Japan is coming to the UK. From May 2001 to March next year, upwards of 1,000 Japanese arts and lifestyle events will be taking place in all sorts of places, from Aberystwyth to Edinburgh, London to Manchester. Schools and young people will have plenty of opportunities to take part in Japan 2001, so look out for details locally or join the Japan Festival Education Trust's mailing list.
Some artists are only now in the process of setting up their school visits. One such is Makoto Nomura, an innovative composer who studied at Kyoto and York universities and who mixes community and education work with completing commissions for traditional Japanese and Western instruments. His fame is growing in Japan as he appears in concerts and on CDs of contemporary music.
I met him recently at the Opera City Gallery in Tokyo surrounded by drawings and videos. One of the videos showed "Shogi composition". A group of people had been invited to meet in a shopping mall bearing all sorts of sound-making objects, from a violin to a tin can. Nomura arranged them in a circle and invited one person to invent a phrase of music and record it on paper in any style, from a picture to formal five-line notation. Examples of these then became part of the exhibition in the gallery.
The second person had to add another phrase and record it while the first person repeated the original phrase or variations on it. Eventually, everyone was making a contribution - banging something, shouting, ringing a bell - until the first person was reached again and had to invent a second phrase.
The idea is that these people will always be able to repeat their composition, which ends only when time runs out. Nomura is so taken with the result that he composed his last piece for a chamber group without writing it down and asked each player to be prepared to reconstruct his part in the future.
Nomura would like to experiment with Shogi composition and possibly take other kinds of workshop in schools in the UK. If instruments are avaiable, well and good. If not, no matter. He will be bringing other musicians to the UK with him. For information, contact Mark Smith at JFET: 020 7630 8696. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.jfet.org.uk Dan Dare has landed in Croydon. The Fifties spaceman's creator, Frank Hampson, was supposedly so accurate in his technological predictions that the Ministry of Defence had a weekly order of the Eagle, the comic in which Dan Dare appeared. Young sophisticates familiar with computers and space travel can draw their own conclusions, although they might be surprised to find the Dome and the Channel Tunnel among the artwork drawn 30 or more years ago.
There are models of spaceships, a replica of Hampson's studio and a statue of Dare's adversary, the evil Mekon. Visitors can have a go at drawing a Dan Dare strip and find out more about the Eagle in hands-on computer displays. Croydon Clocktower from tomorrow until June 3. Information:020 8253 1030.
Roald Dahl's popularity has been only slightly dented by the landslide success of Harry Potter. His grotesquely funny novel The Twits has been adapted for the stage and has just embarked on a country-wide tour following a spell at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. For dates from Edinburgh to Brighton, Bristol to Sheffield, request the Belgrade brochure from Nick Tomlinson: 024 76846732.
Jacky Lansley's original investigation of Stravinsky's ballet The Firebird has resulted in a new piece, Bird, in which third-year students from King Alfred's College, Winchester, make up a chorus alongside a cast of professionals.
Actor-dancer Lansley is joined by character dancer Fergus Early and Shakespearean actress Sonia Ritter as she delves into the folk sources of Stravinsky's familiar ballet. Composer Philip Howard, costume designer Nina Ayres and music group Dreme are also on hand. Performances at Portsmouth College on March 12 and at the Purcell Room on London's South Bank on March 15 and 16. Tickets: 020 7960 4242. www.sbc.org.uk Heather Neill