Being in a pub in Framlingham in 2005 when Suffolk-born Delia Smith rallied the Norwich FC faithful with her famous “Let’s be havin’ you” speech. The place exploded. As did, sadly, her team.


I love Maggi Hambling. I love the twinkle in her eye, her ink-soaked fingertips, her painters’ smocks and her chain smoking. And I love The Scallop, her beautiful beach sculpture in Aldeburgh: its form and elegance, and its tribute to gay artist Benjamin Britten and to all the ‘voices that will not be drowned’. Like Hambling, it’s impressive as well intimating. And it, too, makes me smile.


Is it too cliched to say Southwold? I can’t help myself. When I was a kid, the beach meant Blackpool where everything was a riot of rock shops and arcades, endless hotel facades and the overpowering smell of pubs and chip fat (don’t get me wrong: I loved it). The first time I went to Southwold, I couldn’t compute the calm, the candy-coloured beach huts… and the fact it wasn’t raining. I had to be dragged off the vintage games in the Under the Pier Show. It’s much harder to find a Kiss Me Quick hat in Southwold, but on every other measure I have to say I prefer it (don’t tell Blackpool).

Town or village

Stowmarket, where Primadonna is held. It’s become a sort of second home to me, and I’ve been so happy to see Primadonna welcomed by the town and made to feel at home there too. We’re really excited about this year’s festival, which features amazing talent including La Roux, Kit de Waal, Abi Morgan and Betty Boo. And we’re proud to have made entry free for Suffolk residents for the final day, so everyone can feel part of what we’re doing.

Place to eat

I’ve done a lot of walking round Suffolk, and in particular up and down the Suffolk coast, and have on many occasions ended up sitting on a bench facing Aldeburgh beach with a hot bag of salty chips. What could be better than that?


The biggest and best thing about Suffolk is its night sky. There’s so little light pollution, so much space, such expansive horizons: it all makes for magically starry nights.


Other than Primadonna I would say the Dunwich Dynamo: a night bike ride from Hackney in east London up to Dunwich on the Saturday night closest to the full moon in July. I haven’t done it – yet – but I’ve been on the beach when riders have arrived and been envious of the joy (relief?) on their faces, if not the chafing on their thighs. Maybe next year…


Not one individual shop, but the collective of charity shops across Suffolk towns and villages that provide, without fail, the most incredible finds of all kinds. I’m not a fan of shopping, but I make an exception for Suffolk’s charity shops: they’ve never let me down.


Ed Sheeran. Joking: it’s obviously The Darkness.

Catherine's debut novel as CE Riley, Is This Love? will be published by Serpent's Tail in August.

Primadonna Festival is at The Museum of Food in Stowmarket from July 29 to 31, with a programme including film, theatre, dance, stand-up, food and drink. Find out more at