This was our second visit to Dragon Hall and our first since it has been in the hands of Writers' Centre Norwich (WCN). We took advantage of September's Heritage Open Days event to come along for a storytelling session and the launch of a local author's book.
Our earlier visit took place while the building was in the hands of the Norfolk and Norwich Heritage Trust. Then we enjoyed a guided tour from a very knowledgeable volunteer guide that took in the whole building and covered its history in depth. The guide told us then that the future of the building, which is owned by Norwich City Council, was under discussion and our visit highlighted some of the reasons why. We were the only walk-up visitors in the building at that time. However, it was being used that day as a conference venue and this sometimes made it awkward for our tour to continue. It was also questionable whether this magnificent Grade I listed building, that encompasses so much of the city of Norwich, really was being used to its best advantage.
Since then the building has been leased to the regional literature development agency for the East of England. This means that it is now rarely open to the public while this organisation realises its plans to open it in 2017 as a national centre for writing. Public access and the history and heritage aspect now take a back seat and, during our September visit, these were entirely secondary to the writing event that it was hosting.
The event, however, was superb, featuring local storyteller Dave Tonge, who had researched his tales from 16th century court records and other contemporary sources, giving a flavour of some of the material that made up his new book. He was a great performer who judged his audience perfectly and the 90 minutes he had to entertain us flew by.
So Dragon Hall is very much in transition at the moment and it remains to be seen how much of its future will be as a heritage venue or visitor attraction. It is to be hoped, however, that WCN do pay some heed to this aspect of the building and also that they continue to stage public events of the quality of the one we attended.
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