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Storm set to batter Norfolk

Norfolk is bracing itself for the arrival of Storm Eunice, with winds of up to 80mph set to hit the county.

Public transport has been disrupted and many attractions have closed their doors as everyone battens down the hatches in preparation for what meteorologists say will be the worst storm to hit the UK in decades.

The county has been put under an amber warning, meaning it is quite likely that bad weather will affect people, possibly including travel delays, road and rail closures and power cuts.

It is still clearing up in places from Storm Dudley, which battered the coast last weekend and resorts including Cromer and Sheringham are ready for another pounding.

Cromer bore the brunt of Storm Dudley and is now ready for another battering from Storm Eunice. Photo: PAUL MACRO

Trains services have been disrupted with some services being cancelled and others changed to hourly or two hourly. Greater Anglia is asking people not to travel unless they have to and to check before setting off for the station.

KLM has announced that it will have no flights in and out of Norwich airport and motoring organisations and the police are telling folk to take great care if they have to travel on the roads.

All Norfolk’s recycling centres will be closed all day, as will all Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserves. Breydon Water has been closed to boats and Blickling Estate, Wroxham Barns and Bewilderwood have also shut up shop.

Love Light Norwich, an illuminated display on the city’s most iconic buildings has also been called of tonight but it is still scheduled for tomorrow.

The main force of the storm is set to hit around noon.

Festive pier show is a cracker

REVIEW

by RICHARD BATSON

Variety is the spice of life – and it is also giving us a bonus covid “booster” this Christmas.

For the Cromer Pier’s festive cocktail of comedy, music, magic and dance serves up a real tonic as the coronavirus lingers on.

It is a selection box of tasty treats that opens with a flurry of snowflakes, feathers, glitz and dancers signalling the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

The finale is an all-singing, all-dancing, all-clapping Sister Act routine. Sandwiched in-between is a slick slideshow including rock and roll, Christmas classics, ballet, illusion, fire-eating and laughter.

Magician Taylor Morgan. Picture: WILLIAM JARVIS

There is something for all tastes – whether you like hard-centre stand-up gags and pulsing dance music, or soft-centre seasonal sentiment in the shape of haunting harmonies and gentle but gasp-inducing tricks.

The glue holding it all together is resident compere Olly Day, whose cheeky banter with the audience, dad and cracker jokes, conjuring and crooning put him in the role of favourite uncle at the Christmas party.

His sidekick is pocket rocket 4ft 8in comic Jo Little, another pier returnee, who has an endless pot of quick-fire gags, many of them man-baiting, some self-deprecating. Her slightly edgy comedy is combined with a powerful singing voice shown in an impressive Edith Piaf song,

The main vocalists are a well-matched pairing of pier favourite Rob McVeigh, a versatile all-round performer  who also directs the show, and newcomer Hayley Moss – best known as the busking “street soprano” from Norwich but whose debut at the venue shows another  dimension to her talent.

As well as an angelic classical voice, she joins in the pop and rock numbers showcasing her dancing moves, too. Katherine Jenkins and Kylie Minogue in one package.

A sprinkle of magic comes from Taylor Morgan, who mystifies with cards, rings, balls and a disappearing lady; his performing partner Rebecca Foyle who fire eats in one stunning routine that combines her flaming sticks with cool ballet.

The cast in full festive feathers.
Heavenly voices sing Hallelujah.
Olly Day with Jo Little. All Pictures: WILLIAM JARVIS

But there is also magic in another show newcomer, a giant video wall where projections ranging from snowy mountains to Santa’s factory provide a stunning backdrop. Top marks to backstage crew member Will Jarvis for creating it.

A six-strong ensemble of dancers and singers add extra energy, atmosphere and spectacle, with musical direction from pier legend Nigel Hogg, stunning costumes from Rachel Dingle and some fantastic lighting, including some “performing icicles” from Amanda Hill.

Other highlights for me included spellbinding versions of Leonard Cohen’s Halleluiah, and a song I had never heard before, Light of the World by Lauren Daigle.

It’s a cracker of show that is a super seasonal  gift for all ages. No need to keep the receipt.

Cromer Pier Christmas Show runs until December 30. Tickets and timings at www.cromerpier.co.uk

The Pier summer show will open on July 2.  

Omicron case confirmed in north Norfolk

One of the eight cases of the new Omicron covid-19 variant announced yesterday has been confirmed as being in north Norfolk.

While the exact location of the case has not been revealed, officials said they had been in contact with the person who had tested positive and their household. Louise Smith, Norfolk’s director of public health, said the case was linked to known travel to South Africa.

She told the BBC that finding a case in the county was not a surprise.

“While new information is still coming in on this variant, the early evidence has clearly shown a high level of transmissibility, and as such we can expect positive cases to be identified across the country, including in our county,” she said.

She urged people to get vaccinated “as soon as possible” and to take up booster offers, which she said would help to “break the chain of transmission”.

The UK Health Security Agency says this brings the total number of confirmed cases of the new variant in England and Scotland to 22.

Ready for your close-up?

Fancy your five minutes on the silver screen?
Well you could have your chance as a new film being shot in Sheringham is looking for extras.

Norfolk-born film director Ella Glendining will be filming her BFI-funded short film in the town next Wednesday and Thursday (September 8 and 9) and is on the look out for extras for a couple of scenes.

Would-be actors of all ages are sought to for funeral scene and those in their 20s and 30s are needed to appear at a beach party.

Ella was named among Screen International’s Screen Stars of Tomorrow in 2020 and her new project tells the story of a disabled woman returning to her sleepy seaside hometown for a friend’s funeral.

Ella said: “I grew up in Elsing, near Dereham, but spent a lot of time in Sheringham in my late teens and early 20s as one of my best friends lives there. I am interested in telling regional stories about growing up in small towns and villages as ‘other’. I am disabled and all my work is somewhat linked to the disabled experience.

Ella Glendining is shooting a film in Sheringham.

“I adore Norfolk and Sheringham and, although I live in Brighton now, I am always looking for excuses to return.
“I am very inspired by the beauty of the Norfolk coast. The film is about a new mother feeling torn between her old life and her new, trying to discover her identity as a parent, and it’s also about love.”
Extras will not be paid but Ella hopes they will enjoy the experience of being on a film set.
If you’d like to be involved you can email ellaelsing@gmail.com

Cromer’s peerless pier show is back and flying high!

Oh, Cromer Pier show – it’s good to have you back, writes Richard Batson

After a lost summer laid waste by lockdowns, this cocktail of seaside stage tradition has returned in all its glory – with a few new twists to add to the flavour.

Animated backdrop projections add another dimension to an already multi-faceted masterpiece. And instead of two alternating shows, this year there are different guest performers every week to keep the show fresh through the whole season, which finishes on October 2.

Opening night kicked off with Tucker – a firm favourite of show fans returning with his brand of warm cheeky humour. He is a perfect foil for headliner host Phil Butler, another returnee whose talents as a comedian, magician, singer and dancer make him the perfect man to lead this traditional but modern variety show.

Show host Phil Butler. Picture: William Jarvis.

Vocalists Rob McVeigh and Marina Lawrence-Mahrra take the lead on pop and show songs including rousing numbers from the Greatest Showman and a pulsing Cuban sequence.

But the cast is most powerful when the team comes together during the big musical numbers such as Mary Poppins, Masquerade, and Les Miserables, which fill the stage with song, a talented team of dancers, stunning sets and colourful costumes adorned with feathers and sequins.

A very colourful Mary Poppins. Picture: William Jarvis.

Special mention must go to this year’s specialist act Duo Fusion UK – Connor Byrne and Tiffany Gaine – whose circus style aerial and acrobatic routines are mesmerising. The pair flew in unison over the front rows of the audience, and some of their contortions on stage drew audible gasps from the crowd.

There are no local children joining the cast this year, to lessen the covid-19 risk, and the “bubbled” stars are not doing their usual after-show mingling for the same reason, which is a shame because many feel like family friends we have known for years and enjoy catching up with. But they hope that will change as things progress.

Make sure you don’t arrive late – because the opening sequence on the projection screen taking us from a closed theatre to the current show’s revival is poignant and powerful – and a reminder of how glad we should be to have live variety back at the end of the pier.

For tickets and show details, including the line-up of guests, visit www.cromerpier.co.uk

Police move to allay dog theft fears

A rash of posts on social media provoking concerns about dog thieves has led to police issuing a statement to put minds at rest.

Community pages on sites such as Facebook have had lots of posts from dog walkers concerned about being targeted by thieves and apocryphal reports of attempts to take dogs by force, but police have quashed these, saying there have been no such crimes reported to them.

“We are aware of concerns and rumours circulating on social media about dogs being stolen or men in a van, including a van allegedly marked with the RSPCA logo, acting suspiciously around people out walking with their dogs.

“Please know there haven’t been any crimes recorded this week that relate to dog thefts nor have we received any reports of dogs being stolen from a property or while out walking with their owners over the last week.”

It went on to say that one person in North Walsham had reported a man in a Transit van asking questions about their dog, but no further reports had been received.

The RSPCA also moved to quash rumours that dog thieves were posing as RSPCA inspectors, and the police statement added: “The RSPCA has told us that a number of incidents circulating on social media claiming people are impersonating their inspectors do not appear to have been actual cases of people trying to pass as bogus officials.

“It’s important to know there are very few incidents whereby an RSPCA officer will approach someone in public unless they witness animal cruelty or see an animal in immediate danger. Officers will also wear RSPCA brand clothing and always carry RSPCA identification. RSPCA officers do not have power of entry or seizure unless accompanied by a police officer.”

But while they said there was no increase in threats to pets in the area, police stressed that any incident or concern – especially anyone claiming to be from the RSPCA – should be reported to them by calling 101.

“Try to give us as much detail about the person or the vehicle they were in as you can. And do not hesitate to call us on 999 if a crime is happening and you need our help.”

Roxanne’s running to make memories

Unable to take part in the annual Memory Walk in aid of the Alzhheimer’s Society, Sheringham mum Roxanne Demmen decided to organise her own sponsored event to raise much-needed funds.

“My granddad had Alzheimer’s so every year we do the Memory Walk but this year it wasn’t happening so I thought I should do something,” she said. “I am currently running 5km five times a week for five weeks – I’ve called it the 555challenge.

“After losing our wonderful granddad a few years ago to this disease, and our other granddad now facing the same diagnosis, I know all too well how much this affects families.

“Memories are so precious, and this year has hit everyone hard, but the elderly haven’t been able to stay connected and sociable which has been devastating. Time is precious and we should make memories while we can.”

Roxanne with daughters Rosa and Fearne at one of the Memory Walks. This year they will be taking part in their own event to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society.

Roxanne, who worked at The Splash, has been joined on her runs by friends, family and well-wishers wanting to help. “It’s all about getting out and keeping active,” she said. “I’ve had people who don’t run, or don’t even jog coming along with me which is cool.”

And during the Easter holidays she will be joined by her daughters Rosa, aged nine, and seven-year-old Fearne, who will be on their bikes.

She says she is not a dedicated runner and that the regular runs are taking their toll, but in the past she has completed an ultra-marathon – a 30 mile race – so she thinks she will stay the course.

She has set up a Just Giving Page with a £200 target and she is already well on the way. Anyone wanting to give her a little push can click here

Fringe is back – online!

Norwich Fringe Festival is making a welcome return after six years – as an online TV channel.

The festival, which promotes the creativity and talent of people in Norwich and Norfolk, will be held from March 18 to 22, with all shows streamed live or pre-recorded from a special pop-up studio and from homes.

Fringe director Joseph Ballard said: “I’d been exploring options for resurrecting the city’s Fringe for a while and last year – whilst times were challenging for all of us – I wanted to connect creatives and makers of all artforms together.

“The people of the creative sector have been hit hard, with livelihoods disappearing almost overnight. Norwich Fringe is about supporting the creative community all year round and presenting a platform and nurturing stance for new work to reach new audiences.”

The shows – which will range from comedy and drama to magic and puppetry – will stream from 4pm to 10pm each day and tickets will be sold with a pay-what-you-can approach, ranging from £4 to £9 to last all day.

There will also be free activities on offer and a group exhibition and visual arts project will be launched soon.

The Fringe team – Joseph Ballard, Sam Webber and Molly Farley.

“The day ticket approach means that audiences can access the different shows over six hours,” said Joseph. “We wanted to make sure it remained accessible, hence the pay-what-you-can approach, remembering that all box office income will go to the creatives and makers, who are excited about being able to share their work with audiences and earn some much-needed income after other festivals, venues and theatres have remained closed for so long.”

The festival line-up includes acts from Norwich, Norfolk and further afield, including stand-up and a comedy night with Hooma Comedy Club, a Cabaret night hosted by Norfolk’s very own diva Titania Trust, mindreading from Alex McAleer, puppetry and magic, new plays and mixed media shows, and a showcase of work-in-development called Not The End to round off the four days.

Live improvised performance from Slovenian composer Jaka Škapin and live performances from Ghana and Zambia with the Sheba Soul Ensemble also feature.

The programme also includes the presentation of work from five artists and companies who received a Norwich Fringe Commission grant last year.

The Fringe producing team includes Joseph as director, along with Molly Farley and Sam Webber. It has been supported using public funding from Arts Council England and is also supported by Joseph’s theatre company, New Stages.

The full programme and tickets are available at www.norwichfringe.org.uk, with regular updates and special features via a mailing list and on social media. See @hinorwichfringe on Twitter and @norwichfringe on Facebook.