Front cover illustration from I See a Family by Rose Feather, credit:

You can now enjoy three brand new stories inspired by Norwich’s medieval past.

For the past year, three local writers have been working with three different age groups to create stories through words, pictures and performance to bring the City’s rich medieval heritage to life.

The stories have been commissioned through the £13.5m Norwich Castle: Royal Palace Reborn project, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to National Lottery players, to return the Keep to its original Norman layout.

The resulting tales are by turns fascinating, fun and thought-provoking and are aimed respectively at adults, young people and pre-school children and their families and carers.

Cllr. Margaret Dewsbury, Cabinet Member for Communities at Norfolk County Council says: “Norwich is known as the ‘City of Stories’ so it’s wonderful that the Royal Palace Reborn project has been the catalyst to create these new tales to entertain and inform. Canterbury has Geoffrey Chaucer, but with this project we can now celebrate Norwich’s very own set of tales! We hope audiences of all ages enjoy engaging with the City’s medieval past through this inspiring creative work.”

Helen Lunnon, Learning Manager for Norwich Museums says: “This has been a really exciting project to work on, with our writers rising brilliantly to the challenge of creating new stories which are based on the medieval period, but which speak to audiences today. Each writer presented their initial ideas at workshops with the target audience for their stories, gaining feedback and new ideas to help shape their work. The final stories are a result of this creative collaboration, and we hope will inspire people to discover more about this fascinating period in Norwich’s history, and perhaps to create some medieval stories of their own.”

Poet Daisy Henwood leading a workshop with young people at Museum of Norwich for The Norwich Bestiary, credit: © Norfolk Museums Service.

The Norwich Tales:

Rose Feather, picture-book maker and workshop leader, has created a new illustrated story book for Early Years audiences inspired by Norwich’s medieval trades called I See a Family. The story was informed by lots of play (and giggles) from families who attended workshops led by Rose as they explored what kinds of things families might have made in the medieval past. The result is a lovely new Medieval Family Adventure Kit available for visitors to Norwich Castle to enjoy. As well as a copy of I See a Family, the kit bags contain a ‘poppet’ doll – a medieval character who would love visitors to show them around the galleries – plus a sensory item to help little ones and their families explore the galleries.

Poet Daisy Henwood worked with young people aged 14-18 through a series of workshops to create The Norwich Bestiary – a collection of poems inspired by the animals found in the museum’s collections, around the city, or imagined into key moments in Norwich’s past. Medieval bestiaries were books containing descriptions of real and imaginary animals. These descriptions were accompanied by fantastical illustrations and stories intended to teach moral lessons as well as entertain. Norwich’s buildings and streets are full of beasts if you know where to look for them so The Norwich Bestiary is in the form of a downloadable poetry trail around the City which takes you on a tour of historic locations across Norwich, starting at Norwich Castle.

Writer and performer, Shey Hargreaves, created her Norwich tale in the form of a drama performance for adult audiences. Bedmaking is a moving exploration of care-giving in the medieval period which connects to and reflects on the experience of providing care during the pandemic. Inspired by the history of care at Lazar House – a medieval hospital for sufferers of leprosy in Norwich – Shey’s drama is a conversation between two lay sisters who are making up a bed for a new patient. To create her drama, Shey drew on the research of Professor Carole Rawcliffe at UEA. She also led workshops with current NHS staff as they explored their experience of being health-workers during the pandemic and with staff and clients at The Assist Trust, currently based at Lazar House, which supports adults with a range of learning needs. Shey’s drama is available to watch on the Norwich Castle YouTube channel.

Still image from Bedmaking by Shey Hargreaves, with performers Rosalind Hewett (left) and Shey Hargreaves (right) credit: © Norfolk Museums Service.

How to experience The Norwich Tales:

Under 5s Tale: I See a Family by Rose Feather

The book is part of a new Medieval Family Adventure Kit, available to pick up in person at Norwich Castle (subject to availability) and free with Castle admission. Please note: To ensure that everyone can access and enjoy this fabric-based resource safely, there is a quarantining procedure in place after each kit is used. Therefore, the Medieval Family Adventure kits are currently only available in the museum on Mondays. For more information read more about activities for under-5s at Norwich Castle.

Young people’s Tale: The Norwich Bestiary by Daisy Henwood

Download The Norwich Bestiary poetry trail via the Norwich Castle website.
Follow the trail to sites around Norwich and listen to the poems in each location.

Adults’ Tale: Bedmaking by Shey Hargreaves

Watch Bedmaking via the Norwich Castle YouTube channel.

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