Composer and TV watchdog are 'heroes'

COMPOSER Benjamin Britten has been voted Suffolk's Local Hero, narrowly beating artist John Constable and first woman doctor and mayor, Aldeburgh's Elizabeth Garrett Anderson.

COMPOSER Benjamin Britten has been voted Suffolk's Local Hero, narrowly beating artist John Constable and first woman doctor and mayor, Aldeburgh's Elizabeth Garrett Anderson.

It was announced yesterday that the classical composer came out on top in a BBC viewers poll to find Suffolk's local hero.

Television clean-up campaigner Mary Whitehouse received the equivalent award for Essex, beating off competition from Guglielmo Marconi, who transmitted the first wireless signal across the Atlantic, and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Although John Constable won the East Anglian Daily Times' Great East Anglians poll, it was Britten who was championed by Angela Rippon in a special programme.

Jonathan Reekie, chief executive of Aldeburgh Productions, said: "It's fantastic but slightly unexpected in this era of stars. But he was a Suffolk man through and through and the county inspired him. You can hear the landscape in his work, the sense of space and light – he was very much a man of the east coast."

Britten was born in Lowestoft to prosperous and ambitious parents and Dr Andrew Plant, curator of the Britten-Pears Library, said his mother wanted him to be the fourth B – the other three being Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

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On finding fame, the composer moved to America but returned homesick and lived in a house on Aldeburgh seafront with his life long companion, the tenor Peter Pears.

However, as his fame grew, their home became a tourist attraction and they moved inland to The Red House on the edge of Aldeburgh golf course in 1957.

He had a life-long love of Snape and when the village's Maltings closed in 1967, Britten set out to fulfil a dream to create a concert hall and music school at the venue which draws musicians from all over the world and is home to an international music festival as well as projects that reach out into local schools and prisons.

Britten, who died in 1976, has a high school named after him in his birth town of Lowestoft and he has also inspired Suffolk sculptor Maggie Hambling to create her controversial Scallops piece that lies on Aldeburgh beach.

Meanwhile, campaigner Mary Whitehouse was awarded the posthumous honour of being named the Local Hero of Essex.

Mrs Whitehouse, who died in 2001 at the age of 91, had been the scourge of broadcasters since the 1960s.

The teacher began her campaign in 1964 from her home in Ardleigh near Colchester. The following year it became the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, now known as Mediawatch, and she was its president until 1994.

Throughout her life, she continued to campaign for her beloved cause and never gave up her belief that violence on screen led to a violent society.

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