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Unwrapping Colchester's Gift

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A year ago, the Mercury Theatre's artistic director Dee Evans convened a meeting to examine the state of the arts in Colchester and how the community could be more closely involved in them. From that and subsequent initiatives, not to mention the involvement of the Colchester 2020 Project, has developed a month-long festival.

Between 12 September and 11 October the residents of and visitors to England's oldest recorded town can step back into history and see into the future, not to mention discovering a host of places where concealed treasures hide from the general gaze. What's more, some of these are free.

During the opening weekend over 30 sites including archaeological ones and buildings normally closed to the public will be on view. Archive films will be screened and new music peformed. Colchester Arts Centre, formerly the church of St Mary at the Walls, hosts Orchestra Live and the Britten Sinfonia. Firstsite gallery has two contrasted commissions on display at different locations – Kathleen Herbert's De Magnete and Matt Cook's Alternative BusTour.

The performance centrepiece is the Mercury's own production of Depot, not in the theatre but at the old tram shed on Magdalen Street. It's a promenade performance in a 1930s space disused for many years and now reclaimed from the pigeons. Depot tells some of Colchester's lesser-known stories from both the distant and more immediate past. It runs from 23 September to 11 October.


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