Melvin Bragg Holt Festival

Few festivals can boast a line up that features a former deputy leader of the Labour party, some original punk bad boys, an internationally acclaimed subversive singing sensation, visual art from some of the best known artists in world art history and a world-famous scientist in discussion with one of TV and radio’s most recognisable names. But Holt Festival in North Norfolk can.

Winner of the 2013 EDP Peoples Choice Award, over its eight days the sixth Holt Festival, running from Saturday 19th to Sunday 27th July, hopes to include ‘something for everyone’. The Georgian North Norfolk town becomes a hotbed of artistic activity for people of all ages and tastes with international music, drama, visual art, dance, comedy, free street entertainment, kids shows and workshops.

This year there are 5 headline events at the Theatre In The Woods at Greshams. American comedian and musician Rich Hall accompanied by his full band on Friday 25th. The following day Copenhagen born writer comedian and radio and TV broadcaster Sandi Toksvig takes to the stage. That evening it’s the turn of The Bad Shepherds featuring Adrian Edmondson with their distinctive interpretations of punk and new wave anthems in an impassioned folk influenced style. Support comes from the original new wave maverick Wreckless Eric, named by artist Peter Blake as ‘one of the most important pop icons of the past forty years’.

On Sunday 27th July, the Festival hosts a debate on religion and belief between broadcaster, and writer Melvyn Bragg and committed atheist, evolutionary biologist, and writer Richard Dawkins. Sunday night Festival headliners are The Stranglers who come to Holt for their 40th anniversary with a promise to play a selection of material from every studio album of their career.

The event also welcomes music of many styles and tastes with the Festival opening on July 19th with a big welcome back for Kit & McConnel. Parisian electro pop trio We Were Evergreen fuse the French lyrical tradition with an Anglo-pop sensibility and Cornish/Irish oufit Winter Mountain bring melodic folk music. Classical music is ably represented by The Heath Quartet whilst Festival favourites The Orchestra of The Swan will be performing Vaughan Williams’ uplifting The Lark Ascending, amongst other pieces. Dutch reed quintet Calefax will be joined by mezzo-soprano Cora Burggraaf for an affectionate look at the music of the roaring twenties.

Melanie Pappenheim, Sophie Harris and Ian Belton provide a programme to celebrate their long friendship with works written for them by some of today’s most eminent composers including a world premiere from pianist and composer Rolf Hind. International singing sensation post, post post-modern showgirl Meow Meow descends upon Holt Festival as well as huge voiced jazz singer Sarah Jane Morris brings her international Fallen Angel Band. Singer-songwriter and pianist Joe Stilgoe performs a mix of jazz standards and his own originals and Gagglebabble bring their cult rock musical The Bloody Ballad.

Literature and spoken word is represented this year with debates from Anthony Lentin who discusses his book about Sir Edgar Speyer, accused of being a German spy during WW1. Roy Hattersley talks about his history of the Devonshires of Chatsworth Hall with former ITN Political Editor Michael Brunson. Actress Diana Quick interviews novelist Raffaella Barker. David Starkey will discuss The Tudors, a period he describes as a ‘glorious soap opera’.

Poet, critic, broadcaster, anthologist and editor Sean O’Brien will read while best selling author Salley Vickers will read selected passages from her novels and answer questions. Theatrical performance of great works include John Hurt starring in White Rabbit, Red Rabbit Norfolk based theatre company curious directive perform a preview of their Edinburgh show Pioneer while Lucy Hopkins presents Le Foulard (Art Show) and magician Ben Hart brings to the stage his show, The Outsider.

On Sunday the 20th of July The Festival is also teaming up with Great Yarmouth’s Seachange Arts to present a spectacular day of free family entertainment throughout the town. Holt Festival is generously supported by Gresham’s School. The Festival acknowledges financial support from Orchestras Live, North Norfolk District Council, Seachange Arts, ZEPA and Norfolk County Council.

 For details of all these and many other Holt Festival events, and to book, visit

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