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, with regular updates and special features via a mailing list and on social media. See @hinorwichfringe on Twitter and @norwichfringe on Facebook.

Warning over “treacherous” roads as temperatures plunge

Motorists are being advised to take extra care on Norfolk’s roads tonight as temperatures are expected to plummet, leading to treacherous and icy roads.

Although we can expect fewer snow showers – with more fine and dry weather forecast for the next few days –  temperatures will drop significantly below zero this evening and into tomorrow.

Driving conditions are likely to worsen as temperatures continue to fall and motorists are being urged to travel only if it is absolutely necessary. The plea comes at a time when any journey should be for a reasonable excuse under current lockdown rules.

T/Chief Insp Jason Selvarajah said: “We have seen the worst of the snow now but we’re still experiencing sub-zero temperatures and as we move into the evening, temperatures will drop further still. While the roads may look clearer there will be hidden dangers and motorists need to be cautious of black ice and treacherous road conditions, particularly on untreated roads.

“The best we can do is keep off the roads, but if your journey is absolutely necessary, please drive to the conditions. Emergency services, particularly our colleagues in the NHS, are stretched with the demands of covid-19 and we would ask people to play their part in this collective effort and do everything they can not to overburden these services unnecessarily.”

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: “It’s a bitterly cold night forecast and road surface temperatures are set to be well below freezing across the county, dipping to minus 9 in parts of west Norfolk.

 “The plunging temperatures are likely to be the main issue over the next 24 hours so highway teams will be continuing the huge efforts to keep the network running and will be gritting this afternoon, evening and overnight. With such low temperatures, anyone making an essential journey must take extra caution tonight, and on Thursday morning, even on the priority treated routes.”

Dr Anoop Dhesi, a local GP and chairman of the NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group said people with appointments for their covid-19 vaccinations should go if it was safe, but stressed: “If you have concerns about travelling don’t put yourselves at risk. Your appointment can be rebooked.”

And he added: “While we appreciate you may have to set off from home early due to the ice and snow, please try to arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. If you arrive before your appointment time please wait in your car. You could bring a blanket, a hot drink and a book or a newspaper to make your wait more comfortable.”

Council tax rise to be considered

County council budget proposals, including a 3.99pc rise in council tax, will be considered by the authority’s scrutiny committee this month.

The meeting, on Wednesday, February 17,  will scrutinise the cabinet’s proposed revenue and capital budgets for 2021/22, including proposed investments and savings.

Scrutiny committee chairman Steve Morphew said: “Lurching from one year to another is no way to run the finances of a council like Norfolk. We are facing challenges from all angles and need to make sure Norfolk people are getting the best possible services using their money wisely.

“That needs openness, transparency and honesty to enable the scrutiny committee to do its job on behalf of Norfolk. We all benefit from robust challenges to make sure genuine problems are tackled and not used as an excuse for inaction.”

The meeting will scrutinise:

  • the proposed £439m revenue budget – spending on services and running costs, funded by council tax, business rates and government funding. By law, this budget must always be balanced
  • proposals to raise general council tax by the government’s guideline figure – 1.99pc – and raise the adult social care precept by 2pc in 2021/22 and 1pc the following year. This would raise the county council’s overall share of council tax by 3.pc meaning a band D property’s payment would increase by £56.43 to £1,472.94 for 2021-22.
  • the proposed £537m capital budget – spending on infrastructure – funded by government grants, land sales and borrowing.

The revenue budget report says that the council has seen its government funding reduce by £92.8m since 2015, while cost pressures on children’s services and adults’ services rose by £40.1m last year alone.

People can submit questions to the committee via up until 5pm on Friday, February 12.

The final decision on the budget will be taken at the full council meeting at 10am on Monday, 22 February.

You can view the scrutiny committee’s reports and access the meeting, live from 10am on February 17 by clicking here.

Stay home, stay safe message as more snow arrives

People being urged to stay safe, and off the roads, as more snow arrived overnight.

Emergency services and local agencies are continuing to work together to help people to get around safely, but as storm Darcy brought more snow and freezing temperatures, many roads have been blocked by snow and some vaccination centres have had to close temporarily.

Norfolk police have attended a number of minor road collisions and emergency services are calling for people to delay their journeys if they can until the weather improves.

Stuart Ruff, chief fire officer, said: “We are seeing the impact of the severe bad weather across many parts of the county.  Some of our crews have been out this morning, helping to clear access roads so that the four vaccination centres can open in the Great Yarmouth area.

A snowy Sheringham looks lovely but please stay off the roads if possible, say emergency services. Photo: GARETH GABRIEL PHOTOGRAPHY

“If you do need to make an essential journey, please be mindful of the conditions, especially if you’re driving. The difficult weather increases the risk to everyone and the likelihood that our crews will be required to assist.”

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: “It has been an extremely busy week for all the Highways teams, who initially responded to reports of flooding, and more recently the high winds and snow conditions over the weekend.

“We’re working around the clock at the moment with ploughing teams and gritters, with support from farmers across the county, who have been helping to clear the network of snow since Sunday morning.”

Some NHS covid-19 testing centres across Norfolk and Waveney have been closed as a result of the weather, but people can expect to be referred to the nearest available alternative where needed.

T/Chief Inspector Jason Selvarajah, chair of the Norfolk Resilience Forum Strategic Coordination Group, said: “We saw weather conditions worsen overnight, as expected, and our priority continues to be that of keeping people safe during what is already a challenging time.

“There will be people trying to get to key places of work, and to support the very vulnerable, and for every additional person out and about, the risk to them and those trying to help them increases.

“With more snow predicted over the coming days, our message remains the same – if you don’t have to make that essential journey just yet, don’t do it; and we thank our communities and those working to help them for their cooperation and patience so far.”

Captain Tom dies at 100

Captain Sir Tom Moore, the 100-year-old who raised almost £33m for the NHS by walking laps of his garden, has died.

The army veteran, who once lived and worked in West Norfolk, captured the hearts of the nation after his attempt to raise £1,000 by walking up and down his garden caught the imagination and swelled into millions.

He had been treated for pneumonia over the past few weeks and last week tested positive for covid-19.

In a statement, his daughters said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our dear father, Captain Sir Tom Moore.

“We are so grateful that we were with him during the last hours of his life; Hannah, Benjie and Georgia by his bedside and Lucy on FaceTime.

“We spent hours chatting to him, reminiscing about our childhood and our wonderful mother. We shared laughter and tears together.

“The last year of our father’s life was nothing short of remarkable. He was rejuvenated and experienced things he’d only ever dreamed of.

“Whilst he’d been in so many hearts for just a short time, he was an incredible father and grandfather, and he will stay alive in our hearts forever.”

Temporary mortuary brought into use

The temporary mortuary at the former RAF Coltishall base, at Scottow, is being used for the first time since April.
Originally set up during the first lockdown, the facility was not needed then but is now being used as part of what have been called “business continuity plans”.
Dr Richard Goodwin, of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “Our priority is to always ensure that the deceased are treated with respect and dignity, and therefore we work with our partners to ensure every year we can use additional mortuary space, if needed.”
The mortuary has been called in to use partly to help with seasonal pressures and partly to allow the installation of new equipment at the N&N mortuary, which is still in use.
The hospital publishes daily figures on covid-related deaths on its website.
Yesterday it announced the deaths of 13 patients who had tested positive between January 12 and 13.

Some Christmas Eve magic…

Christmas eve is the perfect time to settle down with a story – especially if the little ones are too excited to go to bed…

During the first lockdown, Just Regional reader Robert Smith kept us amused with his father’s tales about the bunnies who live near his Sprowston home.

And this Christmas he has recorded a special tail about the Bobtail family and how the magic of Christmas was revealed.

So grab a mince pie, cuddle up, and enjoy a festive bunny “tail”.

Click on this link and follow the instructions – the story lasts around 30 minutes.!AtJCub4Veq6il2-CxVQCGtcHjx5p

Norfolk joins the quest for a vaccine

Hospital staff, scientists and residents in Norfolk have joined the quest to find an effective covid-19 vaccine by taking part in a new clinical trial at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The NHS is playing a leading role in developing a vaccine for covid-19 and the N&N has a key role in delivering a new vaccine clinical trial with support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Hundreds of participants – volunteers from the hospital, across Norwich Research Park and the local community – have joined the research study at the N&N-run Clinical Research Facility at the Quadram Institute.

It comes after 15,000 UK volunteers were invited to join a new phase three covid-19 vaccine clinical trial. The Novavax vaccine trial is a randomised controlled trial where half of the participants will receive two shots of the vaccine and the other half will receive two shots of a placebo.

The whole of the hospital’s research department – up to 50 staff, including research nurses, practitioners and administrators – have been diverted to work on covid-19 studies, including the vaccine trial, whilst continuing to run their own research portfolios.

The covid-19 vaccination research team

Sam Higginson, N&N chief executive, is one of the 500 from the site to take part in the vaccine trial.

He said: “I’m thrilled that we are playing our part in this vitally important research, which will hopefully lead to a successful covid-19 vaccine in the future. I had no hesitation in putting my name forward to take part in this Phase 3 trial, which is testing the effectiveness of the vaccine. The team has received a lot of interest from potential participants and it is great to hear that so many staff and colleagues from Norwich Research Park want to take part in this study. Congratulations to the research team for their hard work on this.”

David Parfrey, chief executive of Norwich Research Park, said: “Norwich Research Park has a unique mix of four world-leading research institutes, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and University of East Anglia on the same campus. It means that, through the power of collaboration, issues critical to the health of the nation and beyond can be tackled here in a unique way. The covid-19 pandemic is undoubtedly the biggest crisis the UK has had to deal with in a lifetime and it’s fantastic that colleagues at the Quadram Institute have joined forces with those at the hospital to actively work together on this, and that so many colleagues from across our Park have volunteered to participate in the trial.”

To find out more about taking part in covid-19 vaccine research click here , or to register your interest in joining future trials, click here.