Venues to hold special Olympic weekend

ATTRACTIONS across Suffolk will open their doors to thousands of visitors for free later this year for a special weekend inspired by the 2012 London Olympics, it was announced yesterday.

Craig Robinson

ATTRACTIONS across Suffolk will open their doors to thousands of visitors for free later this year for a special weekend inspired by the 2012 London Olympics, it was announced yesterday.

Tourism chiefs are planning the free event to celebrate the beginning of the Cultural Olympiad - which is officially launched in September.

It marks the start of London's four-year ownership of the summer games and is a chance to showcase the heritage of Suffolk to the rest of the world and engage a new audience in cultural activities.

Initial details of the Big Weekend, which will run on October 11 and 12, were announced during a talk to culture chiefs at Endeavour House, Ipswich.

Day visitors are worth £700m to the Suffolk economy and it is hoped this one event could generate an extra £250,000.

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Scott Dolling, from the Suffolk Tourism Partnership, said: “In response to the Cultural Olympiad we will be inviting thousands of residents to taste the cultural and sporting facilities that we have to offer.

“Already thousands of tickets have been pledged by organisations across the county to make this weekend one to remember for residents and to pump new impetus into the economy.

“The event is going to be held in the low season in autumn so it's a great time to inspire new people to go and try other attractions and events.”

Some 50 venues have already signed up for the Big Weekend including Sutton Hoo, Melford Hall, Lavenham Guildhall, RSPB Minsmere, Easton Farm Park and Valley Farm Riding Centre near Woodbridge.

Others include Aldeburgh Music, Otley Hall, Shawsgate Vineyard, Go Ape, Baylham Rare Breeds Farm, Pleasurewood Hills and the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds - which will be holding behind-the-scenes tours.

“Hopefully attractions will really pull out the stops and break away from the norm,” Mr Dolling said. “The Theatre Royal for example is offering people the chance to do something a bit different. We want the venues to be inspired and do something special.

“There is much more work to do but we've been overwhelmed with the response and we hope it continues.”

Yesterday's talk was led by Liz Hughes, creative programmer for the east of England, who discussed how venues and attractions in Suffolk could get involved in 2012 and benefit from using the Games' Inspire logo.

“We are looking for truly innovative cultural projects that find new ways of developing and delivering culture for our communities,” Mrs Hughes said.

Any venues in Suffolk that would like more information on the Cultural Olympiad and find out how to get involved can visit www.london2012.com/beinspired or contact Mrs Hughes on 01223 372683.