Suffolk’s county town festival brings culture to the masses

30,000 people were at East Coast Live last Saturday - pushing up the attendance to IP-Art.

30,000 people were at East Coast Live last Saturday - pushing up the attendance to IP-Art. - Credit: Archant

For a county that sometimes seems awash with summer festivals, I must admit I raised an eyebrow when I heard IP-Art described as Suffolk’s biggest cultural festival.

After all this is the county of the Aldeburgh Festival, the Bury Festival and Latitude – and against that IP-Art can look rather like a Johnny Come Lately.

But if you actually look at the number of people attending events over the three weeks of the festival, it knocks the others into a cocked hat. The numbers going to events at IP-Art is more than the others I’ve mentioned here put together!

I must admit the music on offer at Chantry Park last weekend wasn’t really to my taste – I’m rather too old to get excited by Jessie J and McBusted – but for 50,000-plus fans it was just what they wanted to see.

I will be among the 40,000 or so making their way to Christchurch Park on Sunday to see and hear some of the great local bands at Music Day.

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Add a large number of other smaller events and you can see why IP-Art is such a major event – and one that really does reserve recognition over a wide area.

OK, so it doesn’t have the culture vultures from London shipping up at the Waterfront.

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And it doesn’t have campers and glampers from around the country setting up their tents in Christchurch Park.

But it really is a great festival for the ordinary people.

Everyone who lives in Ipswich and within striking distance of the town can really feel a part of IP-Art and you only have to look at the crowd pictures from Saturday to see how much people enjoyed being part of the event.

I was born and brought up only a few miles from the Suffolk coast, but I always felt that the Aldeburgh Festival was not for the likes of us – unless you managed to get a summer job directing cars from London into the Snape Maltings car park!

That was back in the 1970s, and I know things have changed – but Aldeburgh Festival last year attracted 27,000 visitors compared with 175,000 expected at this year’s IP-Art.

Latitude attracts between 35,000 and 40,000 a day over its three days at Henham Park while the Bury Festival got between 8,000 to 10,000 this year.

So with IP-Art being the daddy of all Suffolk festivals why doesn’t the county make more of it? It’s big in Ipswich, but why aren’t communities from a wide area taking advantage of this great attraction in our county town?

It’s time for the rest of Suffolk to recognise that what Ipswich has to offer in terms of festivals is unrivalled anywhere else in the county.

Not only is IP-Art the biggest festival in Suffolk, it’s also the most accessible.

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