I hope you enjoyed a happy and restful Easter.

I was lucky enough to have a few days away in Lancashire with my family as we celebrated my Grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary, and my ‘little’ brother’s 30th birthday. Busy lives scattered all over the country mean we do not all get together nearly as often as we would like, so it was a very special weekend.

As a proud Lancastrian, my partner was also delighted to walk our dog up some ‘proper hills’ for a change too!

For many people this time of the year is incredibly important, with a number of faiths and cultures celebrating significant religious occasions.

There were, of course, a large number of events marking the Easter story across Ipswich. The Procession of the Palms went through the town centre, stopping on the steps of the town hall. With apologies to the Rev. Tom Mumford, Timmy the Donkey was undoubtedly the star of the show! Many churchgoers will have attended services throughout Holy Week, through to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Day and Easter Week too.

Muslims in Ipswich and across the world are observing Ramadan, a month of fasting, reflection, and community. There is no shortage of personal sacrifice and generosity during this period, and it was an honour to be invited to speak at Ipswich Mosque's Community Iftar event. As ever, there was such warm hospitality, and it is always a privilege to share the special moment as fast is broken during Ramadan. Eid al-Fitr will be celebrated next week.

This coming Sunday (12pm-4pm), the celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival of colour, will take place in Alexandra Park. This is always an immensely popular occasion and is arguably the most colourful event that takes place in our town. Entry is free, as is the coloured powder that will be provided from 12.30pm. There will be music, a bonfire and food and trade stalls too.

While these celebrations are deeply important to the people who worship, they are also so welcoming to people of different faiths and none. Later this summer, we will also see the return of the Indian Summer Mela, Suffolk’s Windrush Celebration, Global Rhythm and the One Big Multicultural Festival.

These events highlight the very best of Ipswich’s diverse and vibrant population. They build understanding between people of other cultures and backgrounds, help foster a greater sense of community, and bring real life and joy to our town.

However, over the past few years, it has felt like some people with positions of influence have sought to drive a wedge between people and communities in Ipswich, using inflammatory language and looking to shift the blame for things like struggling public services rather than take responsibility for their own actions. 

Yet, we cannot allow bitterness and hatred to set in, or take part in this divisive and destructive race to the bottom. Our town is better than that, and the people living in it deserve better too.

As these events show, differences in faith, culture and backgrounds can be a strength, not a weakness. I am proud of Ipswich’s heritage and history, I love our packed and diverse events programme, and I am so excited for our town’s future.

Ipswich is at its best when we celebrate together, revel in each others’ company and are hopeful for the future. Let’s enjoy the spring and summer we have ahead of us in our great town.