How Kitty Perrin keeps Norwich’s music scene young


The plaque in the beer garden at Norwich’s Playhouse Bar sends a strong message to wannabe buskers and one-man bands.

Despite its tough stance on uninvited artists, The Playhouse is a Shangri-La for the city’s bohemian crowd. Located in the ‘over the water creative district’ on St George’s Street, it is a meeting point for artists, musicians, filmmakers, fashion designers and experimenters from a wide range of media whose talents are as diverse and colorful as the garland lights that that illuminate river banks.

I am here to meet Kitty Perrin, singer-songwriter and radio host to make beautiful noises in the city of stories. She’s sipping on a can of ginger beer—fiery like her red hair, which first caught my eye at All Saints Green last summer. Kitty and her band performed during Head Out Not Home, a program of free live entertainment on Sunday afternoons downtown. I was struck by her on-stage demeanor: unpretentious and direct, she cheerfully spoke about the personal experiences and relationship dynamics that inspired her indie pop songs.

This year, Kitty released her debut EP entitled Keep up, and embarked on their first headlining tour of the UK. But perhaps what’s most remarkable about the 22-year-old is the sense of community she’s built here in Norwich – a city she’s only called home for four years.

Kitty Perrin writes bittersweet songs about personal experiences and relationships
– Credit: Amy Marsh

Kitty was born into a creative household in Brighton around the turn of the millennium. Her father is a comedy promoter, her mother is an author and author of five novels, and her siblings are similarly talented multi-instrumentalists. Engaging in acting and theater was encouraged from an early age – by the time she was seven, Kitty attended the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and was cultivating an insatiable thirst for the performing arts.

Unlike the Playhouse Bar, acoustic guitars were actually allowed on the streets of Brighton.

“All my father’s friends were part of the street music scene,” she says.

This extended to the infamous Tim the Byrdyman – a gentleman who roamed the lanes with bird whistles. Kitty found her voice in these vaudeville birdsong while busking with her older sister just around the corner from the Royal Pavilion.

“We made a lot of money because I looked so young,” she says. “That’s how I learned to perform.”

But in secondary school, Kitty was paralyzed by stage fright. She stopped the drama and put down her guitar.

“I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to play music in front of people anymore.”

Without the encouragement of her guitar teacher – none other than Gordon Russell, lead guitarist of Dr. Feelgood – Kitty might have given up her musical talent altogether. But Gordon reassured her and championed her original songwriting.

“Gordon is the nicest man in the world,” she says. “It was just a little slip-up, which often happens when you’re a teenager.”

While her Brighton colleagues moved to Leeds, Manchester or Bristol for university, Kitty chose UEA – her mother’s alma mater.

“When I came to Norwich I was like, ‘Oh, this place is so beautiful’.”

In 2018, Kitty began studying history and politics for a bachelor’s degree. In her second week at university, she asked the staff at Frank’s Bar on Bedford Street if she could perform – a gig that soon grew into a residency where her denominational choirs provided the soundtrack for locals enjoying coffee and Cocktails sipped.

In December of that year she uploaded two of her original songs to the BBC Music Introducing website.

“Anyone can upload their music to Introducing,” explains Kitty. “It’s the easiest way to get your music to the BBC. It goes straight to your local radio show.”

The tracks, titled Missing and Fall of Clinton, played on Radio Norfolk for three consecutive weeks before being broadcast on Radio 6 Music.

“Once I had this piece, I started getting a lot more gigs and meeting local artists.”

Kitty formed a band with bassist/vocalist Joe Maguire, drummer Ben Rodwell, pianist/vocalist Alexander Carson, and guitarist Declan Fearon and began performing. Lockdown live streams kept them productive during the pandemic, but by then Kitty had found another creative outlet to pursue from home.

Kitty Perrin in the studio at Radio Norfolk

Kitty Perrin has been nominated for a Broadcast and Media Award at the 2022 Norfolk Arts Awards
– Credit: Lee Colleen

For the past three years, Kitty has worked with BBC Voices as a presenter and producer for BBC Music Introducing in Norfolk. After submitting her songs to the show, she performed in the studio for a live session and told the producer that she was considering a career in radio.

“I started rocking up every week, standing on the other side of the glass and waving until someone let me in.”

Kitty curates a 20-song playlist for each show, introducing listeners to the best up-and-coming artists.

“I choose all the songs myself and try to say why I like them,” she says. “The audience won’t care unless you show them why it matters to them.”

Kitty also hosts The Social on BBC Radio Norfolk, a current youth programme.

“Young people can breathe so much life into you,” she says. “Every single person you hear on the show is 23 or under.”

The show discusses everything from politics and the cost of living crisis to favorite albums and online polls on Instagram on specific topics like travel or finance.

For her radio work, Kitty was nominated for a Broadcast and Media Award at the 2022 Norfolk Arts Awards. Winners will be announced at a ceremony on November 5th at the Sainsbury Center for Visual Arts.

Kitty also recently curated a Pride-themed show for The Hot List on BBC Sounds, celebrating the queer music scene, which she says has influenced her own artistic and personal journey.

“I had just started dating a girl for the first time when I heard Marika Hackman’s album, i’m not your man.”

The record is celebrated for its idiosyncratic exploration of female relationships and sexuality, which influenced Kitty’s creative process.

“Each song was so careless, but they were amazing stories and some were really funny. After I came out, I started writing really blunt and open songs.”

Other influences include classics like The Beatles, Suzanne Vega and Cat Stevens, as well as Lily Allen, Fleet Foxes and Phoebe Bridgers.

“I loved studying history, but music has this element that I don’t get from anything else. That feeling of just being in the moment. Nothing makes me feel like music.”

Kitty has been invited to lead Queer Voices at the Norwich Arts Center in June featuring only LGBTQ+ artists. “It was a very special show,” she admits.

Appearances at the Latitude Festival and Wild Paths have increased her fan base while she has also presented the BBC Introducing Stage at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Large-scale community events such as music and arts festivals are essential to keep our communities alive. The performing arts hold the city together – and young creatives like Kitty play an important role in rejuvenating our cultural landscape. And it’s not just the cash injections that students bring to our local economy, we count on them to breathe new life into the city with challenging and forward-thinking ideas.

Kitty describes how she spent her time trudging the sidewalks of Norwich in search of local music.

“I see live bands most nights of the week. I know pretty much every local band that plays in Norwich.”

Kitty Perrin and her band on stage at the Norwich Arts Center

Kitty has performed at the Norwich Arts Centre, Latitude Festival and Wild Paths and has presented the BBC Introducing Stage in Norfolk and at the Norwich Festival
– Photo credit: Gordon Woolcock

In The Playhouse Bar, an upside-down cityscape unfolds, a papier-mâché metropolis blossoming from the ceiling. With her voice scattered across the airwaves, her presence on stage and her frontline visibility at local gigs in her steadfast pursuit of new music, it seems to me that Kitty could have a big role to play in this town for years to come, as if it were the paper panorama above me.

But despite this growing reputation, she emphasizes the strength of the community.

“In Brighton I find the music scene is very competitive,” she says. “Everybody’s trying to make it, so nobody really wants to help the other. But in Norwich you go to people’s shows and they come to you. This is special. That doesn’t happen in every city.

“It’s so busy, but it still has that community feel. You just feel like you’re part of something – and that makes it the best place on earth.”

Leave a Comment