Have you visited Quay Theatre or Gainsborough’s House? Survey shows Sudbury residents snub cultural gems

The Quay Theatre in Sudbury.

The Quay Theatre in Sudbury. - Credit: Archant

Only half of those responding to an online survey about Sudbury have visited historic market town’s key tourist attraction, figures have revealed.

Gainsborough's House.

Gainsborough's House. - Credit: Archant

The results from the online questionnaire about Sudbury, which have only been released to our reporting team, show that while 91% of those questioned had heard of the town’s main tourist attraction, Gainsborough’s House museum, almost half had never been there.

Similarly 36% of survey participants had never visited the town’s Quay Theatre and a further 39% had only been once.

The results suggest the people of Sudbury are snubbing the “cultural gems on their own doorstep”.

And Sudbury’s historic pubs are not faring much better according to the survey, with 46% saying they had never visited any of the town’s hostelries.

Gainsborough House survey by Sudbury Town Team. Pictured is Jane Hatton.

Gainsborough House survey by Sudbury Town Team. Pictured is Jane Hatton. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Around a third described the culture and attractions in the town as “poor” while a quarter said the variety of shops was also poor.

The ‘Sudbury Survey’ – a joint initiative between Gainsborough’s House and the Sudbury Town Team – was conducted earlier this year, online and on market days in the town centre, and was completed by around 500 people.

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Last night, director of Gainsborough’s House Mark Bills said the data proved the need to find new ways to pull in visitors, while town centre manager Jane Hatton warned people to “use or lose” the wealth of facilities. She also said more needed to be done to promote Sudbury’s attractions.

The survey showed that almost 80% of people come to Sudbury for shopping, with free parking a major draw, but 66% would like to see a wider variety of retail outlets.

More than half rated the town’s parks and open spaces as either good or excellent and a third said they shopped in the town because of the free parking. Around 70% said they had visited the town’s restaurants in the evening more than once a year.

Mr Bills said although visitor numbers at Gainsborough’s House had increased over the past three years from 18,000 to 22,500 per year, the survey proved more needed to be done to entice people into the museum, which is planning a multi-million pound expansion that would treble the size of its current gallery.

He said: “The survey shows that most people are aware of Gainsborough’s House but it’s quite shocking to see that only half of those surveyed have actually visited and a further 38% have only ever been here once.

“They know what’s here but they don’t value it - I guess it’s a case of not treasuring the cultural gems we have on our own doorstep.

“Tempting people to come back or visit for the first time is our biggest challenge. Once we get them through the door, I am confident they will see that a lot has changed here.”

One idea being put forward is offering more “free” open days to local people in a bid to break down misconceptions that Gainsborough’s House is not relevant to them.

According to town centre manager, Mrs Hatton, recurring complaints cropped up during the survey. These included the lack of public toilets and having to pay to use those that are there. In addition, participants protested about the number of charity shops, a shortage of parking spaces and lack of nightlife.

Mrs Hatton said Sudbury had a wealth of facilities and activities to offer but she believes people need to be “constantly reminded” and encouraged to “use them or lose them”.

She added: “There are certain things we can’t change but if we can promote the town more to let people know what’s going on, the more they can get the benefit.

“Throughout the survey, people said they were in favour of plans to build a new cinema in Sudbury but if we get one and they don’t use it, then it won’t be there for long.”

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