Monday, 23 July 2012

Norfolk and Norwich Festival

A stretch of North Norfolk’s stunning wild coastline is to be transformed for an extraordinary outdoor adventure as it becomes the setting for one of the UK’s biggest cultural events over the next few weeks. 

A series of awe-inspiring sculptural installations will punctuate a three mile path on the Holkham Estate for Walking – a major collaboration between the Norfolk & Norwich Festival and the internationally acclaimed artist Robert Wilson - from 20 August to 2 September.

Participants will be offered the once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a series of magnificent sculptural and sound installations as part of London 2012 Festival – the spectacular 12-week nationwide celebration running from 21 June until 9 September 2012 bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK.

Walking will also offer visitors will also have the chance to view this stunning landscape from a fresh perspective while escaping the pressures of day to day life.

Wilson has used choreography, painting, sculpture and video for a number of celebrated collaborations with Philip Glass on the operatic masterpiece Einstein on the Beach, which first premiered in Avignon France in 1976 and was recently revived for The Barbican in London, also as part of the London 2012 Festival.

Now the pioneering American director is turning his creative talents to Walking in collaboration with
Dutch visual artist Theun Mosk and theatre maker Boukje Schweigman, who wowed audiences with the world premiere of their physical theatre piece Mirror at this year’s Norfolk & Norwich Festival.
On arrival at Holkham, participants will be asked to hand over mobile phones and other possessions so they can totally switch off from any distractions, enabling them to reflect on the beauty of the surrounding landscape and dramatic skyline.

Visitors will set off on a slow paced walk along the carefully selected path which winds through meadows, woodlands and dunes as well as a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The stage will be set for those who choose to venture along the route and into sculptural installations which rise out from the landscape evoking images of ancient civilisations and alien worlds.
Participants will initially encounter an imposing open air courtyard standing in distinct contrast to its natural environment.  A path of white stones will tempt onlookers to explore this intriguing space and discover the mysteries inside its monumental walls. 

Further along the route, a cone can be seen in the distance pointing towards the heavens – inviting explorers to step through its circular doorway into this intriguing haven.

The experience of these mysterious structures will be further enhanced by ambient sound installations enabling each walker to create their own unique narrative.

Mid route, participants will be able to sit back and relax in specially designed chairs while listening to sound composed by Tom Waits.

The installations are not only intricately designed to give participants a fresh perspective on what to some is a familiar landscape but the route also goes through an area which is not usually accessible to the public, creating yet more unknown vistas.

Walking producer Kate Harvey said: “In an era of 24-hour news channels, when time and attention are dominated by an overload of information from emails, phones and the internet, Walking provides a unique liberation from the stresses and strains of everyday life. For a brief 4 hour period we invite you to leave your pressures behind, free your senses and experience the world in a new dimension.”
A native of Waco, Texas, Robert Wilson was educated at the University of Texas and arrived in New York in 1963 to attend Brooklyn's Pratt Institute before receiving international recognition for his works, many of which examine our perception of time and space. Walking premiered at Oerol Festival in the Netherlands in 2008.

“It’s very curious when you do Walking. One’s perception is altered. We did it on the island of Terschelling off the coast of the Netherlands. Local people, who knew the landscape, heard things they had never heard before, began to see things they had never seen before. Some went two or three times. All the senses are heightened in one way or another. It’s theatre, but not as you know it,” said Robert Wilson, who will be visiting Holkham for the launch of Walking.

A team of production crew, engineers and labourers will be based on site over the next month constructing the installations and work has already begun on the two larger structures – the enclosure and the cone.

More than 12 tonnes of steel will be used to construct the first installation – a 20 metre by 20 metre and 5 metre high enclosure - along with 1,200 bunches of willow, 176 sheets of plywood and 80 tonnes of sand. The cone will be made out of a specially designed timber frame which is clad in clay.
Materials for all the installations have been sourced from local firms, including Arc Fabrications and A & W Cushion Ltd and the project has also benefitted from donations of plant machinery and tools from companies such as May Gurney, Hewden and tool hire company GAP Group.

Kate Harvey said: “We have decided to use local firms as far as possible to keep the benefits of the project within the region. We are receiving a lot of help and support from local companies who are interested and excited in being involved in such a high profile project with an international artist. We hope this will leave a legacy of collaboration between the Norfolk & Norwich Festival and local firms, many of whom do not traditionally work within the arts.”

Norfolk & Norwich Festival’s production team has worked closely with Natural England and the Holkham Estate from the outset to ensure that plans did not impact on the delicate balance of the natural environment.

Sarah Wilson, Natural England’s area manager for Natural England Norfolk and Suffolk said: “Natural England has been pleased to work with the Norfolk and Norwich Festival organisers of this exciting cultural event, so that visitors can enjoy the wonderful scenery and unique location of ‘Walking’ while minimising any possible impacts on the natural environment”

Walking  has been funded by Legacy Trust UK and supported by the Foyle Foundation, was commissioned by Norfolk & Norwich Festival.

Norfolk & Norwich Festival’s Artistic Director William Galinsky said: “Walking has provided a fantastic opportunity for Norfolk & Norwich Festival to get involved in London 2012 Festival - the biggest Arts Festival the UK has ever seen. We not only get a unique event in which internationally renowned artist Robert Wilson responds to our gorgeous natural landscape but Walking will also give us an opportunity to build on Norfolk’s cultural reputation and show that we can do amazingly unusual and fantastic things in this area.”

Ruth Mackenzie, Director, London 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad, said: “Norfolk & Norwich Festival has secured the UK premiere of this exceptional piece by one of the world's great artists. Walking is one of three pieces for the London 2012 Festival by Robert Wilson – a first for a festival in the UK”

Helen Lax, Regional Director, Arts Council England, East, said ‘Walking promises to be one of the most exciting and thought-provoking events of the summer. It is a celebration of a stunning part of our region, allowing audiences to take time to appreciate the beauty of the North Norfolk coast. We are also pleased to see Norfolk and Norwich Festival programming work both outside of the Festival period, and in new and unexpected places, in celebration of this Olympic year.’

Legacy Trust UK is creating a lasting impact from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by funding ideas and local talent to inspire creativity across the UK.

Dugald Mackie, Chair of Legacy Trust UK, said: “The benefits of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be felt not just in London but throughout the UK. The Games are a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase the East of England to millions of people across the world. We believe that projects like Walking will inspire and encourage people to get involved and will help leave a lasting legacy for the region.”

David Horton-Fawkes, Estates Director, Holkham said:  “Holkham is delighted to support this groundbreaking event which will challenge perceptions of the nature and  environment and will enhance people’s respect for this area outstanding beauty.

A second London 2012 Festival project from the Norfolk & Norwich Festival Out of the Water by Helen Paris and Caroline Wright and featuring music by Jocelyn Pook will take place at Holkham from August 25 - 27.

Tickets for Walking cost £15 and concessions £5 - available to under 25s, full time students, those in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance or income support.

Tickets are available through our website: or by phone 01603 766400 or in person at Norwich Theatre Royal.

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