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Originally published 2019
For the 2019 Norfolk and Norwich Festival Director Daniel Brine wanted to curate a programme exploring the idea of Border Crossings in order to celebrate stories of the people that make the city and the stories of those beyond it.
Undoubtedly this idea called for a festival commission for an opening event which needed to boldly represent this spectacular contemporary issue as well as living up to the high expectations which the community in Norwich have come to expect from this annual festival. Not only did it have to mark the start of this jam-packed festival extravaganza which was filled to the brim of eye-opening acts, it was important to begin with an event which would spark the fascination of an audience in a daring fashion.
So it seemed fitting that tightrope walker and locally born Chris Bullzini perform an ambitious high-wire walk spanning the centre of the city in front of thousands to launch the seventeen day event. Bullzini himself commented that prior to the event he was very conscious that it was important for people to see the beauty in the act opposed to feeling continuously nervous at the sheer feat of the task.
The once-in-a lifetime experience which was accompanied by an atmospheric live soundscape sparked a social media frenzy of this picturesque act sixty six foot above the city in which those stood in awe at the stunt. The scale of the social media engagement from the public only reiterated the sense of the magnitude of the walk.
Victoria Abbot and Helen Atkinson worked in collaboration in order to orchestrate the soundscape which in their words sought to exemplify the history of city and its people engaging the crowds in an intense nail biting environment. Sophie Little from BBC Radio Norfolk reported live from the event narrating every step of the journey and it was obvious from audible silence of those watching that there was a palpable sense of excitement surrounding the event.
“That tightrope walk was for all of you to bring us all a moment of balance and to welcome in the beginning of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.” Chris Bullzini
The accessibility of the outdoor festival launch liberated the performative wire-act from the indoors, to capture audiences and communities’ attention in order to perpetuate a sense of excitement for the upcoming celebration of music, art and theatre from the region and across the world.
Ahead of the act Bullzini expressed a fascination of the imagery that would be created by his walk across the city, detailing in an interview with the Eastern Daily Press that his excitement stemmed from the idea of the solidarity lone figure walking through the space, and the gentleness that the spectacle would provoke for the onlooking crowds. At the end of the walk those watching erupted with enthusiasm at the completion of a seemingly impossible walk, signalling a joyful beginning of festivities.
Those who have witnessed the event can agree it marked a spectacular beginning to another remarkable festival and will be remembered as a courageous act for years to come. ML