The Forum and amphitheatre

F2020In 1994 the Norwich city library and archive burnt down. A great lost to the community. The building was replaced not just with a library, but an amphitheatre. Now it’s not huge, like Greek or Roman ones, and it’s main function is for amateur dramatics and musical events. It doesn’t have beautiful backdrop and probably is a bit hard on the bum, as the tiers are concrete, and I suspect most of the year it doesn’t get used. However, the architects added it for a reason. (The Norwich Forum is part of a series of twelve historic buildings in Norwich ranging from Norman to Modern.)

We’re all probably familiar with the Forum in Rome. Initially a public space for markets, it became more versatile. Speeches and elections were held in the forum, a long with religious ceremonies and criminal trials. Quite a public spectacle no doubt even if the Forum wasn’t intended to be entertaining.

Buildings were added to forums (there was more than one in Rome), including temples and the senate house, and in 55BC, the Theatre of Pompey, Rome’s first permanent theatre. After the defeat of the Roman Empire, the Forum declined and vanished until it was rediscovered by archaeologist Carlo Fea in 1803.

It seems natural for modern versions of the forum (still a popular name for civic spaces) to include a theatre, and while ancient amphitheatres were large structures often positioned on the outside of a town, carved into hillsides, it makes sense for modern ones to be smaller and more flexible. Even my daughters’ small primary school at a semi-circular amphitheatre in the playground: three tiers and sufficient for one class to sit and watch an activity.

Open-air productions are a risky undertaking in the UK. We’re not renown for dry weather throughout the Summer, and you can forget the Winter. Yet, they are popular in parks and the grounds of stately homes. Temporary theatres spring up and picnic blankets pinned down if the wind picks up.

So while it might not be the best place for a performance, and generally people prefer the great theatre houses to uncomfortable seats, the idea of theatre being free of sets or scenery, reliant entirely on the skills of the performers to capture the imagination, just like in ancient times, hasn’t lost out to the grand productions of the West End.


Family Secrets



  1. I have been to more than one outdoor event where we needed raincoats. I remember going to one concert where we all had umbrellas because the downpour was that heavy. Aled Jones was one of the performers who seems utterly delighted when the sun finally came out and he could see people rather than a sea of waterproof material.
    Tasha 💖
    Virginia’s Parlour – The Manor (Adult concepts – nothing explicit in posts)
    Tasha’s Thinkings – Vampire Drabbles

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve done a few, and fortunately, always in decent weather.


  2. Norwich is our next city and we regularly go shopping there. We always have a rest on the steps of the Forum watching people there skating and meeting. We think it’s well done as it’s always very lively there. It’s a busy meeting point downtown Norwich. The building itself is quite welcoming and we like the reflections of St Peter Mancroft in its glass front.
    Thanks for sharing, keep healthy & happy
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems the Forum is an appropriate name if it’s used as a meeting place.

      If you’re local to Norwich, you might enjoy my book, The Women of Heachley Hall, which is set near Hunstanton where my family come from.


  3. What a stunning building.

    Here in the south-east, we have the Rude Mechanical Theatre Company which takes outdoor entertainment to rural communities, foul weather or fine! – I hosted them in my pub garden regularly.

    I love the idea of a school having an amphitheatre.

    F is for….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to see one of their productions! Intriguing name for a theatre company.


  4. Wendy Janes · · Reply

    Wonderful for a school to have an amphitheatre. When I was in the sixth form (back in the 1970s!) we raised funds to build a small amphitheatre, and our year staged A Comedy of Errors. Hope the school are still using it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In fine weather like this they would normally use it. Sadly, these are not normal times!


      1. Wendy Janes · ·

        Ah, yes, alas, they wouldn’t be using right now. I’d like to think that it’s still there and they’ll be able to do an autumn production, perhaps.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I like all of that glass. The outdoor forum is great for free music concerts in the summer. These days everyone has bag chairs they can use to sit in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I went to one outdoor concert of 80s music and everyone had camper chairs because we’re too old to sit on the ground and get back up again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand!


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