The celebration of Thomas Wolsey is proving to be a big hit.

This recognition of arguably Ipswich’s most influential person from history was long overdue, and Wolsey’s rise from humble beginnings to becoming the second most powerful man in the country - behind only King Henry VIII - was remarkable and unprecedented.

People have really bought into the Wolsey 550, with many attending events like the Heritage Fayre in the ‘Saints’ which hosted entertainment, crafts and a market.

People have also loved taking pictures and selfies with our modern-day Thomas Wolsey (as well as Henry VIII and his six wives when they have made an appearance)!

The coming months are packed with events and activities, a continuation of the 550 day extravaganza that will run until September 2024.

I’d really urge you to get to as many as you can. The ‘Wolsey's Ipswich’ exhibition at the Hold runs until the end of October and is worth a visit too.

However, the Wolsey 550 isn’t just about looking back and highlighting the achievements of a man who lived half a millennium ago, it’s about providing a catalyst for the future too.

Last week, I was delighted to attend the presentation of a dozen community grants to a wide range of brilliant organisations.

It was fitting that it was held in another Ipswich icon - WTW, known to most as the Willis Building - and it underlined how the Wolsey 550 isn’t just about remembering a famous figure from our past, but wishes to cement a permanent legacy and create lasting benefits for the town.

Wolsey 550, Volunteering Matters and Ipswich Social Mobility Alliance also work with schools and youth focused organisations in Ipswich to find out what is important to young people, helping them develop aspiration and pride in their home town. Around 3,000 schoolchildren have already engaged with the Wolsey project.

Over the weekend I visited a mural that was created across the frontage of the former BHS store.

It was produced by students from Suffolk One, working with artist Joel Millerchip, and led by Ipswich Central via the Wolsey 550 project, in collaboration with other local and national organisations.

‘Safety’ is a word that comes up alot in my conversations with residents across Ipswich, and it is a key theme of the mural too.

I also know through my conversations with the artists about how desperate they are to see the town thrive, about how important it is to have spaces where they feel comfortable, and about what they would like to see change for the better. All of these things are woven into their work.

That sense of ‘place’ is so important. A feeling of belonging and pride is not something easily created, but can quickly be lost. It’s something we have to fix for people of all ages and backgrounds.

It’s very welcome that Neil MacDonald, the new leader of Ipswich Borough Council has made it his mission to help create a town that we can all be proud of, with making a thriving Ipswich town centre the heart of the community once again.

I have written in these pages before about how the Government can help support the council in doing this by giving it strong, new powers to bring empty shops on the high street back into use, reforming business rates, and providing more resources to tackle anti-social behaviour.

Wolsey 550 showcases the potential we have in Ipswich, celebrating our past while reaching for a better future. We have to ensure that the legacy from this groundbreaking project isn’t allowed to ebb away, and that we keep working hard to renew pride in Ipswich.