Ed and the Castle on the Hill, aged 8! Star tells of his love for Suffolk

An eight-year-old Ed Sheeran at Framlingham Castle in a family snap by his father John. Picture: JOH

An eight-year-old Ed Sheeran at Framlingham Castle in a family snap by his father John. Picture: JOHN SHEERAN - Credit: Archant

Suffolk superstar Ed Sheeran has written movingly about his love for his home county as the final touches are put to an Ipswich exhibition celebrating his life and career.

Ed Sheeran at the Castle on the Hill in 2016. Picture: MURRAY CUMMINGS

Ed Sheeran at the Castle on the Hill in 2016. Picture: MURRAY CUMMINGS - Credit: Archant

In the Foreword to the guide for the Christchurch Mansion exhibition "Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk" the superstar - who plays four sell-out concerts at Chantry Park next weekend - writes of his delight at ending his two-year world tour with homecoming gigs in Ipswich.

He might have been born in Yorkshire, but the Sheeran family moved to Framlingham when Ed was a young child and it is this part of the country that is clearly home.

Ed writes: "Suffolk means so much to me. I love walking in the countryside, the open skies, the light, the coast, fish and chips on the beach, or a pint of local beer in an ancient pub.

"And Ipswich is where I played some of my early gigs before I got signed - at the Drum and Monkey, the Swan, the Steamboat Tavern, McGinty's and in Christchurch Park for Ipswich Music Day."

The Colin Davidson portraits of Ed Sheeran. Picture: NICOLE DRURY/IBC

The Colin Davidson portraits of Ed Sheeran. Picture: NICOLE DRURY/IBC - Credit: Archant

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He remembers his time doing work experience in Ipswich council's press office where manager Max Stocker asked him what he wanted to do with his life.

"I said I was going to be a singer-songwriter touring the world. 'Take my advice, Ed, stay at school and stick to your exams!' he advised me."

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Max still smiles at the memory of that particular careers' advice!

Ed has high praise for the work of photographer Mark Surridge who has included pictures taken while he was on tour and Irish painter Colin Davidson whom he met in 2014 and has drawn and painted the star.

Ed also thanks his father John who has uncovered items going back to his childhood and teenage years - including his first song lyrics written when he was 13.

And Ed hopes the exhibition will inspire other youngsters with portrait painting, photography, songwriting and music workshops: "I am also thrilled that proceeds from this project will help to raise funds for much-needed Zest teenage hospice care in Ipswich."

John Sheeran explains in the guide that he and his wife Imogen brought up Ed and his brother Matthew in a home with a fertile creative environment - with drawing, painting, singing, dancing and music. Ed loved building with Lego - a hobby he still has today.

The boys went on long walks in the countryside - giving their parents their own guided tours "like mini David Attenboroughs."

Ed's final words in the Foreword come straight from the heart: "Thank you Ipswich, and thank you Suffolk."

Ed Sheeran show expected to pack Christchurch Mansion until next spring

Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk opens on Tuesday at Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich. It continues for nine months until May 3 next year.

It includes exhibits showing the Suffolk superstar's life growing up in the county - as well as images and objects charting his astonishing global success over the last decade.

It is Suffolk that is at the heart of the exhibition with contributions from EADT and Ipswich Star publisher Archant and sponsorship from Aspall - Suffolk's world-beating cyder.

Alongside family pictures of Ed's childhood (even his Lego collection features) there are spectacular pictures of Ed playing concerts and in recording studios by Mark Surridge.

Colin Davidson's portraits of the star show the face the world knows - and is also a contrast to the drawings of Ed and his brother Matthew as young children by Alan Flood.

The exhibition has been curated by Ed's father John.

The exhibition is free - but tickets do need to be booked in advance to prevent long queues building up in Christchurch Park.

It is expected to be especially busy over the next few weeks with Ed's Ipswich shows focussing the world's attention on his homecoming celebrations.

Tickets can be obtained by visiting this website where you can select the time you want to see the exhibition.

It is expected to be one of the most successful shows ever seen at Christchurch Mansion - and follows the mega-success of the Constable show in 2015 and last year's visit of Rodin's The Kiss.

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