Town’s sizzling summer festival season shifts into high gear

No sooner has the New Wolsey Theatre’s Pulse Festival unveiled its last piece of new writing, then Ip-Art steps into the breach to fill the cultural void. It makes the perfect partner for the New Wolsey’s event and together they offer the town a full month of colour and culture.

If Pulse concentrates on promoting new writing and discovering new work and new artists which can represent this region at the Edinburgh Festival, then Ip-Art is about allowing the local people to have their voice.

The two festivals complement each other wonderfully.

The New Wolsey also contributes to the line-up with offerings from it’s Open Season. Mega Brill productions are staging Gulls at the New Wolsey Studio in St Georges Street.

The play is the UK premiere of a heartwarming play about a sister looking after her mentally disabled brother. It features local acting names Phil Cory, Jayne Lindill, Nigel Andrew Andrews and Helen Clarke. This runs from June 23-26.

Also on June 26 the New Wolsey is staging its biennial Open Day event in which audiences can come along, go backstage and see how a theatre works behind the scenes.

There will be activities for all ages including stage fighting and theatrical make-up.

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Tours will take place every 15 minutes which can be booked in advance on 01473 295900.

Other Ip-Art theatrical performances at the New Wolsey include The Gallery Players production of Rent, the Suffolk premiere of New York-based musical. Based on La Boheme, it tells the story of eight friends, their friendship and relationships over the course of a year.

Rent took the Pulitzer Prize for drama and ten Tony awards when it was staged on Broadway. The Gallery Players production in the New Wolsey main house runs from July 6-10.

In The New Wolsey Studio Suffolk playwright Suzanne Hawkes will be revealing the secrets of Orfordness, Bawdsey and radar in First In The Field. Suzanne explores this island of secrets, strange towers rising above the mansion.

Are they developing a death ray? Will they be a target for the Luftwaffe?

Based on the written records and the oral history of the people who worked there, this play dramatises the events leading up to The Battle of Britain. First In The Field runs from July 1-3.

Elsewhere round the town, Ipswich Orchestra Society will be performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue and Copland’s El Salon Mexico with acclaimed international pianist Noriko Ogawa and conductor Adam Gatehouse. The concert will be staged in The Grand Hall of The Corn Exchange at 7.30pm on June 26.

The following day the Ipswich Waterfront will be transformed into a carnival zone with a Waterfront Gamelan.

Starting at 11am participants will be invited to join a workshop building and decorating your own chimes while the young people from NACRO transform scrap materials into musical instruments – just like the Indonesian Gamelan.

Then at 2pm there will be a carnival parade to celebrate the transformation of the Waterfront which will go along the dock and then St Peter’s Street. Bring along some colourful clothes, crazy wigs, homemade instruments and join in the party atmosphere.

From 4pm there will be a free concert at St Peter’s Church featuring some weird and experimental instruments led by composer Stuart Stevens and the Purple Moments musicians.

All events are free and are designed to celebrate a sense of community down by the water.

Andrew Cann, Culture portfolio-holder, said: “We are really proud of what Ip-art has to offer – with theatre, visual arts and literature all well represented, along with music and dance. The summer festival has grown substantially over the past eight years and brings a huge cultural and economic boost to Ipswich.

“There are plenty of highlights this year – Shakespeare on the Lawn, poet Jackie Kay, Listed Lido – a play set in Crown Pools – and David Benson’s fringe classic about Frankie Howerd all deserve a ‘must see’ status but add in the writers’ caf�, a children’s folk fest and the Nearly Naked Chef and you can see why Ip-art is so successful. And there are still the headline events like Music Day, the Mela and the Last Night of the Proms.”

In addition to the big headline events in Christrchurch Park like Music Day on July 4, Big Friday on July 9 with Diversity, Jedward, Danyl Johnson, Jamie Archer and Stacey Soloman and The Last Night of the Proms on July 10 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, there are a host of smaller, more intimate events which deserve recognition.

Local promoters Peppery Productions are pulling out all the stops this year with a day of world music called Global Rhythm. This is staged outdoors in Christchurch Park on July 3 and all events are free.

On the Caribbean Expose stage there will be live musicians from the Caribbean islands Lima Calbio from Trinidad and Tobago providing steel pan performances. They will be joined throughout the day by Ipswich Steel Orchestra, world junior pianist Tamika Ward-Lewis, BT Metodians, London Notting Hill Mas Band, the Brazil Mas Band and the London School of Samba.

On the Peppery stage there will be a rocking collision of ska, funk and jazz with Ska Toons which has been described as Prince Buster meets Duke Ellington.

They will be followed by the Jani Lang Band which is a unique collaboration between Hungarian, Scottish, Irish and Egyptian musicians playing Balkan and gypsy music.

They will be followed by the exuberant all-singing, all dancing African a capella outfit Black Umfolosi 5 before the day ends with six piece Bhangra band Achanak who have the reputation of being one of the best live acts on the Asian music scene.

For those who love traditional swing-type jazz then Suffolk singer Andi Hopgood returns to Ipswich with her four piece band to perform songs made famous by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and other stars from the swing era. Andi Hopgood will be performing at the Holiday Inn, Ransomes Europark at 8pm on July 8.

On the following day Britain’s superstar Americana band Los Pistoleros will be bring their brand of alternative country, Tex-Mex, rock’n’roll and R’n’B to the Manor ballroom in Ipswich.

They have a loyal following in the county and will be playing many of the numbers to be found on their recently released debut CD Trigger-Happy.

On Sunday July 11, Ipswich will be enjoying a completely different musical experience when the Ipswich and Suffolk Indian Association stages its fifth Summer Mela which combines colourful Indian dance, songs, poetry and music.

It’s a real family festival within a festival, complete with a market, information of holistic therapies and a chance to experience a rich mix of South Asian culture.

This free event is being staged in Christchurch Park.

Ip-Art will also be staging a variety of live theatre around the town. David Benson who recreated the last weeks of Kenneth Williams’ life a couple of years ago, will be back in Ipswich with his take on the career of Frankie Howerd in his one-man show To Be Frank.

His analysis of one of Britain’s leading funnymen takes the star from despair to triumph and back again before he enjoys yet another career renaissance and ends up being the toast of Britain’s student population and the subject of an array of “Frankie says...” T Shirts.

To Be Frank is in the Council Chamber at Ipswich Town Hall on June 28.

Meanwhile on July 7 broadcaster, raconteur and cook Hardeep Singh Kohli will be combining comedy with cookery in his one-man show The Nearly Naked Chef.

Hardeep was runner-up in the first series of Celebrity Masterchef. Having debuted at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, this is an extended two course version of the show. Hardeep keeps the audience in the palm of his hand for almost two hours. The Nearly Naked Chef is at the Grand hall of The Corn Exchange on July 7.

Anyone wanting to quiz those in the know, can do so in Any Arts Questions when Ipswich Arts Association stages an Any Questions style event relating specifically to the arts.

On the panel are: Assis Carreiro from DanceEast, myself, Andrew Clarke from the EADT, Anthony Coe from the John Russell Gallery, Rob Dunger from BBC Radio Suffolk and Stephen Rumsey from Ipswich Choral Society. Professor Chris Green will be in the chair.

Any Arts Questions will be held at the Museum Street, Methodist Church from 1-2pm.

Open air theatre is always a big part of Ip-Art and outdoor company Pantaloons return this year to stage Much Ado About Nothing, one of Shakespeare’s funniest comedies outside Christchurch mansion.

Their performances were described by theatre critic and film director Ken Russell as “part alternative rock band, part thespian, part performance art, the result is wholly charming.”

This production is sure to put a smile on even the glummest face, using audience interaction, contemporary references, slapstick and original live music all nestled comfortably within the verse.

Mark Hayward, who was born and raised in Ipswich, said: “Our style is accessible for everyone: from little children who enjoy the bright colours and puppets to teenagers who discover a fun new way to approach their Shakespeare studies; from people who have never seen a Shakespeare production before to die-hard Shakespeare fans who get all the inter-textual jokes.”

Much Ado About Nothing is outside Christchurch Mansion on July 1.

Meanwhile on July 3 and 10, Crown Pools will be staging a site-specific performance Listed Lido which will have Listed Theatre slipping into swimsuits, from all eras, to tell the stories of the escapades, glories and more recent closures of lidos throughout Britain.

From the blitz to the bikini, Listed Lido is based on the true stories surrounding the legacy of the stunning art-deco public pools and the swimmers who use them.

Listed Theatre’s romp, through the thrills and chills of England’s lidos, dives off when a group of petty criminals are assigned community service in an outdoor swimming pool.

The offenders hard work pays off as they discover the real life stories of love, loss, and most importantly freedom that these magnificent pools have offered Britons since they were built just under a century ago.

For fans of dance, DanceEast have organised Big Dance Goes East on July 10 with workshops, classes and performances throughout the day at the Jerwood DanceHouse as well as Flash Dance Performances around the town. Big Dance Goes East will also feature a special appearance by the acclaimed ZooNation.

Also on July 10 dance teachers and professionals will get to spend time with Akram Khan, one of the world’s leading inter-cultural, inter-disciplinary choreographers.

Film fans are also not forgotten. Cineworld on Cardinal Park are screening Irish drama Once (15), on June 28, the documentary Scott Walker: 30th century Man (12A), Richard Curtis’ pirate radio comedy The Boat That Rocked (15) on July 5 and the classic Blues Brothers (15) on July 8.

These will be complemented by a pair of open-air screenings. On July 8, the previously advertised film Sex and the City (15) has been withdrawn by its distributors and has been replaced by the timeless John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John musical Grease (PG), then on July 10, Pixar’s latest family classic Up (U) will be on the giant screen.

All the open air screenings will be in Christchurch Park.

The Ip-Art Festival ends on July 13 with a free live transmission from the Royal Opera House with Placido Domingo performing Simon Boccanegra. Bring a picnic and enjoy this rollercoaster opera in Christchurch Park.

This is a just a sample of the treats on offer. The guide, including any late additions will be available on the web-site