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Felixstowe: Memories of Bartlet needed for new play about the former hospital

PUBLISHED: 10:00 19 January 2013

Dr Janet Massey, playwright Suzanne Hawkes and campaigner Michael Ninnmey celebrate gaining £10,000 of lottery cash for a project on Dr John Bartlet and his hospital.

Dr Janet Massey, playwright Suzanne Hawkes and campaigner Michael Ninnmey celebrate gaining £10,000 of lottery cash for a project on Dr John Bartlet and his hospital.

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A SUFFOLK playwright is today appealing for first hand accounts and memories of life at a former Felixstowe hospital.

Suzanne Hawkes, who has written plays on a number of subjects including a sell-out production about the life of Ipswich’s most famous son Thomas Wolsey, is currently researching the history of the Bartlet Hospital.

She is due to write and produce a play about the convalescent unit as part of a lottery funded project to record its history.

Felixstowe-based, Ms Hawkes said the play will explore the life and legacy of Dr Bartlet who provided money for the hospital in his will.

“I need people to come forward who were either patients or worked at the Bartlet or were relatives of patients at the hospital with their stories, memories and even memorabilia of the Bartlet to help record their memories for posterity and include them in my research for the play,” she said.

IN PROFILE: The Bartlet

■ Creation of The Bartlet Hospital was Dr John Bartlet’s dying wish on May 27, 1917.

■ Born in Ipswich and educated at Ipswich School and London University, Dr Bartlet, whose father and grandfather had been surgeons, was firmly convinced people would get better far quicker if they were away from a busy hospital and, particularly women, not plunged straight back into a home environment.

■ He left £250,000 for purchase of land and construction of the hospital.

■ The hospital finally opened in 1926 on Felixstowe seafront on the site of Bath Hotel, destroyed by suffragettes, and an old Martello Tower.

■ The hospital closed in January 2008 – and since then has been standing empty, surrounded by metal fencing. It has now been bought by Gipping Homes, who will convert it to luxury flats.

The playwright, who has also written about the life of Ipswich cartoonist Carl Giles, would like to interview and hear from as many people as possible in order to include first hand accounts within the drama.

“I’m very excited and honoured to be asked to write about such an iconic and important building in the history of Felixstowe,” she said.

“Although it has just been sold for development, its legacy and role in the community should not be lost. This project will ensure the history of the building will be celebrated within the town and east Suffolk.”

Health officials have received £1.16million from the sale of the hospital which is due to be converted into luxury homes which are planned to be available in 2014.

Lottery bosses have givben a £10,000 grant to the Bartlet Bequest Action Group for the project to celebrate the life of Dr Bartlet.

It will involve creation of an audio-visual record of his life and the hospital his dying wish created – showing how his far-sighted views on rehabilitation helped thousands to recover faster from illness.

It is proposed to record in sound and vision people’s memories, create a full historical record, and an exhibition, as well as the play by Ms Hawkes.

The play is expected to be performed at various locations across east Suffolk during the summer months and will be part of the New Wolsey Open Season.

■ To contact Ms Hawkes please call 01394 279613 or email bartletheritage@gmail.com

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