Southwold Arts Festival is hailed as a real boost for the town

Southwold Arts Festival team are ready for the festival, which starts this weekend in Southwold.Pict

Southwold Arts Festival team are ready for the festival, which starts this weekend in Southwold.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

The organisers of Southwold's first arts festival are predicting it will be a huge success with at least 75pc of tickets sold and plans already being made for next year's event.

The eight-day celebration of art, music, theatre and spoken word will get under way tomorrow with an extravaganza of entertainment during a free street festival in the town centre.

Fringe events have already started and throughout the festival week there will be a programme of concerts, theatre productions, exhibitions and talks taking place.

Simon Tobin, chairman of the festival organising committee, said it had been hard work but organisers were hopeful of success.

He said: 'It has taken 18 months from conception to this first event.

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'Adnams, as main sponsor, has

been absolutely fantastic in their support.

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'The committee team have also worked relentlessly, meeting every week, to put together a Southwold Arts Festival which will be unrivalled in quality of both international stars and community projects.

'I believe there will be up to 5,000 people specifically visiting the festival over the week, which is wonderful for bringing culture to our doorstep and a wonderful opportunity for the local economy to benefit.'

High Street will be closed from 9am tomorrow for the street entertainment and with just hours to go before the launch of the event, Mr Tobin said the town was 'buzzing' with excitement.

He added: 'The last week, the town centre has been buzzing. It has been completely decorated with bunting and flags and the Art and Soul exhibition has also opened within this time so there is a real feel of excitement within the community.'

The opening street festival is being sponsored by the My Southwold project, which was set up with a £10,000 Portas grant to support independent businesses in Southwold and safeguard the vitality of the High Street.

Together with the festival committee, the My Southwold team have helped to organise the street event and have been putting the finishing touches to the High Street decorations.

Sallie Smith, who is a member of the My Southwold team along with Clare Hart and Morgan Richards, said it was a fantastic opportunity to be involved with the festival.

She said: 'We were approached by the arts festival committee to see if we would support the festival in High Street.

'We felt it fitted in with our aim because the Portas money we had been given was to promote the High Street.

'The street festival is primarily about bringing people in to the town and promoting the high street, offering fun, free entertainment for everybody on the day.'

Mrs Smith added: 'On the day itself My Southwold is going to have a stand in front of the town hall. It will be an information point and we will be selling programmes.

'Our plan is to really spread the message about what we are trying to achieve with My Southwold.

'We have got balloons and flags to give to the children and we will be available if people want to chat to us to find out more.'

The launch of the arts festival tomorrow will be heralded with a peal of bells from St Edmund's Church between 9am and noon.

At 11.45am, a children's parade will depart from the police station in to the town centre before festival patron Emma Freud declares the event open from a stage in the Market Place at noon.

Entertainment on the day will include street performances by the Vamos Midwives theatre group, Tutti Swing Band, Music Vox Choir, Tutti Folk Band, a samba band, children's dance and drama, a Bulgarian folk singer, Wrentham Town Band, a children's storyteller, stalls and an aerial circus followed by a circus skills workshop.

The street festival will culminate with the Sing While You Work choir competition at 5.30pm, which features four teams of amateur singers going up against one another to win a prize.

Chris Ure, a member of the festival committee, said support and goodwill for the festival had extended to many of the artists, who had willingly given their time to promote the event.

He added: 'What began over a year ago as a one-off arts and music festival now looks certain to become an annual event in the Southwold calendar.

'A planning group for the 2015 festival has now been established and trustees recruited so that charitable registration can be secured.'

Extra parking, costing £3 all day, will be available tomorrow on Southwold Common and in the temporary car park next to the Stella Peskett Millennium Hall.

Visit for tickets, events listings and travel information. Tickets are also available from the box office at St Edmund's Hall or by calling 01502 722572.

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