This year’s Aylsham Festival features an exciting and eclectic mix of events that should appeal to anyone with an interest in music, theatre, art, history or wildlife. And for one local business owner, Peter Purdy, who is hoping to fulfil a lifetime’s ambition, it’s a chance to display an extraordinary collection of Roman artefacts, in advance of a possible major archaeological dig in the town.
The Festival’s them is Vivat Aylsham (long live Aylsham) and there are several opportunities to find out what the Romans did in Aylsham, with talks, displays and activities focused on the land around Woodgate Nursery, where evidence of a Roman settlement is prompting interest in a professional dig.
“Having spent the last forty years of my life collecting pieces of Roman pottery from the garden and surrounding fields, and wondering where it all came from, it now appears that I am living right in the middle of a Roman settlement,” says Peter Purdy, owner of Woodgate Nursery. “Geophysical surveys, carried out by Britannia Archaeology, indicate the possibility of a trackway, enclosures and kilns here.”
A major coup for festival organiser is The Hansells Conversation, when Mike Dilger, the BBC wildlife presenter, will be chatting to local natural history author Patrick Barkham at Aylsham’s Jubilee Family Centre, on Friday 22 May. They’ll be giving a fascinating insight into North Norfolk’s ecology.
Musical highlights include a quartet from the Britten Sinfonia, playing a programme including Purcell and Mozart in Aylsham Parish church, on May 26, while the main theatrical event of the week is ‘Wanderlust,’ from The Gramophones Theatre Company, in Aylsham Town Hall on 25 May.
Art is always a lively theme at the festival and this year sees the completion of an exciting project, Aylsham Afloat, in the Art in the Garden event. Paper lanterns, created by the local townspeople, will be floated on the medieval fishponds in the grounds of Burgh House, on Saturday 23 May at 8pm. It will make for a dramatic spectacle. Meanwhile the Rotary Art Exhibition in Aylsham Town Hall has a WI Café on the Saturday and a Slow Food Café on Sunday, plus live music.
Other events include a Quickplay Chess Tournament, a Walk Through Time, a special preview of the new exhibition at Blickling Hall, and the Great Aylsham Quiz.
The accompanying photograph shows Sue Sharpe, Festival Director, with a friendly Roman Legion publicising the Festival in Aylsham market square. “We aim to ‘do different’ with our festival – each year we have a new theme and I’m so pleased that we have been able to tie in with Peter’s wonderful Roman project.”
Full details of the events can be found on www.aylshamfestival.co.uk
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