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Operatic opening planned for Whisstocks boatyard regeneration in Woodbridge

Andrew Fitzgerald (left) chair of the Woodbridge Riverside Trust recieves cheques from Suffolk Coastal District Council's Geoff Holdcroft (4th left) and Louis Dawson from Barretts of Woodbridge, outside Woodbridge Library.

Andrew Fitzgerald (left) chair of the Woodbridge Riverside Trust recieves cheques from Suffolk Coastal District Council's Geoff Holdcroft (4th left) and Louis Dawson from Barretts of Woodbridge, outside Woodbridge Library.

A riverside regeneration project will be given a suitably grand opening thanks to almost £11,000 in grants.

With a year until the ribbon is cut on the Whisstocks development in Woodbridge, plans are being hatched for a landmark operatic opening.

Local department store, Barretts of Woodbridge handed £5,000 to the Woodbridge Riverside Trust (WRT) for organising the event next May.

It followed £2,000 from Suffolk Coastal’s capital and revenue grant programme and £2,056 from town councillor Geoff Holdcroft last year – with another £1,219 from the capital programme in 2016, plus £500 from district councillor Colin Hedgely.

WRT will occupy a 32-metre community boatshed on the new site for construction of a full-size replica Sutton Hoo burial ship.

The old Whisstocks boatyard and nearby Nunn’s Mill site will also contain apartments, townhouses, a restaurant, shops, a new home for Woodbridge Museum and an outdoor space for community events.

Composer Jana Rowland has been commissioned to create an original production for the opening, involving schools, youth groups and choirs.

A preview at Woodbridge Library revealed details of a two-hour piece celebrating the importance of the first Christian King of England and the treasures buried at his side – with ‘Act One’ taking place at Whisstocks and ‘Act Two’ in a local theatre.

The finished production will include a troop of Anglo-Saxon re-enactors, alongside about 160 local and 40 professional musicians and performers.

Sam Simpson, WRT trustee in charge of the gala, said the performance would be a chance to raise awareness of the waterfront project.

Mr Holdcroft, agreed it would be a catalyst for the trust to fulfil its larger ambition of constructing a full-scale burial ship replica.

Mr Hedgley added: “They’ve been working so hard to ensure this project goes ahead and I’m looking forward to seeing the long term benefits it can bring to the area.”

Jill Barrett said her department store was “delighted and honoured” to be supporting a cultural highlight in East Anglia for 2017.

Before then, the trust needs to raise around £70,000 through donations, sponsorship and grants for fitting out the boatshed building.

You can find out more by visiting woodbridgeriversidetrust.org.

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