Norwich [thou] art fair – the shaping of an idea 2012-2015

<<Update 30 July 2015>>

Since my original blog in 2012, I’m delighted to say that Norwich has had some big wins on the art front. In 2014, the Sainsbury Centre hosted the wonderful Masters exhibition. Houghton Hall also showcased some of the finest classical pictures from the Hermitage art museum in St Petersburg. We’ve also seen successful cultural events like the Hostery Festival, Holt Festival and Voewood Festival.

In 2015, the Sainsbury Centre had a major show called Bacon and the Masters – and the Castle Museum hosted the only exhibition of Jeff Koons work in the UK this year. More importantly (although perhaps less widely noticed), Will Teather and Friends ran the first Art Fair East – which in many ways felt like the art fair I imagined three years ago. I hope it was enough of a success to return and grow.

As a result, I am expanding the focus of the @NorwichArtFair twitter account. Rather than concentrating exclusively on Art, I’m going to support the wider creative community – including Digital Creative and Business Innovation. Instead of thinking of Norwich Art Fair as an event – think of it as a statement: Norwich [thou] art fair.

<<UPDATE 6 March 2014>>

I wrote the original version of this post in July 2012. Plenty of you offered to support but (like me) no one had the time or resources to turn the idea into reality. (As you will see when you read the original below, I anticipated this.)

However, there are still masses of excellent cultural events in Norwich and Norfolk – and they are growing in scope and stature all the time. This post sparked blogs from Rosie Winn and others, which in turn helped unite local artists and art lovers on twitter and other social media platforms.

We still run the @NorwichArtFair twitter account. We hope you continue to support the ambition of building Norwich’s international reputation as a great place to experience wonderful art.

Thank you


The original Norwich Art Fair idea from July 2012:

Written in haste (other stuff pressing)…

Thank you to @Rosie_Winn who posted this on her blog It lists all the ideas (many and varied) for an international art fair in Norwich and Norfolk, which came up at our first tweetup (at @SirGarnetPub) last Thursday.

Thank you to everyone who came along and contributed their time and enthusiasm – particularly those who volunteered to help build, design and write a new Norwich Art Fair website. I really appreciate your support – particularly since there is no reward, save our gratitude.

It’s important to stress, these are early days. At the moment I’m just looking to see who might get behind this idea. Exploring ways we might mobilise forces in Norfolk to support what we already have (from the glorious productions of #NNFest to your local art gallery’s open day) and help build on it. Our ambition is to establish Norwich and Norfolk on the international art scene as a centre for creativity and talent.

You can join my list of interested tweeters (here simply by sending me a tweet asking to join #NorwichArtFair list.

You might who want to tell me this won’t, can’t, hasn’t or shouldn’t happen – but, quite frankly, I’m not interested in why nots. Instead I want to hear from people who want to help raise the profile of Norwich and Norfolk. If you think you are already doing this or something like it, then please let me know because I’d would love to support you.

Realising these ideas may be a dream. It might take years to attract enough sponsors and artists to stage a world class event. Even the shape of that event is not clear.

I hope it might be both high brow and inclusive. Drawing big crowds and big money but supporting local artists and encouraging more people to become involved in the arts too. But now the most important thing we can do is start the conversation.

At the very least, I hope we can build a network of people on social media who will support art events in Norwich and Norfolk – and share that support with the world. We need to convince people who love art and culture to #VisitNorwich and #VisitNorfolk.

Elsewhere, I have talked about the power of the Norfolk and Norwich Twitter Network (jokingly referred to as #NaNTwiNk). If that network supports the exciting cultural events going on in our community (from the smallest to the largest) it will benefit all who live and work in the region.

Thank you for your continued help and support.

@HuwSayer – July 2012


#DevoMax – good enough for Scotland, good enough for England too?

Interesting article (many valid points) but why did @Frances_Coppola say: “Wales and Northern Ireland would still be represented [in the Westminster Parliament], although there would probably need to be fundamental changes to prevent them being swamped by the dominance of England”?

Why do we draw this distinction between Wales, Ireland, Scotland and the rest of the UK? If someone claims to be English and demands fair representation for the English, they are roundly derided as little Englanders and xenophobic. Yet when someone in Scotland, Wales and Ireland says they are Scottish, Welsh or Irish and demands the same they are applauded as proud, independent people. Nationalism seems to be considered acceptable beyond the English border but not in England.

Yet there are no major genetic, racial, facial, or ethic differences between most of the people living in the UK. This whole debate about nationalism is founded on a nonsense notion that there is still a clear distinction between various local tribes. Even if there were, there are probably as many so-called Scots, Welsh and Irish living in England as there are so-called English in the rest of the UK. But if one group of people is permitted to demand self-determination, surely all should have the same right.

Now let’s look at the East of England: population 5.3m compared with 5.1 in Scotland. We are as homogeneous as the population in Scotland – we even have a proud history as a once independent kingdom (OK not since 917AD) and a rather independent state of mind (the unofficial motto of Norfolk is ‘do different’). Why shouldn’t we have equal representation and control over our destiny as people in Scotland – #DevoMax even?

Time perhaps to abolish all the district and county councils in the region and have an East Anglian parliament instead. We could build it between Bury St Edmunds and Thetford – our ancient capitals. By reducing the number of politicians and paying them a professional salary we might even reduce bureaucracy, improve efficiency and increase accountability – while attracting a higher calibre of candidate.

PS: As far as I can tell, I have a fair mix of Welsh, English, and Irish ancestors (as well as a few from the ‘kingdoms’ of Yorkshire and Lancashire) – so what does that make me? I think the answer is British.

@GaryDickenson posted some interesting thoughts about @NorfolkShow…

…here’s a copy of my reply (originally posted on Gary’s blog):

Interesting views Gary and I tend to agree with them – I too spotted a number of very non-Norfolk producers (some better than others) and wondered why locals weren’t better represented.

Looking for some decent bread, and having skirted the Mediterranean stand, I came across a bread stall that looked OK but carried no name. In a rush I bought what they claimed to be a sour dough loaf and headed home – only to find it was a bland pappy bread masquerading as an artisan product (not a hint of sour dough to my taste buds) – I should have saved my pounds and gone to Dozen on Newmarket Street – a shop that still sells real bread.

For what it’s worth, the Norfolk Show has improved (I have been a few times over the last 40 years). There are more local food producers and their produce is much better. However, there still seems to be a large number of what I can only describe as corporate, mock regional stands. These appear to be supplied by one or two companies that can put up 20 such stalls at 20 different venues on the same day (all staffed by temporary workers never the real owners).

I am sure cost is an issue – but I suspect the attitude of the show organisers also plays its part – perhaps they don’t realise how much people value local producers – as such, perhaps they don’t go out of their way to make the food hall a showcase for the very best of Norfolk food and drink – let’s hope the EDP Food Festival does a better job in the autumn.

Kind regards