Culture and attractions
Historically Norwich has been associated with art, literature and publishing, which continues to the present day. Norwich was the site of the first provincial library in England, which opened in 1608, and was the first city to implement the Public Libraries Act 1850. The Norwich Post was the first provincial newspaper outside London, first published in 1701. The Norwich School of artists was the first provincial art movement, with nationally acclaimed artists such as John Crome associated with the movement. Other literary firsts associated with the city include Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love, published in 1395, which was the first book written in the English language by a woman, and the first poem written in blank verse, composed by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, in the 16th century.
Today the city is a regional centre for publishing, with 5% of the UK's independent publishing sector based in the city in 2012. In 2006 Norwich became the UK's first City of Refuge, part of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) which promotes free speech. Norwich made the shortlist for the first city to be designated UK City of Culture, but in July 2010 it was announced that Derry had been selected. In May 2012 Norwich was designated as England's first UNESCO City of Literature.
Norwich is a popular destination for a city break; attractions include Norwich Cathedral, the cobbled streets and museums of old Norwich, Norwich Castle, Cow Tower, Dragon Hall and The Forum. Norwich is one of the UK's top ten shopping destinations, with a mix of chain retailers and independent stores as well as Norwich Market, one of the largest outdoor markets in England. It is ranked about the 150th biggest city in Europe.
The Forum, designed by Michael Hopkins and Partners and opened in 2002 is a building designed to house the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, a replacement for the Norwich Central Library building which burned down in 1994, and the regional headquarters and television centre for BBC East. From 2006-13 it was most visited library in the UK, with 1.3 million visits in 2013. The collections contains the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, a collection of material about American culture and the American relationship with East Anglia, especially the role of the United States Air Force on UK airbases throughout the Second World War and Cold War. Much of the collection was lost in the 1994 fire, but the collection has been restored by contributions from many veterans of the war, both European and American. The building also provides a venue for art exhibitions, concerts and events, although the city still lacks a dedicated concert venue.
Recent attempts to shed the backwater image of Norwich and market it as a popular tourist destination, as well as a centre for science, commerce, culture and the arts, have included the refurbishment of the Norwich Castle Museum and the opening of the Forum. The proposed new slogan for Norwich as England's Other City has been the subject of much discussion and controversy. It remains to be seen whether it will be finally adopted. A number of signs at the approaches to the city still display the traditional phrase: "Norwich — a fine city."
, housing, among other things, the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library and the BBC
's East of England headquarters and studios
The city promotes its architectural heritage through a collection of notable buildings in Norwich called the "Norwich 12". The group consists of: Norwich Castle, Norwich Cathedral, The Great Hospital, St Andrew's Hall and Blackfriars' Hall, The Guildhall, Dragon Hall, The Assembly House, St James Mill, St John the Baptist RC Cathedral, Surrey House, City Hall and The Forum.
Art and music
Each year the Norfolk and Norwich Festival celebrates the arts, drawing many visitors into the city from all over eastern England. The Norwich Twenty Group, founded in 1944, presents exhibitions of its members to promote awareness of modern art. Norwich was home to the first arts festival in Britain in 1772.
Norwich Arts Centre is a notable live music venue, concert hall and theatre located in St Benedict's Street. OPEN in Bank Plain is a large, popular music and conference venue and the King of Hearts in Fye Bridge Street is another centre for art and music. Norwich has a thriving music scene based around local venues such as the University of East Anglia LCR, Norwich Arts Centre, The Waterfront, The Owl Sanctuary, Epic Studios and The Blueberry. Live music, mostly contemporary musical genres, is also to be heard at a number of other public house and club venues around the city. The city is host to many artists that have achieved national and international recognition such as Cord, The Kabeedies, Serious Drinking, Tim Bowness, Sennen, Magoo and KaitO. Norwich is also the home of jazz and blues vocalist
Albert Cooper (born 1931), who has performed on innumerable occasions in the city since 1954.
Norwich was selected to host the 2015 BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend. The event was held on 23–24 May in Earlham Park.
Established record labels in Norwich include; All Sorted Records, NR ONE,
Hungry Audio and Burning Shed.
British artist Stella Vine lived in Norwich from the age of seven, including for a short while in Argyle Street, Norwich and again later in life with her son Jamie. Vine depicted the city in a large painting, Welcome to Norwich a fine city (2006).
Norwich has theatres ranging in capacity from 100 to 1,300 seats and offering a wide variety of programmes. The Theatre Royal is the largest and has been on its present site for nearly 250 years, through several rebuildings and many alterations. It has 1,300 seats and hosts a mix of national touring productions including musicals, dance, drama, family shows, stand-up comedians, opera and pop.
The Maddermarket Theatre opened in 1921 and was the first permanent recreation of an Elizabethan theatre. The founder was Nugent Monck who had worked with William Poel. The theatre is a Shakespearean-style playhouse and has a seating capacity of 310. Norwich Puppet Theatre was founded in 1979 by Ray and Joan DaSilva as a permanent base for their touring company and was first opened as a public venue in 1980, following the conversion of the medieval church of St. James in the heart of Norwich. Under subsequent artistic directors — Barry Smith and Luis Z. Boy — the theatre established its current pattern of operation. It is a nationally unique venue dedicated to puppetry, and currently houses a 185-seat raked auditorium, the 50-seat Octagon Studio, workshops, an exhibition gallery, shop and licensed bar. It is the only theatre in the Eastern region with a year-round programme of family-centred entertainment. Norwich Arts Centre theatre opened in 1977 in St Benedict's Street, and has a capacity of 290. The Norwich Playhouse, which opened in 1995 and has a seating capacity of 300, is a venue in the heart of the city and one of the most modern performance spaces of its size in East Anglia.
The Garage studio theatre can seat up to 110 people in a range of layouts. It can also be used for standing events to accommodate up to 180 people. Platform Theatre is in the grounds of the City College Norwich. Productions are staged mainly during the autumn and summer months. The theatre is raked and seats about 250 people. On 20 April 2012, the theatre held a large relaunch event with an evening performance, show-casing it at its best with previews of upcoming performances and scenes from some of its past performances.
The Whiffler Theatre was built in 1981 and was given to the people of Norwich by the local newspaper group Eastern Daily Press. It is an open-air facility in Norwich Castle Gardens, with fixed-raked seating for up to 80 people and standing for another 30 on the balcony. The stage is brick-built and has its dressing-rooms set in a small building to stage left. The Whiffler mainly plays host to small Shakespeare productions. Sewell Barn Theatre is the smallest theatre in Norwich and has a seating capacity of just 100. The auditorium features raked seating on three sides of an open acting space. This unusual staging helps to draw the audience closer into the performance.
Public performance spaces include the Forum in the city centre, which has a large open-air amphitheatre, hosting performances of many types throughout the year. Additionally, the cloisters of Norwich Cathedral are used for open-air performances as part of an annual Shakespeare festival.
Norwich has a number of important museums which reflect the rich history of the city and of Norfolk as well as wider interests. The largest is the Norwich Castle Museum. This has extensive collections of archaeological finds from the county of Norfolk, of art (including a fine collection of paintings by the Norwich School of painters), of ceramics (including the largest collection of British teapots), of silver, and of natural history. Of particular interest are dioramas of Norfolk scenery, showing wildlife and landscape. It has been extensively remodelled to enhance the display of the many collections and hosts frequent temporary exhibitions of art and other subjects.
Dragon Hall, Norwich, a mediaeval merchant's house. Taken on the 2006 Sponsored Bike Ride for The Norfolk Churches Trust, 2006-09-09. View from King Street of house front, sign hanging from iron dragon reads 'Dragon Hall'.
The Museum of Norwich (until 2014 called The Bridewell Museum), in Bridewell Alley, was closed in 2010 for a major refurbishment of the building and overhaul of the displays, and re-opened in July 2012. There are several galleries and groups of displays. These include "Life in Norwich: Our City 1900–1945"; "Life in Norwich: Our City 1945 Onwards"; and "England's Second City" depicting Norwich in the 18th century. "Made in Norwich", "Industrious City" and "Shoemakers" have exhibits connected with the historic industries of Norwich, including weaving, shoe and boot making, iron foundries and the manufacture of metal goods, engineering, milling, brewing, chocolate-making and other food manufacturing. "Shopping and Trading" contains exhibits from the early 19th century to the 1960s.
Strangers' Hall, at Charing Cross, is one of the oldest buildings in Norwich: a merchant's house dating from the early 14th century. The many rooms are furnished and equipped in the styles of different eras, from the Early Tudor to the Late Victorian. Exhibits include costumes and textiles, domestic objects, children's toys and games, and children's books. The last two collections are considered to be of national importance.
The Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum was, until 2011, housed in part of the former Shirehall, close to the castle. Although archives and the reserve collections are still held in the Shirehall, the principal museum display there closed in September 2011 and was relocated to the main Norwich Castle Museum, reopening fully in 2013. Its exhibits illustrate the history of the regiment from its 17th-century origins to its incorporation into the Royal Anglian Regiment in 1964, along with many aspects of military life in the regiment. There is an extensive and representative display of medals awarded to soldiers of the regiment, including two of the six Victoria Crosses won.
The City of Norwich Aviation Museum is located at Horsham St. Faith, on the northern edge of the city and close to Norwich Airport. There are static displays of both military and civil aircraft, together with various collections of exhibits, including one concerned with the United States 8th Army Air Force.
A house in the Cathedral close in Norwich.
The John Jarrold Printing Museum, at Whitefriars, is dedicated to the history of printing and contains many examples of printing machinery, presses, books, and related equipment, and is considered to be of both national and international importance. Exhibits range in date from the early 19th century to the present day and, as well as static exhibits, machinery and equipment is demonstrated in use. Many were donated by Jarrold Printing. In November 2018, redevelopment plans for the museum site caused some uncertainty about its future, but it has been announced that the museum will be relocated in the new development. However, the proposed new museum will occupy a considerably smaller space, and concerns remain about the future number and scope of the exhibits. Of particular concern is the possible loss of the facility to demonstrate working machinery.
Dragon Hall, in King Street, is a fine example of a medieval merchants' trading hall. Mostly dating from about 1430, it is unique in Western Europe. In 2006 the building underwent a thorough restoration. Its magnificent architecture is complemented by displays showing the history of the building and its role in the life of Norwich through the ages. The Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service Costume and Textiles Study Centre, at the Shirehall in Market Avenue, contains an extensive collection of more than 20,000 items, built up over a period of some 130 years, and previously kept in other Norwich museums. Although not a publicly open museum in the usual sense, the collection is accessible to the general public, students, researchers and others by prior appointment.
Norwich has three cinema complexes. Odeon Norwich is located in the Riverside Leisure Centre, Vue in the Castle Mall and Hollywood Cinema at Anglia Square, north of the city centre. Cinema City is an art-house cinema showing non-mainstream productions operated by Picturehouse on St Andrews Street opposite St Andrew's Hall, whose patron was actor John Hurt. Owing to its agricultural history, Norwich has a large number of pubs throughout the city. Prince of Wales Road in the city centre, running from the Riverside district near Norwich railway station to Norwich Castle, is home to many pubs, bars and clubs.
Media and film
Anglia House, the headquarters of Anglia Television, today ITV Anglia
Norwich is the headquarters of BBC East, its presence in the east of England, and BBC Radio Norfolk, BBC Look East, Inside Out and The Politics Show are all broadcast from BBC studios in The Forum. Independent radio stations based in Norwich include Heart, Smooth Radio, 99.9 Radio Norwich, and the University of East Anglia's Livewire 1350, an online station. A community station, Future Radio, was launched on 6 August 2007.
ITV Anglia, formerly Anglia Television, is based in Norwich. Although one of the smaller ITV companies, it supplied the network with some of its most popular shows such as Tales of the Unexpected, Survival and Sale of the Century (1971–1983), which began each edition with John Benson's enthusiastic announcement: "And now from Norwich, it's the quiz of the week!" The company also had a subsidiary called Anglia Multimedia, which produced educational content on CD and DVD mainly for schools, and was one of the three companies, along with Granada TV and the BBC vying for the right to produce a digital television station for English schools and colleges.
Launched in 1959, Anglia Television lost its independence in 1994 following a takeover by Meridian Broadcasting and subsequent mergers have seen it reduced from a significant producer of programmes to a regional news centre. The company is still based in Anglia House, the former Norfolk and Norwich Agricultural Hall, on Agricultural Hall Plain near Prince of Wales Road. However, despite the contraction of Anglia, television production in Norwich has by no means ended. Anglia's former network production centre at Magdalen Street has been taken over by Norfolk County Council and extensively re-vamped. After a total investment of £4 million from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) it has re-opened as Epic Studios (East of England Production Innovation Centre). Degree courses in film and video are also run at the centre by Norwich University of the Arts. Epic has commercial, broadcast quality post-production facilities, a real-time virtual studio and a smaller HD discussion studio. The main studio opened as an HD facility in November 2008. Throughout 2008, the centre has concentrated on the development of new TV formats and has worked on pilot shows with Les Dennis, Gaby Roslin and Christopher Biggins.
Archant publishes two daily newspapers in Norwich, the Norwich Evening News, and the regional Eastern Daily Press (EDP), and had its own television operation, Mustard TV, which has now closed after being bought out by the That's TV group. Mustard TV is now
The character of Alan Partridge in the sitcom I'm Alan Partridge (1997–2002) and the comedy film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) is a Norwich broadcaster played by Steve Coogan.
Because Norwich was England's second city during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, it has, though little acknowledged, a number of significant associations with esoteric spirituality. It was the home of William Cuningham, a physician who published An Invective Epistle in Defense of Astrologers in 1560. The Elizabethan dramatist Robert Greene, author of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, was born in Norwich in 1558. The city was also the retirement residence of Arthur Dee (died Norwich, 1651) the eldest son of the alchemist John Dee
The Layer Monument, marble polychrome c. 1600
Norwich was also the residence of the physician and hermetic philosopher Sir Thomas Browne, author of The Garden of Cyrus (1658). Many influential esoteric books-titles are listed as once in Browne's library. His coffin-plate, on display at the church of St Peter Mancroft, alludes to Paracelsian medicine and alchemy. Translated from Latin it reads, Great Virtues, … sleeping here the dust of his spagyric body converts the lead to gold. Browne is also a significant figure in the history of physiognomy.
The Church of St John Maddermarket's graveyard includes the Crabtree headstone, which has the pre-Christian symbol of the Ouroboros along with Masonic Square and Compasses carved upon it. Housed within the church there is the Layer Monument, a rare example of an alchemical mandala in European funerary art.
From 1787 the congregation of the New Jerusalem Church of Swedenborgians, followers of the mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, worshipped at the church of St. Mary the Less; in 1852 they moved to Park Lane, Norwich to establish the Swedenborgian Chapel.