Thursday, 26 May 2016

Two More Shows and An Eggy Breakfast (at last!)

The second Wednesday of this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival starts for me in the Café-Bar of Norwich Arts Centre, which for the duration of the festival is transferred each morning into the gingham wonderland of breakfast-time delight that is the Egg Festival Café.

Conceived and staffed by the inimitable and irreplaceable Simon Floyd and Amanda Coleman from Norwich's 'The Common Lot', this started off almost as a performance art project, but has rapidly developed into the place to drop in for a fry-up, a pot of tea, and spot some special guests. I had been trying to get a group together to come here since the festival started - previous attempts fell apart when we firstly found out that Sunday is not a sunny-side-up day for the Egg Café, and then found that the first Saturday had been incredibly successful, to the point that we did not think it fair to hit Simon and Amanda with a large table order just one hour before our Garden Party volunteer shifts on the 21st.

So here we are (sorry Maggie, off I go again in my historical present!), finally gathered together to sample The Tray of Delights in its full glory, a fry-up worthy of the city's own Fry-up Inspector's exacting standards, and a beautifully brewed and presented pot of Rosie Lee.

It is relatively quiet when we walk in just after nine o'clock, but that soon changes as more of us arrive, and we pop a vinyl album onto the Crossley turntable. Simon takes our orders in his own incorrigible way, and I have to say that the service is all very organised and efficient. Today's 'celebrity' visitors include Caroline Richardson from The Norwich Playhouse, queen of poetry Esther Morgan, and guest waitress, Sian Croose of The Voice Project. Good old Norfolk boys 'The 2Kevs' have taken control of the turntable and have started their double act of music, wit and repartee.

Caroline sits at our table for a while, until management find her somewhere more refined in which to enjoy her cup of coffee. Esther recites one of her own poems, as well as the supremely appropriate 'Oatmeal' by Galway Kinnell, and Sian brings out the food and sings the Tray of Delights' each and every appearance, although I did find asking her to fetch and carry a little more intimidating. I really am not worthy to demand of her things as trivial as more milk or a replacement knife.

Esther Morgan lends a dignified presence to the Egg Festival Café

By eleven o'clock the tables are all taken, and more hungry diners are arriving, so we settle up our account and take our leave. If you have not visited the Festival Egg Café yet, then do so without delay. The food really is delicious. Last orders are on Saturday May 28th.

Fierce Light - one of the aerial photographs from the exhibition

If you have a spare half an hour or so to spare between now and the 28th, also pop along to Fierce Light at Norwich University of the Arts' East Gallery in St Andrews Street. A collection of World War 1 aerial reconnaissance photographs from 1916's Battle of The Somme form part of a moving exhibition co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW (the UK arts programme for the WW1 centenary), Writers' Centre Norwich, and the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. Each photograph has onto it engraved onto it one of
Simon Armitage's poems from the 'Still' collection. Poignant. A separate space within the gallery is showing four short films that view the Battle of The Somme from personal as well as present day location perspectives.

Tin Men and The Telephone (photo from artist's own website)

There are several shows on tonight, and I decide to try out my magic lanyard at The Playhouse for the first of two performances by Dutch jazz group, Tin Men And The Telephone. A groundbreaking mixture of great jazz improvisation and an audience-led composition workshop, the success of this production relies on audience members pre-loading a version of the 'Tinmendo' App onto their Apple or Android mobile phone. (Well that counts me out with my Windows-based Nokia phone. Thanks again Carphone Warehouse, you really stitched me up with that one).

Pianist Tony Roe, bassist Pat Cleaver and drummer Bobby Petrov start off by playing a clever piece that synchronises their music to a mashed-up video sequence from the Olympic tennis match between Maria Sharapova and Maria Kirilenko, before involving us in some Tinmendo options in selecting the outcome of their next piece. Other challenges involve allowing us to use the phone app to devise rhythm patterns, select chord progressions, and even compose a short melody, which are uploaded to the band's terminal and incorporated into a live improvised composition. So, so clever, and so much fun for those able to join in the process. One lucky audience member is allowed to 'direct' the sound mix by sending messages that brighten or dim a light bulb above each of the three performers instructing them to individually play either louder or softer. We conclude with an hilarious mash-up based on a viral YouTube video interview of an eye-witness account of a house fire.

You will need a suitable mobile phone and this app to get the most from the show

Tin Men and The Telephone are an extremely talented trio whose music demands a fuller and separate investigation, but this show will appeal to both jazz lovers and anyone with an interest in music composition. There is one last chance tonight at 7.30pm in Norwich, otherwise you will need to travel to Amsterdam in June to see them at the De Hallen Studios in June.

A short motorcycle ride from Colegate to Theatre Street allows me to reach the Adnams Spiegeltent in time to catch the performance from Texan-born singer songwriter Lera Lynn. She is well-known to fans of the HBO crime drama series True Detective - not only did Lera write many of the songs featured in the series but she would perform in episodes, similar to how Vonda Shepherd sang in the late 90's TV series Ally McBeal. Tonight she is backed a blazer-wearing three-piece band, and this is the first night of a UK tour.

Lera Lynn in the Adnams Spiegeltent

If I was expecting simply another female singer released from the studios of the music factory that is Nashville, Tennessee, then I was in for a very pleasant surprise. Not only can this lady sing, and write songs, but she plays a mean guitar to boot. Her sound is an alternating palette of light and dark. One minute she brings the pop-lightness of Taylor Swift to the stage only to be next plunged into a abyss of moodiness and darkness that reminds of Anna Calvi or PJ Harvey. On the central reservation she could pass other performers chasing the glory days of Sheryl Crow, and a cover of  Springsteen's 'Fire' shows that she can put her own mark on the classic tracks as well.

There is a nice connection with the audience in the Spiegeltent, perhaps helped by the fact that her tour manager is from Norwich, but I know that a lot of the audience were similarly impressed by her performance here tonight. Another name to add to the list of artists worth following. Watch out for her on 'Later with Jools Holland' on television next week.

Time for another pint of Adnams Ghost Ship in my special festival cup, and a chance to reflect on another great day with this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

To buy tickets for remaining festival events, go to -

Check out the Festival Egg Café Facebook page at  -

Learn about Tin Men and The Telephone at

Check out Lera Lynn at

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