I know this Christmas will be a very difficult one for many people. The relentless cost of living crisis has meant that many families will cut back on presents or their Christmas dinner this year.

Some people won’t have any of either. It is estimated that 800 Suffolk people face homelessness this winter, and there will be little respite for those working in our public services. And while we may settle down to watch a Christmas film, away from our TV screens the tragedies in Ukraine, Israel and Palestine will continue unabated.

Given this context, it can be difficult to find positives, but for my penultimate column this year, I want to offer some hope by looking back at some of Ipswich’s success stories in 2023.

A personal favourite of mine was the sensational Brighten the Corners. This ambitious multi-venue music festival brought the town to life, and the evolution of St. Stephen's Church has created a stunning place to listen to live music. Tickets for the 2024 edition are now available!

SPILL Festival’s ‘Monumental Constructions’ filled people with joy and wonder, while the Wolsey 550 is reconnecting the town with its heritage. Christchurch Mansion, the New Wolsey Theatre, DanceEast, the Regent, Eastern Angles, the Red Rose Chain and Gecko Theatre have all put on countless shows and exhibitions too.

Ipswich Town Hall can now host marriage and civil partnership ceremonies, with Ahmed and Lana Almohandes the first couple to celebrate their special day at this iconic venue - congratulations to them!

Since its inauguration in 2016, Suffolk Day has flourished, and this year 4 Army Air Corps put on an impressive show in the town centre, supplemented by a fly-past of Apache helicopters and the presentation of medals to people who have made a fundamental and lasting difference to the county.

The BSC Multicultural Service (BSCMS) marked their 25th anniversary and there are many other charities, organisations and community groups who support people in their hour of need too.

This kindness isn’t just confined to Ipswich - remember how people rallied together to provide relief after the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

Ipswich Borough Council has installed three new play areas in Gippeswyk Park, Newbury Road Rec. and Holywells Park. Ipswich also retained its Tree City of the World status which recognises the dedication to growing and maintaining an urban forest in the area - we now have over 60,000 trees in Ipswich!

IBC has also continued their impressive council house building programme, with work beginning on another 300 new homes across the town. Thousands of solar panels have been installed as part of council house retrofitting too.

This list is just a flavour of all the great things to happen in 2023, with only my word limit preventing me from highlighting an even greater number of Ipswich’s successes.

However, it shows that, however much some people might want to talk the town down, there is so much to be proud of. There really are some selfless, dedicated, passionate people working incredibly hard to make Ipswich a better place.

On a final note, I want to thank all of the people working in our emergency services over the festive period, as well people working in professions like social care who will continue to look after vulnerable people while the rest of us will be having a break with our friends and family. We are so grateful for the sacrifices you will be making in order to keep us safe.

To everyone in Ipswich and Suffolk, I wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Christmas.