THE celebration of Benjamin Britten’s centenary in Norfolk and Suffolk, Familiar Fields, could provide a tremendous boost for East Anglian tourism, say cultural chiefs.

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A year-long series of concerts, films and arts events could not only attract record numbers of visitors to the region but could change the way the rest of the country views East Anglia.

Caroline Jarrold, chairman of the Familiar Fields Steering group and the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, said: “The problem is that East Anglia tends to get forgotten and yet when people from London or elsewhere come here they are amazed that there so much going on.

“Familiar Fields will be a wonderful opportunity to redress the balance and show the country what we can do. There is a wealth of culture in East Anglia.

“It’s a great opportunity to get people to think of Suffolk and East Anglia as a cultural centre and that music and the arts is a real draw for tourism.”

Familiar Fields is an attempt to redress that balance and yesterday at the Snape Maltings, home of the Aldeburgh Festival and Benjamin Britten’s music for much of his life, the arts and tourism organisation launched the latest edition of its Britten 100 events guide.

Michael Nutt, director of Familiar Fields, said he was thrilled Norfolk and Suffolk was hosting 10% of the world’s Britten 100 events. “It’s only right that the region that so inspired Britten should be leading the centenary tributes. But it’s not just a celebration of Britten, it’s a celebration of the region that inspired that fabulous music.”

Sue Phipps, niece of Sir Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten’s agent from 1952 until his death, said that both Britten and Pears would be hugely honoured by the celebrations being staged this year.

“I think he would be extremely proud of the events being held in his name – particularly the amateur events, the community events and the children’s events, these things mattered so much to him.”

Aldeburgh-based broadcaster Humphrey Burton remembers Britten as a modest man and a consummate musician. “In 1963 I approached him about doing a 50th birthday portrait for the BBC and he was very self-effacing and said: ‘Oh really, do you have to? Can’t you wait until I am 75?’ In the end we made a 90 minute programme and it went out on the night that Kennedy was shot and the only programme not to be pulled from the schedules.”

The Familiar Fields guide to the Britten 100 events in Norfolk and Suffolk, supported by Archant Anglia, is available from concert venues, libraries and tourist information centres.

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