Introducing City of Literature 2021
This year’s City of Literature strand of Norfolk & Norwich Festival invites you to embrace and experiment with the unknown, the unusual and the unexpected

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 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 a programme 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

View the City of Literature 2021 programme >>


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

Norfolk & Norwich Festival logo

Image (c) Bob Pike

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