The Cromer and Sheringham Arts Festival (COAST) is coming up again at the end of October. After so much celebration in the metropolis, what with the Jubilee and the Olympics, it will be good to round off the year with some entertainment that is all our own. This is COAST year three, and what began in 2010 as something of an experiment, has now grown into a certain maturity. It’s something we have come to count on and look forward to. And once again, the Festival will be drawing on a wide range of local talent and involving the active participation of hundreds of local people.
As before, the eight days of COAST are timed to coincide with the schools’ autumn half-term holiday and to help prolong the seaside season. With a scheduled programme of some eighty events, we are confident expectations are not going to be disappointed. There is another rich mix of entertainment and stimulation on offer – of music, art, film, performance, talks and – particularly for youngsters – lots of hands on stuff.
If the idea of eighty events going on in a little over a week sounds a bit too much of a good thing, it’s worth remembering that many are exhibitions and activities that carry on throughout the Festival. With the one-off performances, the programme organisers have taken extra care this time round to eliminate the timetable clashes that can cause frustration – no one can be in two places at the same time.
Geographically, COAST’s venues stretch from Overstrand in the east to Sheringham in the west, with all points in between. To make navigation between them easier for visitors, the programme booklet will cluster events around four hubs: Cromer, the Runtons, Overstrand, and Sheringham. And a high proportion of the one-off events will be staged in five main venues: Sheringham Little Theatre, Cromer Community Hall (Centre), Virginia Court Hotel, Oddfellows Hall, and Overstrand Church.
Lots of hard work and commitment from their small team of dedicated volunteers helps to ensure a quality and diverse programme. And recognition and support from agencies like Norfolk Coast Partnership, NNDC Big Society, Norfolk County Council, Cromer and Sheringham Town Councils, and Overstrand and Runton Parish Councils, all help to ensure that over 70% of events are completely free of charge.
It’s always invidious to single out particular events from such a big spread, but one or two things this year command special mention. I’m thinking particularly of the respective offerings by uncle and niece, Harvey and Fiona Pitcher. Harvey is a Russian scholar and translator and has been a Cromer resident since the early 1970s. At 3.30pm on 29 October at Virginia Court Hotel, he’ll be reading his translations of some of Anton Chekhov’s early comic short stories. Chekhov recalled his youthful time as a medical student: ‘First, I’d make my patients laugh. Then I’d treat them’.
The following day, at 2.00pm in Sheringham Little Theatre, Fiona Pitcher, probably best known in these parts as the creator and executive producer of BBC2’s annual wild life documentary, ‘Springwatch’, will be taking us behind the scenes of her ten-year career as a TV director and journalist, and entertaining us with clips from some of her most notable programmes. Her work as a television editor in the field of natural history has taken her to Africa and many foreign parts, but she’ll also be recounting how ‘Springwatch’ came home to Norfolk.