Posted on 21 May 2016
This week I want to tell you all about a fantastic event being planned for next year. It's a gala performance to launch the opening of the Whisstocks development on our beautiful Woodbridge waterfront, and Barretts is its first commercial sponsor! Over the late bank holiday weekend in May 2017, a two-act operatic production called 'The King's River' will take place. A total of five performances will incorporate themes that involve the whole of the community. The Woodbridge Riverside Trust have commissioned the classical composer Jana Rowland, who will work with local schools, youth groups and community choirs over the next year. The finished production will include a troupe of Anglo-Saxon re-enactors, with about 160 local and 40 professional musicians and performers. It promises to be quite a show, and definitely THE cultural highlight for Woodbridge and East Anglia in 2017. And all in our wonderful little town!
The plans for this extravaganza were outlined at the presentation at Woodbridge Library on Tuesday 17th May, where Woodbridge Riverside Trust members and Jana described their vision for the performance and its themes. Jana even gave the invited audience a sneak preview of the music, with titles such as 'River Riddle Songs' and 'Keep Digging Mr Brown'. The 2 hour performance will celebrate the historical importance of the first Christian King of England, Rædwald of East Anglia. The 1st act will be at the Woodbridge Waterfront, with the 2nd act at the Riverside Theatre. Unfortunately Michael and I couldn't make the presentation at the library (we were at the Pulse Home & Gift Trade Show in London), but Barretts was ably represented by Jill's Mum and co-founder of Barretts, Ann Barrett, and Assistant Manager Louis Dawson.
I've listed some brilliant quotes from those involved below, which I think really capture the spirit and importance of this event:
Andrew Tidmarch (Gala Performance Director): "This performance is a gift for the local people from the local artists, reaching back into centuries of history and celebrating all those who have belonged to this breathtaking corner of England. There will once again be life, activity and spectacle in this historic location."
Dr Scilla Dyke MBE (Founder of Dance East): "I am enchanted and mesmerised by this project... (this gives a) tantalising glimpse of what I can envisage will be the fabulous, significant beginnings of a cultural legacy"
Terence Sheppey (Poet and Gala Performance contributor): "There is a part of our past that isn't that widely appreciated. And it sits astride a period of transition for the evolution of England, as pre-Christian and Christian beliefs overlap with an evolving concept of kingship that will define the medieval world view. The Sutton Hoo ship burial is a marker for this period. I feel privileged to be part of a team that is creating a vivid realisation of what this might have meant, whilst linking it to the famous excavation at the outbreak of the second World War, and then to contemporary Woodbridge."
Assistant Manager Louis Dawson and Barretts Co-founder Ann Barrett presenting a cheque for £5000 to Gala Launch producers Sam Simpson and Nancy Clay, and composer Jana Rowland (centre)
We at Barretts love to help with local initiatives, and when Sam Simpson and Nancy Clay (the Gala Performance Producers) outlined the scope of what is being planned we jumped at the chance to be involved. The inclusion of local schools and performers is a vital aspect for us, making it a truly Woodbridge production. So Barretts of Woodbridge will be donating the princely sum of £5000, and we are very proud to be the first of hopefully many commercial sponsors of the event. The East Anglian Daily Times also featured an article on the Gala Performance introduction and cheque presentations, which you can read here.
Woodbridge Waterfront Development
If you have visited Woodbridge recently, you won't have failed to notice all the work going on in the area directly in front of the Tide Mill, which has been a derelict eyesore for so many years. This is being transformed into the Woodbridge Waterfront Development, a community hub for Woodbridge, with a brand new town museum, open public areas, apartments, retail outlets and a restaurant overlooking the river. Arguably best of all, there will also be a large boat workshop where a replica of the Sutton Hoo longship will be built. This will truly be a landmark heritage and commercial development for Woodbridge, and something to be proud of for years to come.
Below are some images and sketches showing how the area will look.
Woodbridge Waterfront Trust
A word about the amazing Woodbridge Riverside Trust who, together with Woodbridge Town Council, have achieved so much after years of persistence and hard work. Founded by a small number of dedicated local people, it's a charitable trust set up to protect, preserve and enhance the character of the Deben riverside for the benefit of everyone. The Trust’s vision is to secure long term benefit for the community through the sheer enjoyment of our maritime history and riverside environment, embracing learning, training and skills development. The Trust aims to:
- Make the Woodbridge Waterfront an attractive and interesting place to be
- Provide opportunities for people of all ages to gain understanding of the maritime significance of Woodbridge and to acquire and use relevant practical, historical, environmental, archaeological and scientific skills
- Build connections between Woodbridge, Sutton Hoo, other parts of the United Kingdom and beyond, based on our common heritage and maritime links.
And about the Anglo-Saxon ship:
Construction of the experimental full-scale replica of the Sutton Hoo Anglo-Saxon royal burial ship is the catalyst project that will define Waterfront Woodbridge as a centre of excellence and a major international attraction. It will cement the links with Sutton Hoo, and be an immense source of pride and identity for this part of Suffolk.
Wow! This is something to look forward to, and watch this space for more news throughout 2016. You can also visit the Woodbridge Waterfront Trust website at www.woodbridgewaterfront.co.uk.
Next week I'll tell you all about our plans for the Suffolk Show!