It was hotter than Havana the day a paddling of technicolor plastic ducks floated into town for the Grand Norwich Duck Race on the River Wensum – a plucky contest held every year for charity. As usual, the competition for the most outrageous outfit was fierce with the over-sized over-the-top bath tub toys lined up like a beauty pageant, vying for votes. My personal favourite was the pretty in pink flamingo impersonator. All style over substance, I suspected. The long luscious legs were more suitable for wading than for swimming. The ducks race along the short distance between St George’s and Fye Bridges. I say ‘race’ in the loosest sense of the word. It’s always more an aimless drift as the waters of the genteel Wensum flow at a lazy, almost stationary pace. We placed a small wager on some random duck. We didn’t win and retired to a local watering hole to drown our sorrows.
The annual Norfolk and Norwich Festival is done for another year. The festival delivers something for all ages and tastes – from the highbrow to the frivolous, the earnest to the slapstick, the traditional to the avant-garde, the well-known to the newbie, the orchestral to the bloke with a guitar – in glorious words, music, dance and acrobatics. Liam and I mostly pop along for the eclectic street performers and drinking culture. The festival marks the start of a summer season packed with designer ducks, dancing queens, technicolour floats, frilly tutus, soaring batons, bone-crunching back flips, stunning pyrotechnic wizardry and the celebration of Norfolk’s pastoral bounty. Let’s hope Mother Nature is in a bright mood for the duration.
Of all the shows sprinkled about the city during the festival, the most intriguing was the Museum of the Moon by artist Luke Jerram at the Forum. A giant moon featuring detailed NASA imagery appeared to float effortlessly above the floor. It was mesmerising. Dropped mouths just gawped up in silence, us included.
And here’s the Norwich Cathedral Choir chanting to the man in the moon, kinda medieval and mystical…
What better way to raise our spirits after the misery of Brexit and the rise of the loony right than a street party? Thank the Lord Mayor for his big day. Last year, we sizzled under a cloudless sky. This year sunshine and showers were on the menu, but this didn’t dampen our ardour or the enthusiasm of the performers. From ballerinas to buskers, breakdance to bangra, choristers to elderly brass bandeliers, the mad mix of turns – on the stages, on the streets and on the floats – proved Norwich folk are truly bonkers. Amen to that!
Despite sinking one sherry too many, we made it to the fireworks finale – just. Sadly, the next day we didn’t manage to roll out of our pit in time to cheer on the dressed-up waterfowl in the annual duck race.
For pure foot tapping joy, you can’t beat a bit of Bollywood. It brought the proverbial house down. To end this madness, I give you bangra and bangs…
The Gay Pride marching season is in full mincing swing. But while 40,000 and 160,000 well-wishers lined the parade routes of Belfast and Brighton (respectively) last Saturday, we amused ourselves with something to give even the glitziest of drag queens a run for her sling backs. The Grand Norwich Duck Race, starring oversized bathtub playthings draped in outrageous livery, is a plucky battle fought each year for charity. Once in the waters of the sedate River Wensum, Daffy and his flock all tried to float the wrong way and had to be marshalled up the course by a man in a canoe. Congratulations to the duck from City College for a worthy victory. We retired to the bar of the Playhouse Theatre for a celebratory tipple in the beer garden. Norwich really is quackers.
The last public holiday before Christmas brought the crowds to the banks of the Wensum to cheer on the Grand Norwich Duck Race. It was a bit of a plucky ducky frolic for charity and, as far as we could make out, it’s a friendly rival to the much grander Great Norwich Duck Race held in July. A £2 raffle ticket bought us a bright plastic contender and the chance to pick up a prize. The Sheriff of Norwich loudly heralded the release of the ducks which were chomping at the bit behind a mini-boom. I thought sheriffs were employed to chase outlaws around the Wild West and Sherwood Forest, but I digress. The gentle Wensum would hardly qualify as a white water ride so most of the rubber ducks floated lamely downstream while others became trapped in the dripping summer foliage. Neither Daffy, Donald or Daisy nor Huey, Dewey or Louis seemed much bothered by all the fuss as they huddled together for comfort. The daft occasion was fun for all the family and totally quackers. Later the same evening Liam gazed out of the window and, quite by chance, spotted three dragged-up men hobbling down the street in high heels, shock frocks and wild wigs. This is Norwich, city of the tacky, wacky and the wonderful.
The images were taken with my new smart-arse smart phone so they’re not very good (more of the smarty pants later), but you’ll get the drift.