Festival industry worth �20m for Suffolk

SUFFOLK’S growing festival scene could bring as much as �20million into the county this year, it emerged today.

Tourism bosses were confident of a summer bonanza as they launched a campaign to make Suffolk the festival capital of the UK.

Festivals Suffolk was kicked off yesterday by tourism agency Choose Suffolk along with arts and heritage organisations and support from the county council at The Cut in Halesworth.

The campaign will promote events including the Latitude Festival on the Henham estate, near Southwold, the Bury St Edmunds Festival, the Aldeburgh Festival, and the HighTide Festival, which began yesterday at The Cut.

It also aims to definitively work out how much money the industry draws into the economy from outside the county.

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Initial estimates put that figure as high as �20m. Latitude alone pulled in about �5m last year.

Alex Paul, tourism manager at Choose Suffolk, said: “We have got real potential here.

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“Festivals Suffolk is all about promoting the county as the UK’s premier destination for the arts, culture and heritage – the Festivals County of the UK.

“Suffolk’s wide range of festivals and events provide an excellent way to promote the county and attract international performers and artists, alongside audiences from as far afield as Israel and China.

“This activity also delivers serious benefits to local residents, both in terms of what’s on offer in the county and the boost these events deliver to Suffolk’s economy.”

The launch was opened by composer Tom Rose, Aldeburgh Young Musician and award winner of the junior section of The Guardian/BBC Proms Young Composers’ Competition.

Afterwards, poet Dean Parkin gave a taster of his one-man show, Dean’s Dead Ducks, which will be at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer.

There was also the premiere of Beth Steel’s new play, Ditch, a High Tide and Old Vic co-production, which offers a frightening vision of a future Britain where civilisation has broken down.

Sam Hodges, HighTide artistic director, said: “Festivals Suffolk is exactly the solution that the county needs - drawing on the breathtaking diversity of its cultural makeup, but accounting for its geographically disparate nature by pooling everyone under one banner. HighTide are thrilled to have such distinguished bedfellows.”

Melvin Benn, managing director of Latitude Festival organiser Festival Republic, said: “This is a fantastic initiative for Suffolk and will help to position the county’s strong cultural and arts offering in a very competitive field.

“As home to a range of high-profile events, such as Latitude, the Festivals Suffolk campaign is a great vehicle to help promote the county as the UK’s festivals’ capital.”

Marc Ernesti, from Aldeburgh Music and chairman of the Choose Suffolk Arts and Heritage Group, said: “The Festivals Suffolk campaign provides the ideal vehicle to celebrate some of the best events our county has to offer, and we invite everyone to come and be inspired here, too.”

Meanwhile, culture chiefs were hoping to continue the momentum from a successful Easter into this Bank Holiday weekend despite the indifferent weather forecast.

Experts are predicting showers today, with prolonged periods of rain moving in overnight and into tomorrow.

Temperatures will be about 12C although a northerly wind may make it feel chilly at times.

Mr Paul said: “Easter turned out to be extremely successful. Even when we don’t get the bright, sunny skies we are still pulling people into the county.

“The key to the success is the huge number of events going on. People are bcomeing more event-driven and there is a growth of good quality events in Suffolk.”

To find out more about Festivals Suffolk visit www.festivalssuffolk.com

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