Culture-lovers have long been captivated by Suffolk – the county’s artistic heritage is evident all around, and there’s a wealth of venues where the performing arts come under the spotlight too.
Unchanged since 1819, the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds is one of only three places in Britain where you can enjoy an elegant, pre-Victorian theatre experience. Expect to enjoy a traditional bill of plays, pantomime, music, concerts and comedy in a restored Regency setting – this is the only theatre in the National Trust property portfolio.
Central to cultural life in the county, the New Wolsey Theatre is a 400-seat venue in the heart of Ipswich. Here you’ll find a wealth of new theatre, much of it written and produced in-house, and a range of productions to suit every age and pocket. Also in the county town, the Ipswich Regent & Corn Exchange have a long history – the former, under its previous name of the Gaumont, has hosted Buddy Holly, the Beatles and Tina Turner – while the Grand Hall of the latter is a great venue for comedy and musical events too.
Known best as the historic home of horseracing, Newmarket is also the site of the Kings Theatre which, now more than 60 years old, is run by volunteers from NOMANDS, the Newmarket Operatic, Musical and Dramatic Society. Kings has a varied programme over the year ranging from pantomime to musicals to plays.
And another centre of community creativity is Wingfield Barns, a unique collection of studios and galleries surrounding a restored timber-framed barn in the north Suffolk countryside. Here, a schedule of regular classes and events is interwoven with concerts and powerful stage performances by professional companies as well as local societies.
Finally, no cultural tour of Suffolk would be complete without time spent at one of the world’s leading concert and events venues, Snape Maltings. Home to a range of complementary galleries, shops and cafés, all nestled amid a serene landscape of reeds, riverbank and the big Suffolk sky, this creative hub is home to a varied programme that realises founder Benjamin Britten’s vision for an international centre of music of all types. The annual Aldeburgh Festival takes place here each June, but Snape Maltings is a destination to delight all and there’s nowhere better to get you in the Christmas spirit – even Santa visits Snape, arriving on board an historic Thames sailing barge!