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New bid to attract cultural tourism to region backed by Suffolk and Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 14:10 07 January 2015 | UPDATED: 14:10 07 January 2015

Snape Maltings Concert Hall in winter

Snape Maltings Concert Hall in winter

PHILIPVILE

A new bid to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists to the region by emphasising its cultural attractions is being launched across Suffolk and Norfolk.

Ipswich at the heart of region’s new cultural offer

As the region gears itself up to attract hundreds of thousands of cultural tourists, Ipswich’s role is set to be crucial.

Erika Clegg from Spring agency, which is co-ordinating the campaign to sell the region to visitors, said the growth in cultural events at Suffolk’s county town was “quite extraordinary”.

She said: “Ipswich has seen an explosion in cultural events over the last few years, and it is now really starting to be noticed on the arts scene.

“A bit earlier we saw a huge growth in the arts in east London. Now that seems to be happening in Ipswich as well – and it has happened as an almost spontaneous event.”

She was reluctant to give too many examples for fear of missing anyone out – but said events like Ip-art, Spill and Pulse festivals, the growth of Dance East and the New Wolsey Theatre and the development of the Pacitti Company had all helped to develop the cultural life of the town and the wider area.

Ip-art has become the most popular festival in Suffolk over recent years, attracting more visitors than higher-profile events like the Aldeburgh Festival and Latitude during the summer.

Ms Clegg’s assessment was backed up by the town’s MP, Ben Gummer, who said the vibrancy of the town’s cultural organisations was like a magnet to artists.

Borough councillor with responsibility for tourism, Carole Jones, added: “Ipswich’s cultural offer is important for the whole county and the wider region and we are looking forward to an exciting and successful year.

“On top of events such as the Ip-art festival we have the Year of Constable exhibition at Christchurch Mansion which is of international importance.

“In addition, we have a rich history and heritage, a range of theatres, museums, the Waterfront, the DanceHouse and Pacitti Company, and the town is ideally placed for visitors who want to explore further afield. Ipswich is proud to be the cultural heart of the county.”

The two county councils have engaged Southwold-based communications agency Spring to work on a campaign to attract visitors to the region.

East Anglia is home to some of the leading arts festivals in the country, but there is a belief across the tourist industry in the region that with better publicity, many more visitors could be attracted to them.

Erika Clegg, from Spring, said the culture on offer, combined with the region’s easy access to London, the Home Counties, and the Midlands, gave East Anglia a huge advantage.

She said: “If you look at how culture has become key to the economy of the cities of the north west, there is much for us to work on.

“I’ve known Liverpool for many years and for a long time it was a bit of a cultural desert. Now it has a really thriving scene and is attracting people from a wide area.

“We are much nearer London and the south east than the north west – and have fantastic cultural offerings throughout the year.”

One of the main attractions of festivals is that they attract visitors outside the traditional summer season, providing a regular stream of customers for hotels, restaurants and other tourist businesses.

Among the attractions on offer are Aldeburgh Foundation events around the year, The Bury Festival, Ip-art and other events in Ipswich, and concerts at Newmarket and in Thetford Forest.

This is in addition to attractions such as museums, stately homes and heritage sites across the region – and the cross-border nature of the campaign is an acceptance that visitors don’t recognise county boundaries when choosing what to visit.

Ms Clegg added: “Culture is one of our greatest mutual assets and tourism is undergoing a period of growth. This is an exciting and much-needed opportunity to raise the profile of our region, bring more people to enjoy these beautiful counties, and really show Norfolk and Suffolk’s light to the world.

“We are delighted to be involved.”

Tourism is currently worth £4.6bn annually to the two counties, of which approximately £2.8bn and £1.8bn is generated by Norfolk and Suffolk respectively.

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for localities, environment and waste Rebecca Hopfensperger said: “Suffolk is a great place to live, visit and invest in. I am delighted that we have been able to contract a vibrant, internationally significant local business to deliver this project.”

In 2010 there were 1,787,000 staying visitors in Suffolk, staying a total of 6,525,000 nights. The total number of day visitors was 24,808,375.

Tourism in Suffolk supports 17,131 full-time jobs, and 34,237 tourism-related jobs in total, equating to 11.3% of the workforce. The total business turnover is £1,755,306,500.

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