City of Literature 2021

‘Go and open the door,
maybe outside there’s
a tree, or a wood,
a garden,
or a magic city.’

To open a door, as Miroslav Holub reminds us in his celebrated poem ‘The Door’, is to allow other worlds in – as well as gardens, trees and woods. To imagine that something else and some other place – ‘a magic city’ – is possible. After the 2020 we’ve collectively weathered, the National Centre for Writing wanted to programme a City of Literature strand that embraces the magic of Norfolk & Norwich Festival itself; nurturing the forests of the unknown, the unusual and the unexpected. While doors were closed we spent our time commissioning new work that we hope will surprise and intrigue you.

At a time when creative livelihoods have been imperilled and when risks have been very near and real (but often under an invisible cloak), it felt vital to conjure a magic city on the horizon. It is, after all, as Rebecca Solnit says in her book, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, ‘the job of the artists to open doors and invite in prophesies, the unknown, the unfamiliar.’

This year, we bring you seven wonderful experiments in writing.

Writer and NCW Associate Artist Jay Bernard and sound artist Mwen present TOMBLAND, a haunting digital soundscape which transports you from your home to ours, at the beautiful Dragon Hall. Writers Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and Jessica J. Lee invite us to look closely at the nature around us – to peer at tiny mosses beneath the hedgerow and search forests for crown shyness in LOOKING, LARGE AND SMALL. Theatre maker Jack McNamara and composer/ violinist Angharad Davies will deliver THE GROUP, a three-part play told live via WhatsApp. Four writers reflect on the atmospheric pressure of the year they’ve just had in WEATHER WITH YOU.

FUTURE & FORM marks an ambitious collaboration with UEA in celebration of the 50th anniversary of their world-renowned Creative Writing programme. UEA graduate and prize-winning novelist Ayòbámi Adébáyò asks questions of the future of writing, in a daring commission entitled PROVENANCE. Our annual HARRIET MARTINEAU LECTURE will be delivered by critic and editor Ellah P. Wakatama, with a new visual score by film-maker and poet Julian Knox. And if, as we hope, this suite of work drives you back to the books of these and other writers, then we hope you’ll be able to join us for a special festival chapter of The Book Hive’s PAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE at Plantation Gardens.

We’re proud to present this weekend of experiments, original commissions, and interactive experiences, and invite you to encounter these prophecies with us and each other.

Peggy Hughes
Programme Director, National Centre for Writing

National Centre for Writing

 

TOMBLAND

Saturday 22 May, 11am, Digital

Writer Jay Bernard and sound artist Mwen present an immersive and unusual online experience which blurs the boundaries between words, music and place.

Free, register in advance to receive a link to the website when it launches

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TOMBLAND (event)

Saturday 29 May, 5pm, Digital

Discover the process behind Tombland. An online discussion between writer and filmmaker Jay Bernard and sound artist, producer, composer and DJ, Mwen.

Free, register in advance to receive a streaming link

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WEATHER WITH YOU

Monday 24 – Thursday 27 May, Digital

Three writers reflect on the atmospheric pressure of the year they’ve just had in Weather With You – a series of written commissions and podcasts that address what it means to be a writer today, and why we write.

Free, register in advance to recieve a link to the website when it launches

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WEATHER WITH YOU (event)

Friday 28 May, 6pm, Digital

Join the writers behind Weather With You for an online event which takes stock of our unique moment in time and expresses hope for the future.

Free, register in advance to receive a streaming link

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Looking, Large and small

Friday 28 May, 1pm, Digital

Explore the magic of the natural world with this online pack of observations, illustrations and exercises brought to you by Jessica J. Lee and Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.

Free, register in advance for access to the resources when they go live

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Looking, Large and small (event)

Sunday 30 May, 11am, Digital

Join Jessica J. Lee and Rowan Hisayo Buchanan to peek behind the hedge at the process of creating Looking, Large and Small.

Free, register in advance to receive a streaming link

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The Group

Friday 28 – Sunday 30 May, 9pm, Digital

A three-part play told live via Whatsapp, blending literature and theatre in the palm of your hands. Tune in each evening for a standalone story told through real-time conversations and music.

Free, register in advance to receive instructions

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Page Against the Machine

Saturday 29 May, 1pm, Plantation Garden, Norwich

Pick a book, grab a cool drink and turn off your phone for a well-deserved detox read in the beautiful surroundings of Plantation Garden.

Free (£2 donation to the Plantation Garden on the door)

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Harriet martineau Lecture

Sunday 30 May, 7pm, Digital

Ellah P. Wakatama, literary critic and Editor-at-large for Canongate fuction celebrates the legacy of Harriet Martineau. Ella’s lecture will be accompanied by a stunning visual score from Julian Knox.

Free, register in advance to receive a link

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City of Literature is a Norfolk & Norwich Festival and National Centre for Writing Presentation, programmed by National Centre for Writing.

National Centre for Writing       Norwich City of Literature Logo

 

Image credits: Masthead © Matthew Usher | Jay Bernard © Joshua Virasami | Kerry Ni Dochartaigh © Manus Kenny| Jessica J. Lee © Ricardo Rivas | Ellah P Wakatama © Julian Knox

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