What's On in May

26 April 2024

What’s On in May

May in Norwich is looking very, very busy, which means there is plenty to look forward to! From one of the biggest and most-anticipated festivals in the East of England, to new exhibitions, historic anniversaries, and much more, read on to find out what’s on in the coming month here in Norwich!

The Norfolk & Norwich Festival returns!

The much-loved and ever-popular Norfolk & Norwich Festival – the biggest international arts festival in the East of England – makes its return for its 252nd year this May (Friday, May 10 – Sunday, May 26). Yes, you read that correctly, it’s one of the country’s longest-running arts festivals! For 17 days each May, the Festival transforms public spaces around the city and county to bring people together to experience these inspirational variety of events.

There are over 100 events to see across both the city and county with a range of free and paid for activities, performances, talks, and more. The Festival always has something for everyone to enjoy, so it’s worth taking a look at their programme and coming along, especially since some may never be seen in Norwich and Norfolk again!

This year’s highlights include Mo & The Red Ribbon’ (Friday, May 10, 9pm, FREE), which is the opening event as part of the Welcome Weekend. During this show, lasting approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes, you’ll follow a giant 8.5-metre-tall puppet called Mo from Westlegate to The Forum, as he journeys towards a new life. Experience migration from a child’s perspective in this emotional story, which ultimately offers an optimistic look at the world we inhabit and who we share it with. We spoke with the Norfolk & Norwich Festival and L’Homme Debout, creators of the show, to find out more.

A giant puppet walks through a crowd of people

The Norfolk & Norwich Festival is not to be missed, especially not ‘Mo & The Red Ribbon’!

If you’re in Norwich, keep your eyes peeled over the weekend of Saturday, May 11 – Sunday, May 12 for the rest of the Welcome Weekend performances, which will see pop-up shows take place across the city for FREE. There’s nine in total, so get ready to explore and enjoy these wonderful street performances!

Finally, if you really love music, you can’t miss ‘268 Years of Reverb’ (Saturday, May 18, 2pm). In this world premiere, you can enjoy a new 8-hour durational work written by Jonny Greenwood of ‘Radiohead’ and ‘The Smile’ performed live on the Octagon Chapel’s pipe organ. Performed from daylight through to sunset by James McVinnie and Eliza McCarthy, this experience can be enjoyed for the full length of the performance, or for 1 hour 50-minute time slots. It sounds like an incredible spectacle, and really not one to be missed, especially if you’re a fan.

Sainsbury Centre – The Camera Never Lies: Challenging Images through The Incite Project

A new edition is joining the Sainsbury Centre for their six-month long investigation into the question of ‘What is Truth?’. In ‘The Camera Never Lies: Challenging Images through The Incite Project’ (Saturday, May 18 – Sunday, October 20), the most iconic images of the past 100 years will be re-evaluated to explore the impact and influence photography has had on shaping – and in some cases distorting the narrative of major global events.

This exhibition will feature more than 100 works by legendary photographers including Don McCullin, Stuart Franklin, Robert Capa, and Dorothea Lange, as well as modern practitioners, looking at how single photographs came to represent and define events through their repeated use in print journalism, and how narratives are shaped by them during (and long after) the events depicted have occurred.

The second part of the exhibition will look at how modern practitioners are using research to inform their imagery, and how they work with much more agency than in the past century. It’s going to be a truly fascinating exhibition as you reflect on the photography surrounding these historic events and our daily lives.

Be sure to explore the rest of the Sainsbury Centre, including their permanent collection with objects spanning thousands of years, and the Sculpture Park, their 350-acres of parkland filled with breathtaking sculptures from Antony Gormley, Lynn Chadwick, Elisabeth Frink, and many more. Plus, with the Sainsbury Centre’s ‘Pay If and What You Can’ scheme, you can enjoy this day out at a price that suits you, including for free!

A man stands in front of five tanks.

The Sainsbury Centre’s fascinating exhibition will question what we know to be true from the media.

Yalm – Inside Out

Celebrate the Early May Bank Holiday weekend in style with Yalm. Based in the Royal Arcade, Yalm is a foodhall which serves some incredibly tasty dishes in a casual environment. If you’re yet to visit, you really have to. There are dishes for all cravings from a multitude of kitchens, and you can pick and choose what you want from each of them from your phone!

Even better – for the Bank Holiday weekend (Friday, May 3 – Sunday, May 5), Yalm will be moving their bars and food outside once the shops have closed for the day. The launch event on Friday, May 3 will kick off with a very special collaboration barbecue from Yalm-based kitchen Souk and Rollin Embers, a local fire-led catering business. There will also be a barbecue from fellow Yalm-based kitchen, The Bodega, on the Sunday, alongside an outdoor bar and a host of DJs and bands to entertain across the weekend.

If you’d rather sit inside, fear not, their food and drinks will still be running there too, and orders can be made to the extra seating outdoors, so everyone can enjoy the long weekend however they’d like!

A foodhall of people sit eating and chatting.

Be sure to visit Yalm this May bank holiday and enjoy new food and music!

Royal Arcade – 125th Anniversary Commemoration

It’s a monumental May for the Royal Arcade as they celebrate the 125th anniversary of this iconic Norwich landmark on what also would’ve been Queen Victoria’s 205th birthday (Friday, May 24, 11am – 3pm). The day will include a ribbon-cutting event at its Gentleman’s Walk entrance that will feature morris dancing accompanied by a traditional concertina player, re-enactors in Victorian costumes, a gin and tea party, plus special offers from all of the Royal Arcade’s stores! The Royal Arcade will also be specially decorated with red, white, and blue bunting and ribbons to mark the occasion.

The Royal Arcade’s historic 125th anniversary celebrations aren’t one to miss this May!

Norwich Cathedral – Bishop’s House Garden Open Day

Hidden away within the gorgeous grounds of Norwich Cathedral, you’ll find the Bishop’s House and Garden. Usually these are both closed to the public, but for the first time this year and for one day only, you’ll be able to visit the beautiful four-acre garden, and it’s all for a good cause too! (Sunday, May 12 – 1pm – 4:30pm)

Many locals don’t even know this garden is here, so it’s a real hidden gem of Norwich and a must-see. Here, you’ll find rare shrubs, rose beds, a meadow labyrinth, a bamboo walk, a herb garden, and even a bush that was grown from a sprig of Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet!

When inside the Bishop’s Garden, you’ll also be able to buy a range of cakes, teas, coffees, plants, and there’ll even be activities and entertainment fit for the whole family. Don’t miss the opportunity to see this lesser known but stunning part of the Cathedral! Entry to this private garden costs £5, with all proceeds going to the Norwich Samaritans.

A Cathedral stands tall above the horizon.

Discover the unspoilt hidden garden of Norwich Cathedral in the coming month.

Norwich Castle – SUNLIGHT by Roger Ackling

A new exhibition is coming to Norwich Castle (Saturday, May 18 – Sunday, September 22)! SUNLIGHT is the first major survey of the work of British artist Roger Ackling and the most significant exhibition of his work yet. For 50 years, the late, great Roger Ackling made objects by burning wood – focussing sunlight through the lens of a hand-held magnifying glass to scorch patterns of lines on the surface.

Now, SUNLIGHT at Norwich’s iconic castle will introduce Ackling’s work to a new generation of audiences, prompting conversations about the object, its material, the processes of making, and the power of display. Best of all, admission into this exhibition is free with your ticket into Norwich Castle! Tickets can be purchased for £7.80 for adults and £6.60 for children aged 4-18, but adults can get a discounted family ticket of £6.90 with a paid child ticket.

A castle standing tall from below.

Norwich Castle’s new exhibition honours Roger Ackling as the first significant exhibition of his work to date.

Norwich Games Festival 2024

This May, there’s a special return in the city as the Norwich Games Festival comes back to The Forum for the first time in four years (Thursday, May 30 – Saturday, June 1)! This much-loved city centre Festival gives everybody the chance to get involved and have a go with hands-on gameplay, including retro arcades, fully immersive VR, as well as industry events from workshops to networking.

Whether you’re a committed hobbyist gamer or a total beginner, everyone is welcome to come along and try something new – though this Festival is particularly exciting for anyone looking to work in the gaming industry as there’ll be plenty of experts in attendance! Over these three days, visitors can learn about every aspect of gaming, including art, storytelling, coding, and design.

This year’s Norwich Games Festival includes plenty of free activities, found from 10am – 4pm in The Forum’s main atrium which will be packed full of stalls and stands with video game testing and gameplay, as well as arts and crafts. There will also be the chance to speak with local colleges and the Norwich University of the Arts, who will share top tips and practical steps on how to have a career in gaming.

There will also be a range of ticketed events, including the preview events ‘Board Game Design Masterclass‘ (Saturday, May 18)  and live comedy gameshow ‘WiFi Wars‘ (Wednesday, May 29), which both take place before the Festival to give you a taste of what’s to come! Expect to see a whole host of even more events throughout the Festival, which include plenty for families to enjoy, as well as events designed exclusively for adults. For more information, visit the Norwich Games Festival website and keep your eyes peeled for the full programme, which will be released in early May!

A Commodore computer.

This year’s Norwich Games Festival has it all, from retro arcade gaming to informative talks on how to make a career in gaming!