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First ever Diss Organ Festival aims to bring slice of European culture to Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 15:00 10 May 2017

Dutch Street Organ“ de Jonker” with Alan Smith. Photo: Diss Organ Festival

Dutch Street Organ“ de Jonker” with Alan Smith. Photo: Diss Organ Festival

Diss Organ Festival

The normally quiet streets of a small Norfolk town are about to be transformed by the visit of one of the UK’s largest musical celebrations of its type.

Dutch Street Organ “de Pijpenburger” visiting from Leiden,Holland, owned by Fabian Krul. Photo: Diss Organ Festival.Dutch Street Organ “de Pijpenburger” visiting from Leiden,Holland, owned by Fabian Krul. Photo: Diss Organ Festival.

Normally associated with church halls and merry-go-rounds, the 40 organs which will be arriving in the South Norfolk town of Diss on Sunday, May 14 will be quite different to the ones found in church halls up and down the country.

Located throughout the town, the mechanical instruments - some of which pre-date the invention of radio - will be playing the music of Mozart to Bon Jovi and everything inbetween.

Organised by the Mechanical Organs Owners Society (MOOS), the inaugural Diss Organ Festival will bring organs from all over Europe to Diss and aims to be the biggest organ festival in the UK.

A trail of 40 instruments and other attractions will lead visitors through the town, introducing them to various types and sizes of organ.

Dutch Street Organ“de Vondeling” at the Meres Mouth, Diss. Photo: Diss Organ Festival.Dutch Street Organ“de Vondeling” at the Meres Mouth, Diss. Photo: Diss Organ Festival.

Very much a part of continental national culture, organ festivals in France, Holland and Belgium attract thousands of people.

After visiting several of these events and inspired by the Geraardsbergen Organ Festival in Belgium - which ran until 2015, when visitor numbers became too large for the town to cope - Alan Smith, of Hoxne, decided to bring a slice of European culture to Norfolk.

“We wanted to do something for the town and the layout of Diss lends itself so well to an organ trail,” he said.

“We also wanted to do something to thank our continental friends for their hospitality when we have visited festivals in Europe.”

Diss OrganFestival Trail Map 2017. picture: ALAN SMITHDiss OrganFestival Trail Map 2017. picture: ALAN SMITH

Supported by Diss Town Council, MOOS and South Norfolk Council, festival organisers are also receiving the help Luc Bal, one of the organisers of immensely popular Belgium Geraardsbergen festival.

Highlights of the festival include the De Grote Gavioli - which will be travelling down from York to make its first appearance in East Anglia for over 20 years - and Pijenburger, a 90-key organ which will be travelling all the way from Leiden in Holland.

Free to attend, the festival runs from 10am to 5pm and will also feature a street festival, antiques market and vintage engine rally.

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