Whatever Happens in Norwich?

There is an old stereotype about Norwich that nothing ever really happens here; I remember when I told my Dad that I wanted to go to UEA he was delighted because, being such an out of the way place, it was one of the safest cities in the country.

Now it’s true that due to our location in the odd bump of the east of England that very few people ever just happen to be passing through Norwich, but we’re far from a provincial backwater.

In the last month, I have met not one but two of my personal heroes at events in Norwich. A couple of weeks ago I attended one of the Dragon Hall debates (regular open to the public discussions on varying topics hosted by the Norwich Writers’ Centre in their medieval Dragon Hall) and had the excellent fortune to have a chance to chat with Cambridge Classicist and TV historian Mary Beard.

The event had been a discussion on the topic of internet censorship and how we can protect those targeted by internet trolls. Dr. Beard has talked extensively about women and their treatment in social media and it was amazing to get the chance to speak to her about it in person. Luckily this was one of those instances where meeting people you admire doesn’t diminish your opinion of them.

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This week I then had the opportunity of attending the launch of the poet Simon Armitage’s new collection. Anyone who has done English GCSE’s will have come across Armitage’s work but what really got me hooked on his poetry were his translations of Medieval texts such as ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’.

It’s a mark of just how well regarded Norwich is in literary circles that a poet as famous and celebrated as Armitage chose to launch his new collection here with a local Norwich printing press rather than in Oxford for example, where he currently works at the university.

I was perhaps slightly less eloquent when I had the chance to meet him at the end of the event but he was still very kind and I came away happy with my signed book.

Now, I realise that a classicist and a poet are perhaps slightly niche interests but they demonstrate that Norwich is a place where great thinkers and artists want to come to discuss their works – but they are by no means the only people either. The music scene in Norwich is also flourishing; Laura Marling performed at the Waterfront this week and Little Mix will be here later in the year.

Norwich is a safe city, but we’re by no means a sleepy one.

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The wonderful Book Hive which published Simon Armitage’s new collection (the Michael Gove quote is my favourite)

Days Out in Norwich: The Castle

It has been a point of embarrassment for some time now that as someone who claims to have a particular interest in the Middle Ages, I had yet to visit Norwich Castle.

Thankfully, this wrong has finally been righted.

I had hoped to go to Cromer last weekend but sadly a storm rolled in from the North Sea, as they are want to do around our exposed bit of coastline, and we had to call the day off. However, Norwich Castle turned out to be a far larger complex than expected, and rather than just filling an hour or two, my family and I spent almost our entire day there.

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Initially as you approach the castle it seems very squat and unimpressive compared to the later medieval castles you may have seen. Built initially around 1067, the castle has overlooked Norwich’s market area, known as Tombland, for almost a millennia. However, once you have entered via the bridge which crosses what remains of the moat, you will be astounded to see just how extensive the complex is.

Besides the castle keep, which contains the exhibits about medieval life in Norwich, there are a warren of other galleries ranging in focus from the history of the Iceni tribe in East Anglia to Ancient Egypt. There is also a natural history museum area in which the taxidermy collections of eccentric Victorians are kept – they even have a stuffed polar bear.

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Getting into the castle may seem a bit expensive at first but there is so much to do that it is a whole day’s worth of entertainment, and for younger family members there are often activities and special events to keep them amused; my visit happened to coincide with a workshop run by UEA Drama students in which they dressed up and re-enacted Viking life in Norwich.

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Overall, I would thoroughly recommend checking out this piece of Norwich history during your time here – but maybe wait until your parents visit and can buy the tickets…