Norwich City Council is on the hunt for a designer or graphic artist for an exciting project to document the fascinating history of its iconic venue The Halls.
The arts and entertainment venue includes St Andrews and Blackfriars Hall and is currently closed while an extensive renovation programme takes place. It is part of a medieval friary complex, and is Grade 1 listed as a valuable heritage asset. Following the city council’s successful bid for Town Deal funding in 2020, £3.6m has been allocated to upgrade its buildings and facilities.
Now the council is looking for a talented artist in residence for 2024-2025, who can research and then craft some of the many stories which its hallowed halls have witnessed over the past 800 years, into engaging text and images for the hoardings which will wrap around the site during the length of the project, as well as documenting the work as it unfolds.
The Halls is the most intact medieval friary in England in secular use. In addition to St Andrew’s and Blackfriars’ Halls, it also includes The Crypt, Becket’s Chapel, The Cloisters, and the remains of its Chapter House. During the Reformation, the City petitioned King Henry VIII in 1538 to purchase the friary and to 'make the churche a fayer and large halle, well pathed, for the mayor and his bretheren... for their common assemblyes...'.
Through the centuries, its buildings have served as an assize court, a corn exchange and corn hall, stabling for horses during Kett’s Rebellion, a church for Flemish refugees and later for Dutch settlers, and as the city’s workhouse and also a school.
It has hosted many significant cultural moments, including the first Norfolk & Norwich Festival, a reading by Charles Dickens, and performances from rockers AC/DC and the Pretenders. Today, it operates as a successful receiving house and is the largest concert venue in the city with a packed programme, as well as home to the biggest regional beer festival in Great Britain.
This month, it closed its doors to enable the major upgrade to go ahead, with investment in audio visual equipment and lighting, a redesign to improve flow and accessibility, a revamp of the outside space, and an enhanced café and bar offer. The Halls will also undergo essential structural work to its roof, stained glass windows and secondary glazing. The complex is expected to reopen in 2025.
Council cabinet member for Wellbeing and Culture, Cllr Claire Kidman said:
“We are so excited to be able to offer this commission for a talented artist or designer who loves delving into the past to create artwork telling the story of The Halls, including its exciting plans for the future. Their artwork will be applied to the hoardings and will need to be accessible and engaging for passers-by so that we can share this incredible history with them.
“The successful applicant will also document the progress of the project and create materials we can use to tell the story on our social media channels.
“This is such a special and important project for the whole of Norwich, and for the many visitors who come into the city to enjoy our cultural offering. We have artistic talent in abundance in our region, so we know the right person is out there.”