Before I came to Norwich, I expected it to be a small town with not much to offer a big city girl like me. As an English major and art minor, I have always been interested in the arts. But in New York, and even sometimes at Dickinson, arts events like small music gigs or poetry readings are all kept in a need-to-know or who-you-know circle. When I first arrived in Norwich one of the first few ‘local’ people I met was Stephanie Leal, one of our tours guides for the tour of Norwich. As a published poet, Stephanie told me and a few of my literary friends about the monthly poetry readings at the pub the Birdcage. I went to one of these within my first month here and loved it. As cliché as it sounds, I found being surround by so much creativity and talent really inspiring for my own artistic pursuits.
When it came time to choose something as my ‘Experience’ in Norwich, it wasn’t hard for me to pick out my interests. I knew the Birdcage was great and wanted to pursue the poetry/arts scene in Norwich. But it wasn’t until I began spending time researching and making connections here that I realized how huge the arts scene in Norwich really is. Now, you may be thinking, New York City must have a big arts scene, bigger than Norwich! And while that may be true, it’s hard to make connections with ‘local’ poets in New York. By the time most people get to New York, they are already up-and-coming. Tickets sell out fast, most of the good arts scene is underground, and you have to know how to look for it. And honestly I don’t. But in Norwich few events sell out too quickly and even well known successful poets, like the members of Aisle 16, have time to chat with a uni student like me.
Following the performing arts scene in Norwich led me to discover the Norwich Arts Centre, which holds concerts and various music shows as well as some art exhibits, and the live music at the Black Horse Pub during March. I also got to spend more time at the Birdcage readings. There were also more events and venues I just didn’t have the time to attend. There are various concerts held at the Waterfront and prose and poetry readings at Jurnet’s Bar Wensum Lodge from October to March as part of a series called Café Writers. Art is bursting from Norwich, all you have to do is look.
Besides attending all these great events, my project taught me to appreciate a lot more live music than I used to. I learned that artists of all kind are people who are accessible and want to share their experiences. Through my interview with Aisle 16 I found out about the differences between performance and printed poetry. Several of the members of Aisle 16 graduated from UEA. I began to realize that artists aren’t born out of a vacuum with the ability to create beautiful and moving works. Instead, artists are people who went to school, met up, shared passions, and created together. My exploration of Norwich arts help to inspire me in my own artistic endeavors. Here at UEA, back at Dickinson College, and at home in New York, opportunities are there, people are interested, and creativity can be found all around—even in a small town like Norwich.