The Arts Centre was launched in 1977 when it was opened in a disused department store on St Benedicts Street. In 1980 it transferred to its current venue, in St Swithin Church. At this time the Norwich Evening News reported :
” Premises (The Arts Centre) and the Puppet Theatre project have one other thing in common apart from both being located in old churches: both conversions when completed will be very flexible and multi purpose serving all branches of the arts, both amateur & professional - thus making valuable provision of further small performance venues for general use”
Over this period it has been clearly illustrated that there is a demand for such a facility in Norwich in fact the Norwich Arts Centre now attracts more than 50,000 visitors a year. In 1999, with the aid of a capital grant from the National lottery, an extension was added to the original building which included the addition of a new multi media department & improved access & facilities for disabled.
The Arts Centre has a very clear aim, namely: “to offer a venue for a broad range of performing & media arts of the highest quality together with a programme of participatory workshops and activities that offer good access to the arts” To achieve this at any one time it offers its users a huge range of entertainment & educational courses encompassing: music, film, theatre, comedy, performing arts, creative courses, photography & digital media
As would be expected locating such a modern facility in a historic venue has called for a degree of adaptation and there are definitely a range of pros and cons when compared with operating in a purpose built theatre. Manager Stuart Hobday believes that the church venue adds huge novelty value not only for the audience but also for visiting performers. He has also noted that national reviews of concerts always make mention of the church building. The main body of the church now forms the theatre where the acoustics work beautifully for classical, jazz & folk concerts however Stuart comments that “the church was not built with Indie / rock music in mind!” Additionally the old Sunday School area has been brilliantly adapted to provide a lovely venue for the café / bar area.
The Norwich Arts Centre is leading the way as the region’s first public access multi media facility which has enabled the church to again become a focal point for the community. Throughout the year it offers a range of media courses to both adults & children including: photography, writing & website design. Additionally it is used, amongst others by: the Norwich School of Art & Design for lectures & meetings, a children’s theatre group and Downs Syndrome Norfolk for Saturday workshops.
Finally the church has enabled a range of local and national entertainers to develop their craft. It is interesting to imagine how 15th Century churchgoers would react if they had know that this medieval church in the heart of Norwich would help launch the careers of a range of twenty first century icons including : Coldplay, Nirvana, Frank Skinner and Little Britain!
|All Saints Westlegate||St. George Tombland||St. Julian||St. Michael at Plea|
|St. Andrew||St. Giles||St. Lawrence||St. Peter Hungate|
|St. Augustine||St. Gregory||St. Margaret||St. Peter Mancroft|
|St. Benedict||St. Helen||St. Martin at Oak||St. Peter Parmentergate|
|St. Clement||St. James Pockthorpe||St. Martin at Palace Plain||St. Saviour|
|St. Edmund Fishergate||St. John de Sepulchre||St. Mary Coslany||St. Simon & St. Jude|
|St. Etheldreda||St. John Maddermarket||St. Mary the Less||St. Stephen|
|St. George Colegate||St. John Timberhill||St. Michael(Miles) Coslany||St. Swithin|