Culture secretary Sajid Javid visits Ipswich to discover hidden arts gem

Sajid Javid with DanceEast CEO Brendan Keaney.

Sajid Javid with DanceEast CEO Brendan Keaney. - Credit: Gregg Brown

The reputation of Ipswich as a major hub for culture and the arts has been given a significant boost by Culture Secretary Sajid Javid.

During a visit yesterday to meet leading arts bodies, Mr Javid pledged to do what he could to raise the town’s profile as a “centre for culture”.

Mr Javid came to the Jerwood DanceHouse on the town’s Waterfront where he met with representatives from Dance East, the New Wolsey, Eastern Angles, The Red Rose Chain Theatre, The Gecko Theatre Company, the Pacitti Company and Tilted.

All of those present are National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) that get national funding from the Arts Council because of their importance to cultural life. Ipswich has more NPOs based in the town than Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex have across their entire counties.

After being greeted by actors appearing in Red Rose Chains new show Progress set in Elizabethan times, Mr Javid said the Government recognised the importance that the town had in cultural life.

He added: “Ipswich is a centre for culture which we recognise and for us its greatest champion is Ben Gummer.”

The minister said the Government would be doing what it could to help the town’s arts organisations by spreading the word about their work.

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But arts bosses who met Mr Javid said although they felt the meeting had been well worthwhile they did feel a frustration that the town’s arts life was not as well known as some other centres across the area.

Sarah Holmes from the New Wolsey Theatre said: “It was a very good meeting. We told him about our work and I think he understood what is happening here.

“One of the things that is very good in Ipswich is that we all work together. We know what each other is doing and we support that work as much as possible. I think he understood the importance of that.”

She was backed up by Brendan Keaney, the chief executive of DanceEast, who has been working in the town for two years.

He said: “We do work very well together and that is important. But there is a bit of a frustration that the town doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. It is a bit of a hidden gem.

“As someone who has come from outside, I see this as a wonderful place. It’s really bit frustrating when I hear people talking it down. We have to have the confidence to say what great work is being done here.”