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New Colchester festival celebrates Essex folklore and provides a cultural focus for the county

PUBLISHED: 19:18 27 August 2019

Colchester is hosting 'A Festival of Colchester' exploring our East Anglian heritage 

Photo: Mark Bullimore

Colchester is hosting 'A Festival of Colchester' exploring our East Anglian heritage Photo: Mark Bullimore

Archant Norfolk 2015

Colchester is launching a new three week festival which seeks to shine a spotlight on the arts throughout the town. We take a look at this year's diverse programme which has folklore as its theme

Beowulf and other elelemnts of East Anglia folklore are explored in the new Colchester Arts Festival which runs for the next three weeks.Beowulf and other elelemnts of East Anglia folklore are explored in the new Colchester Arts Festival which runs for the next three weeks.

Colchester is known for many things. It was once the capital of Roman Britain, it was then famous being trashed by Boudica during the Iceni revolt against Roman rule, it's was then widely recognised as being Britain's oldest town and now it is looking to establish itself as a major festival town.

This year sees the launch of "A Festival of Colchester", which the organisers have ambitious plans for it to be seen as being comparable to events like the Norfolk & Norwich Festival and the Salisbury International Arts Festival within a few years.

The festival will run for three weeks from Friday August 23 to Sunday September 15. The 24 day arts festival has been launched by Destination Colchester, the independent organisation set up to promote Colchester as a tourist destination, and is supported by Colchester Borough Council and all the town's main cultural venues.

In its first year the festival, has brought under one umbrella an extraordinary wealth of arts and heritage related events that Colchester routinely offers, adding a selection of community-led activities and specially invited performances, and has packaged them into a programme of more than 100 events.

Phoebe Waller Bridge's live performnace of her hit play Fleabag, the inspiration for the TV series, is being screened live as part of the new Colchester Arts Festival   Photographer: Luke VarleyPhoebe Waller Bridge's live performnace of her hit play Fleabag, the inspiration for the TV series, is being screened live as part of the new Colchester Arts Festival Photographer: Luke Varley

A printed programme is now available at the Visitor Information Centre, Colchester Arts Centre, Firstsite, theatres, galleries, most town centre restaurants and bars as well as many local shops.

Simon Taylor, chair of Destination Colchester, explained that "we started out with the intention of focusing on nursery rhymes, legends and storytelling, but there were so many high quality events that we didn't want to leave out and we had some brilliant event organisers asking if they could be included as well. So, while we've still got a strong folklore theme, what we have ended up with really does showcase the great place that Colchester is for enjoying the arts, culture and heritage. There really is something for everyone."

The programme includes indoor and outdoor theatre, film, guided tours, poetry readings, ghost hunts, comedy, classical music and jazz, the opening of the Colchester Oyster Fishery and the first weekend of the ever popular Heritage Open Days.

Some special highlights are:

BEYOND THE VISIBLE: Art, Artists and Enchantment

You may also want to watch:

President of the Royal Society of Literature, Professor Marina Warner explores the work of contemporary artists such as Paula Rego, Helen Chadwick and Kiki Smith, and places them in a context of fantastic fairy tales and their expression in the work of earlier visionaries. (Firstsite, August 29, tickets from Eventbrite)

THE GIFT

A new promenade play, presented by Castle Park Theatre, tells the story of the Castle's renovation in Georgian times by Charles Gray through the eyes of Sarah Webster, his long suffering wife. (Castle Park, 3-7 and 10-14 September, tickets from the Arts Centre)

AVIANTHROPY and the High Flying Ballad in The Earl of Mar's Daughter

Adrian May will sing this rarely-heard ballad in full and talk about bird, love and maturation symbolism. The mythic and historical elements of the long ballad and of ballads generally will be discussed. (Firstsite, September 1, tickets from Eventbrite)

THE HUM

A sound and movement trail app that guides users to a variety of locations around Colchester. At each location a soundtrack or narration describes and embellishes the everyday actions taking place. (Downloadable from the website)

THE EPIC NOW

This tells the story of Gilgamesh and Beowulf. Chris McCully presents a new translation of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, while Philip Terry reads from his Gilgamesh, Dictator. (Queen Street Brewhouse, September 2, free tickets from Eventbrite)

A pair of live screenings at Firstsite:

MARGARET ATWOOD in conversation, spanning the length of her career, her diverse range of works and why she has returned to the handmaid story, (September 10), and FLEABAG, the hilarious, award-winning, one-woman show that inspired the hit TV series, (September 12, tickets for both from Firstsite)

Events are listed at www.AFOC2019.events

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