Gainsborough's House re-opened in Sudbury in November after £10m of renovations. Executive director Mark Bills was at the forefront of the project, sharing the legacy of one of Britain's greatest artists in new, innovative and exciting ways. He hopes it will be enjoyed by generations to come. Mark talks to Gina Long...

What is your connection to East Anglia? 

It was Gainsborough that drew me here, an introduction that I am grateful for every day.  

What is your East Anglian heaven?

The wonderful broad landscapes and seascapes illuminated by dramatic and changeable skies, and its very special engagement with art and music.   

What is your East Anglian hell?

Probably the pot holes, which have given me so many flat tyres. Having said that I have one of the most beautiful drives to work in the country.  

What are your favourite East Anglian restaurants? 

Undoubtedly the local pubs close to my village like the Queen’s Head in Hawkedon and the Plough at Rede. In Sudbury I like the Secret Garden very much, and I have to mention the excellent Watering Place at Gainsborough’s House.  

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark? 

Gainsborough’s Sudbury, Constable’s Stour, and Britten’s beach at Aldeburgh.  

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year? 

The amazing festivals. 

Give us six words to describe Gainsborough's House

Inspiring. Intimate. Excellent. Inclusive. Warm. Joyous. Breathtaking. Fascinating. That is eight, but never mind, it exceeds expectations.

How does it feel to have recently opened to doors?

A mixture of great relief, great pride and thankfulness for everyone who has supported us.  

What is your specialist Mastermind subject? 

I suppose it should be and would be Gainsborough, but I think I would be terrified of getting a question wrong. In which case it might be one of many artists that I am fascinated by. 

What’s your simple philosophy of life? 

Love art, enjoy life, and feed the spirit.  

What’s your favourite film? 

It changes all the time, but it is probably those that I return to and still enjoy. At the moment it is the Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times.  

What was your first job? 

As a newspaper boy in the village I grew up in in Yorkshire. I still remember the difficulty of trying to get the Sunday papers through a letter box and territorial dogs.  

What is your most treasured possession? 

My collection of books (I have too many).  

Who do you admire most? 

I admire Dickens for his writing, which is full of humour and compassion, something that he did not always live up to himself. Above all I admire his ability to create another universe that crosses every boundary, a world that we can still enjoy entering and that is parallel to our own.  

What do you like about yourself most? 

My enthusiasm for people, ideas, and things.  

What’s your worst character trait? 

I sometimes get a little obsessive about things.  

Where is your favourite holiday destination? 

Venice and the Lake District. I suppose you could say that I am quite Ruskinian in that respect.  

Best day of your life? 

For every human being the key moments in life are the best, but for a moment I remember most, it is stepping out from the station of Santa Lucia in Venice to see the Grand Canal with my wife on our first holiday there together.  

What’s your favourite breakfast? 

Poached egg on toast, made with an egg bought from the stall on a country lane near the village I live in, served on toasted home-baked bread. 

What’s your favourite tipple? 

Really good farm cider where the only flavour is apple, and malt whisky.  

What’s your hidden talent? 

I occasionally play woodwind instruments and learn about old languages (not really a talent). 

What’s your earliest memory? 

It is seeing steam trains from my cot. I was born in a house that looked over a railway viaduct.  

What would you like played at your funeral? 

Probably something by J S Bach. 

Tell us something people don’t know about you? 

I went to school in New Zealand for two years. 

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else? 

The village I live in is really idyllic. I had to pinch myself everyday for several years to remind myself it was real. I think we are very lucky to live in such a beautiful corner of the world. 

What do you want to tell our readers about most? 

Gainsborough’s House! It is not the place you visited years ago. It still has the old charm in buckets, but there is so much more there now. I am obviously biased, but I think with its sense of place it is one of the best art museums in the country representing one of the country’s greatest artists. Really you must visit, it helps us to survive into the future and you will enjoy yourself. I promise.