Thorington Theatre near Saxmundham, Suffolk has been named winner of the New Tourism Business of the Year award, sponsored by Swiss Camplings, at the East of England Tourism Awards 2022-2023.

Thorington Theatre is a new open-air venue located near Saxmundham in Suffolk, which is open from June to August.

Situated on Stonehouse Farm, a regenerative organic nut farm, the 350-seat wooden amphitheatre was built in a Second World War bomb crater in a woodland, and was designed to have the smallest possible carbon footprint, taking inspiration from the way the farm is run: organically, sustainably and with the utmost consideration for the environment.

Work began during lockdown using sustainably coppiced chestnut trees from the immediate woodland, with many trees left in situ amongst the seating too, and the natural bowl-shaped crater that the theatre was built in ensured that no excavation work was required.

The theatre opened in May 2021 with a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed by a local youth theatre group and since then has hosted a number of shows including a local charity concert, a multilingual play featuring 90 school children, several Shakespeare productions and many live music events. In 2022, it entertained 11,250 visitors.

The judges praised Thorington Theatre as “an inspiration for those with an idea that needs doing” and said that “a healthy dose of experience and a positive approach to the environment” has led to the creation of “an offering that appeals to all”.

The “unique” nature of the attraction, as well as the variety of shows on offer, stood out to the judges and they concluded by saying that “this could, no, this should become a destination attraction.”

Owner Lindy O’Hare said she felt “overwhelmed and deeply grateful” to have won the award, and was particularly grateful for all those who helped to develop the theatre.

“We also feel very excited for what this means for the future. This award will expand our reputation and introduce more people to the theatre.”

The finalists

Silver - BugzUK

BugzUK is a new allinvertebrate zoo in Lenwade, Norfolk, with over 200 different species of minibeasts on display.

Visitors get the chance to see a range of creatures from leaf-cutting ants to scorpions that glow under UV lights.

There is also a butterfly and shell museum, outside play area, butterfly themed café and animal handling experiences.

The judges noted that “this is a very quirky and different new visitor attraction for Norfolk” which already boasts “excellent” visitor feedback on TripAdvisor and Google.

Bronze - Buoyancy Bikes

Buoyancy Bikes is a family-run business based in Wroxham, Norfolk. It was launched in 2021, offering a unique way for visitors to enjoy the Norfolk broads using its 10 Buoyancy Bikes, two pedalos and six paddleboards.

The business caters for couples, families, hen and stag parties and holidaymakers, and hosts team building events and school trips.

The judges said that Buoyancy Bikes offers “a great, fun and easy way to enable people to enjoy the Broads” and is a “wonderful addition to the ‘marine product’ at Wroxham”.


About the sponsor

Swiss Camplings offers full linen hire and commercial laundry services to the hospitality, educational and industrial sectors.

The East Anglian-based company, with laundries in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, provides bed linen, towelling, restaurant table linen, kitchen goods, chefs wears, industrial and food trade garments – and also offers supplementary services such as dust mats, roller towels and dry cleaning.

In 2004, family-owned Swiss Laundry acquired Camplings Linen to form Swiss Camplings. Both Swiss and Camplings operate to the same philosophy that “it’s the service that makes the difference” – with “old fashioned” family values at their core.