Primadonna Festival is almost here - reaching out to inspire community

Some of those at the Primadonna Festival in 2019

Some of those at the Primadonna Festival in 2019 - Credit: Adam Razvi

Primadonna Festival, a literary event including live music, film, theatre, comedy, food and more, is going ahead in “real life” this summer, after taking place virtually in 2020 due to Covid-19.

Taking "The world as it should be" at its theme, it is taking place at its new home, the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket, from Friday, July 30 to Sunday, August 1.

Famous writers set to speak include broadcaster Sandi Toksvig, who is one of the event’s co-founders, Adjoa Andoh, star of TV’s Bridgerton, and MasterChef judge Grace Dent.

Sandi Toksvig, co-founder of the Primadonna Festival, speaking at the first event in 2019

Sandi Toksvig, co-founder of the Primadonna Festival, speaking at the first event in 2019 - Credit: Adam Razvi

The festival aims to be “genuinely inclusive and accessible” , spotlighting writing by women and non-binary people, as well as artists of all ethnicities and economic status. Many members of the local community will be taking part over the three days.

Outreach officer Lucinda Meredith said, after all the trauma of the last 18 months, it would be great for people from the area to meet up in person and support one another, and they were also inspired by being on the same programme with celebrated writers.

“People are really excited about coming. We have been working with lots of community groups the past few months across Suffolk and Norfolk in the lead-up to the festival.

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“Our approach has been to work with groups to generate new creative material for the festival to be performed on stage - or give groups the opportunity to represent themselves at the festival, to showcase their talent and perspective on the world.”

A youngster at the Primadonna Festival in 2019

A youngster at the Primadonna Festival in 2019 - Credit: Adam Razvi

Lucinda said Primadonna had already helped people to gain the confidence to see themselves as writers and performers since its launch in 2019. 

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“The festival has inspired people to see what’s possible - and some people have been published who say they wouldn’t have done so without Primadonna.”

Some of those taking part in Primadonna Festival 2019

Some of those taking part in Primadonna Festival 2019 - Credit: Fred Reed

Due to lockdowns, it hasn’t been possible for the festival’s outreach team to hold creative workshops with community groups ahead of the event – but they still found ways of working together, through a series of conversations and one-to-one meetings.

Primadonna Festival is returning in 2021 after going virtual in 2020

Primadonna Festival is returning in 2021 after going virtual in 2020 - Credit: Adam Razvi

Lucinda said: “It was inspirational to meet with so many passionate community leaders, focused on supporting young people, vulnerable adults and the wider community, and still striving to do so despite the obstacles restrictions placed in front of them.

“All the community leaders involved have gone the extra mile to ensure their communities get opportunities they deserve.”

A youngster at Primadonna Festival 2019

A youngster at Primadonna Festival 2019 - Credit: Adam Razvi

For tickets, including a “Pay what you can” offer, visit the festival website:

Crowds enjoying Primadonna Festival in 2019, before the days of social distancing

Crowds enjoying Primadonna Festival in 2019, before the days of social distancing - Credit: Adam Razvi

Just a taster of the groups and projects taking part

The Mix Detached project Stowmarket

Led by youth leader Karen Austin, a team of staff go out on the street on Friday nights in Stowmarket and Needham Market to engage with young people and consult with them.

Karen has arranged a hot dog and martial arts events night on Friday, July 30, which will take place outside the museum from 5 pm. Primadonna will offer free books for people who attend and access to the festival if young people are interested in coming along and finding out more.

Stow Stories - Together in Riverland

This is a community-led research project, supported by Suffolk Archives and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It aims to share discoveries of Stowmarket’s rich heritage, culture and natural environment and protect and enhance the area’s biodiversity.

The group will be leading walks across the museum site during the weekend and getting creative with willow sculpture.

Suffolk Black Community Forum - Denkyem Youth

This social action group aims to raise awareness and educate people on the key issues faced by African and Caribbean people and describe themselves as '' most importantly young gifted and black and this is our space to celebrate that''.

Led by by Lanai Collis-Phillip,s this group of changemakers will coming along to the festival on July 30 at around 5 pm to share their take on the ''the world as it should be“.

Stowmarket High School

Head of English Jackie Arnold has enabled groups of students to take part in poetry writing sessions - giving them the opportunity to take part in a national festival on their door step. Students chose to write poetry about ''the world as it should be'' and their poetry will be shared at the festival.

East Coast Poets

This group of semi-professional poets, including many from Suffolk’s recovery community, is supported by storyteller and festival stalwart John Row.

Lucinda said: “We are excited to have the provocative words of poets including Jody Lee, Suffolk’s own “Skinny Poet”, who uses his words to illuminate the world of addiction and recovery, gracing the festival this year.

Recovery’s Got Talent

This group is led by Maria Bonasconni and Bruce Wright of Turning Point, which offers health and wellbeing services. Lucinda said: “They are a group who use creativity to support recovery from addiction and are a familiar face at Primadonna.”

Recovery’s Got Talent was born from a small idea four years ago and has since run weekly jamming sessions, competitions and performances and even hosted the iconic recovery icon ''A Streetcat Named Bob '' at their 2019 concert.

Bob has sadly passed away but there will still be cats at the festival, brought along by Animal Cancer Trust, demonstrating how to spot early signs of illness in your beloved companion pets.

Magic Floor Productions, Thetford

Artistic director Katie Wright is bringing her production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to the festival, to do walkabouts across the site - and share a little tea party magic .

Stowmarket and Ipswich Libraries

The libraries will offer crafts and books, story telling sessions, giveaways and more.

A host of other groups will also come along, ranging from wildlife trusts and local history groups to Stowmarket Dementia Alliance.

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