious in his hopes for Pulse 10. '[It] features a genuinely international presence for the first time, with renowned companies from Belgium, Greece and Israel due to perform here,' he explained.

The event also welcomed a record number of local artists supported by Escalator, Arts Council England’s talent development programme. The Escalator Weekend opened the festival, featuring work by new artists including Bryony Kimmings with her hilarious show Sex Idiot and Shams with Reykjavik, an installation performance exploring the power of memory. These alongside established Arts Council regularly funded organisations such as the Theatre Royal Bury and the Mercury Theatre in Colchester.

Next for the arts-hungry festival-goers will be the 63rd Aldeburgh Festival, from 11-27 June, with an unmissable programme of classical music events. Now under the artistic leadership of French musicien exceptionel, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, this year’s Aldeburgh Festival offers an eclectic mix of classical masterworks and new discoveries.

Among them uniquely entertaining music theatre by George Benjamin and Luciano Berio, a celebration of the quintessential British holiday village, Thorpeness. There will also be superb concerts and residencies featuring Leon Fleisher, Ian Bostridge, the Britten–Pears Orchestra under Oliver Knussen, the Arcanto Quartet and pianist Alexander Lonquich, and towering figure of contemporary music, Pierre Boulez.

Literature is king at this year’s Worlds Literature Festival, from 20-27 June, organised by Writers’ Centre Norwich (WCN). The world-renowned festival attracts an impressive cross-section of writers from across the globe in a week of events, readings and discussion.

Katy Carr, marketing manager at WCN said: 'We are delighted to be once again hosting JM Coetzee at the Norwich Playhouse, and have a unique and stimulating line-up of events and writing workshops going on throughout the week.'

Other high profile authors such as Andrew O’Hagan are travelling from as far afield as Australia to perform at the event.

Latitude Festival 2010, in Southwold, Suffolk, runs from 15-18 July with a jam-packed programme of music and arts events. Top of your must-see list should be the veritable throng of Escalator artists performing at the festival. They include Live Literature artists Dean Parkin, Hannah Walker, Molly Naylor, Tim Clare and Ross Sutherland as well as performing artists Richard Dedomenici, nabokov and High Tide.

If you miss them at Latitude, from 6-30 August, the full outfit of Escalator artists will travel to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as part of Escalator East to Edinburgh. This annual programme supports around 20 artists to find venues, transport and audiences for their shows and is definitely worth the journey.

Last, but by no means least is the Metal Village Green Festival, in Southend-on-Sea. Taking place on 25 September, it is a vibrant, multi-arts event with something for everyone. Last year over 20,000 people attended to witness a unique and diverse range of creative talents from Southend and beyond. Details of the 2010 programme line-up will be announced on the Metal website in the coming weeks.