Halesworth’s HighTide Festival hopes to build on successful year

A celebration of playwrights and theatre has enjoyed a successful sixth instalment after a record attendance visited the Halesworth HighTide Festival.

The annual festival returned to Halesworth bigger than ever before earlier this month, and after seeing a rise in visitors to the town, organisers are hoping it will continue to grow.

Steven Atkinson festival director said it was a great festival and he was delighted that audience numbers increased as the number of plays grew from four shows to 18.

Mr Atkinson said: 'The risk this year was if we would see new people at the larger festival. If not it means we would not need to grow, but there were definitely more people.'

Particularly popular productions included a headphone play around Halesworth and a children's show, while star names including Downton Abbey stars Brendan Coyle and Lesley Nichol, and Susan Brown, of Torchwood, proved popular, as 75 of the country's top actors and actresses travelled to the town.

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Mr Atkinson said: 'I think we increased the our audience by a third, which is a few thousand people more over the 10 day period.

'There were lots of people new to the festival with young people travelling from London, and lots more local people particularly interested in Griff Rhys Jones and Juliet Stevenson.'

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Among the hopes for next year will be bringing a South African theme to the town's Rifle Hall, which this year welcomed most US productions.

Mr Atkinson said that next year's festival will start on May 1, and he is hoping they might be able to extend it even further to three weeks.

The festival was extended from a long-weekend to a two-week showcase last year, but after becoming a national portfolio organisation of Arts Council England, was extended further this year.

Mr Atkinson has previously stated that he hopes that in 20 years the event would be known as the theatre version of the Aldeburgh Festival, which is renowned for classical music.

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