The programme for this year’s Norfolk & Norwich Festival has been unveiled, with public booking opening tomorrow (Friday 2 March). It is billed as a celebration of real life, real people and real places, promising a line-up that is both local and international, established and emerging. Headline names with an international cachet include Nigel Kennedy, Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Carol Ann Duffy and Duane Eddy.

There’s also a show with a cast of 100 Norfolk residents (100% Norfolk), a chance to spend the night in an extraordinary treetop hotel (AirHotel) and an invitation to a party (with sandwiches and dancing) from Darren Pritchard and his mum (Susan and Darren). Altogether there will be some 100 events spanning classical, jazz, rockabilly, folk and, afro-punk music, outdoor arts, cabaret, theatre, circus and dance, visual arts, written word strands and an extended programme for children.

Artistic director William Galinsky promises that: “We’ve collaborated with a host of visionary artists as well as local, national and international partners to create a fantastic programme. The Festival gives audiences and artists alike the chance to try something completely different, to have amazing experiences that wouldn’t be possible during the other fifty weeks of the year. It’s about seeing our part of the world with a fresh pair of eyes and having great fun at the same time. I hope audiences will dive in and enjoy as much as possible.”

In 100% Norfolk, devised by Rimini Protokoll, a cast of ordinary Norfolk folk will share stories about their lives and respond to questions about their lives, beliefs and habits in a live game show – a show in which real life doesn’t stop when the show starts, Susan and Darren invites audiences right into the world of dancer Pritchard and his mother as they prepare for one of their infamous parties.

Make Do and Mend is a show about wartime England based on genuine reminiscences of local people. It will be performed free to audiences at a Feast on the final day of the Festival. Whether up a tree, in an underground crypt or gazing at the rooftops, much of this year’s festival happens in unique spaces.

AirHotel is a piece of theatre that’s also a work of art and a place to stay with its seven unique pod rooms in ancient north Norfolk woodland. Motor Show, from the people who brought Electric Hotel to Norwich in 2010, is a dance performance in a city-centre car park. Bow Down, performed by The Opera Group is an ancient murder ballad that takes place in a secret forest location.

This year’s Voice Project performance Singing the City is a magical mystery tour spanning a whole day – from dawn to dusk – animating medieval streets, crypts, rooftops, courtyards and cloister. It ends at Norwich Cathedral as the sun sets. Work by video artist Bill Viola is hidden in new spaces like the Undercroft beneath the War Memorial at City Hall and the Crypt at Norwich School’s chapel.

Bringing the world to the East of England

From a show about being a sheep in Iceland by an Italian company to poetry from Afghanistan and guitar talent from Mali, this year’s Festival brings the best of the world to the East of England. The ever-popular Spiegeltent hosts over 30 acts in just 16 days presenting music, cabaret, comedy and theatre from around the world in its most diverse programme to date. The May Gurney-sponsored MG Programme includes an invasion of huge prehistoric beasts from the Netherlands stalking the streets of Norwich on launch night. Everyone is invited to this year’s free weekend garden arty in Chapelfield Gardens.

Other international highlights include AfroCubism (Cuba / Mali), Bombino (Mali), Robert Glasper (USA), Imagined Village, TPO (Italy), Spatial AKA, The Boy with Tape on his Face (New Zealand) and Portuguese pianist Cristina Ortiz. Norwich’s own Hannah Walker introduces The Oh F**k Moment to her hometown.

Local artist-led gallery OUTPOST brings exciting artists to a disused office in a new co-commission with the Festival TWOFOLD and the city’s Bo Nanafana team create a family show for younger audiences in the Spiegeltent. Or, for those with a taste for adventure, Dinosaur Petting Zoo (Australia) is a free show in Norwich city centre, Swanton Morley, King’s Lynn and schools across the county.

Now in its 240th year, Norfolk & Norwich Festival is looking back as well as forward. This year possibly the UK’s oldest Festival Chorus will perform Elgar’s Sea Pictures – which had its première at the Festival in 1899 – with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at St Andrew’s Hall. New voices on the classical music scene such as Spira mirabilis, the Escher Quartet and the Aurora Orchestra embody the Festival’s accent on youth in this year’s classical music line-up.

For emerging and established artists with new work to showcase, young producers will create a new city centre venue for eight days. BETA will be open late and asks only that you pay what you can on the door. Also new for this year is Speed Up!, a season of alternative and underground music from all over the world presented in association with Norwich Arts Centre.

Helen Lax (regional director, Arts Council England) comments: “One of the real strengths of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival is its ability to create a programme with a rich, international line-up that blends and interacts with of some of the finest emerging local artists around and this year is no exception.

“The programme brings together a vibrant mix of performing artists including 100% Norfolk, a theatre production that will be a celebration of the county and its people, and Spira mirabilis which brings together some of the world’s finest young musicians to perform as a chamber group without a conductor. The Festival has gone from strength to strength over the years and this year marks a new high – audiences can expect to be truly wowed by what is on offer”.