A touch of the Middle East could hit east coast

Its a stately home known for its history, scenic grounds and grandeur, but a quiet corner of north Suffolk is aiming to attract thousands of people next summer to a two- day festival that celebrates the rich and diverse cultures of the Middle East.

Ambitious plans to hold a 'pioneering and exciting new festival' in the grounds of Somerleyton Hall, near Lowestoft are moving forward.

Organisers are looking to host Somer'leikum – which is being described as 'the world's first and only popular festival dedicated to celebrating Middle Eastern music, art and culture' – some time next July.

And this week, the Hon Hugh Crossley revealed that the 'big idea' surrounding this 'unique' festival next summer is to bring together 'the very best of the Middle East' and 'show it all off in a quintessentially English setting.'

'This is a very original concept that is close to my heart,' he admitted. 'The festival will be unique to everybody - as it aims to be spectacular, engaging and fun for all ages.

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'But also, we hope, it will be profound and gently educational for visitors of all kinds,' the Hon Hugh Crossley said.

With plans still in their infancy, hopes are high that Somer'leikum could potentially become an annual festival, which grows each year.

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'Somer'leikum is a fresh, pioneering and audacious festival, which is unique in that it is to be an inclusive and populist celebration of Middle Eastern art, music and colour,' the Hon Hugh Crossley said.

'In the fashion of the great English festivals such as Glastonbury, Somer'leikum will bring together the very best of the Middle East and show it all off in a quintessentially English setting.'

Aiming to transform the luxurious surroundings into 'an Aladdin's cave' of performance, comedy, theatre, music, food, dancing, cinema and even camel racing, the plans for this 'diverse and inspirational festival' are far-reaching.

From cutting edge contemporary art and music to Bedouin tents, Arabian horses, a literary tent and an Islamic garden, the Hon Hugh Crossley added: 'It will be a spectacle of pure entertainment for all the family; but we hope profound and eye-opening as well.

'A festival for the broadest base of people to first and foremost enjoy and while doing so appreciate the wonders of the Middle East and the things that bring us together in celebration rather than divide us.'

As Somerleyton Hall owner, the Hon Hugh Crossley spent eight years in the food and drink business building a successful Middle Eastern food restaurant chain Dish Dash (dish-dash.com), before taking over the family businesses, which centre around the 5,000-acre Somerleyton Estate, on the Norfolk and Suffolk border.

Here Hugh developed the Somer'leikum brand and concept while running Dish Dash and with a long and profound interest in the Middle East, which has seen him travel widely in the region, he is now working with other key players to turn this event into reality.

And speaking about the aspirations for the festival, the Hon Hugh Crossley said: 'It has the genuine and profound aim of hoping to open people's eyes and hearts to the wonders of the Middle East.'

Organisers are now working towards fixing a date for the festival.

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