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When Ed Sheeran didn't play stadiums... 'Intimate' exhibition to tell his Suffolk story

PUBLISHED: 06:00 07 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:43 08 June 2019

Smaller crowds in the early years... Ed Sheeran, aged 15, performing at Moon fest, organised by the Moon and Mushroom Inn, Swilland, Suffolk, on August 27, 2006. Father, John, says this is one his favourite photos of Ed performing in his early teenage years.  Picture: John Sheeran

Smaller crowds in the early years... Ed Sheeran, aged 15, performing at Moon fest, organised by the Moon and Mushroom Inn, Swilland, Suffolk, on August 27, 2006. Father, John, says this is one his favourite photos of Ed performing in his early teenage years. Picture: John Sheeran

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A unique and intimate exhibition about Suffolk singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran will open in Ipswich this summer, coinciding with the star's long-awaited homecoming concerts.

First details of this special exhibition, curated by Ed's father John, can be revealed for the first time today.

The nine-month event is entitled "Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk" and features portraits by renowned artist Colin Davidson, photography by Mark Surridge and personal items portraying the journey from Ed's school life in Suffolk to international stardom.

Many of these intimate works have never been seen before.

The East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star has provided a unique digital display of photos and news headlines for the exhibition which follow Ed's extraordinary career.

The studio of Colin Davidson in Bangor, Belfast, with 'Ed Sheeran 2' on an easel and portrait oil studies behind  Picture: John SheeranThe studio of Colin Davidson in Bangor, Belfast, with 'Ed Sheeran 2' on an easel and portrait oil studies behind Picture: John Sheeran

We've covered him from the early days - from when he was playing in Suffolk pubs, and winning the 'Next Big Thing' competition in 2008.

It's predicted to be an event of "huge cultural significance", and expected to attract global interest as Ed brings an end to one of the most successful tours in music history in his home county.

MORE: Ed Sheeran to play four concerts in Chantry Park - here is where you might be able to park

The exhibition, organised by Ipswich Borough Council, opens at Ipswich's Christchurch Mansion on August 20 - just days before Ed's four concerts at Chantry Park in Ipswich - and runs until spring 2020.

A Mark Surridge photograph of Ed Sheeran in his dressing room, European tour, March 2012  Picture: Mark SurridgeA Mark Surridge photograph of Ed Sheeran in his dressing room, European tour, March 2012 Picture: Mark Surridge

Ed's family moved to Framlingham from Yorkshire when he was a young boy and his passion for Suffolk is behind the four concerts and the exhibition. He went to Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham, and still lives in the area.

John Sheeran said: "Edward's homecoming gigs in Ipswich in August 2019 provide a fitting climax to his mammoth world tour. 
"The choice of Ipswich shows just how important his Suffolk roots are to him. Ed has a deep affection for the landscape and its people. This exhibition reflects that - its title is 'Made in Suffolk', which he was."

A key aspect of "Made in Suffolk" is a series of educational workshops covering music, art and photography, being run by educational curator Charlotte de Mille with the support of One, the Ipswich sixth-form college.

Brad Jones, editor-in-chief of the EADT and Ipswich Star, said it was an exciting exhibition to be a part of.

Framlingham's Ed Sheeran opens the Obelisk stage at the Latitude Festival in 2011  Picture: Simon ParkerFramlingham's Ed Sheeran opens the Obelisk stage at the Latitude Festival in 2011 Picture: Simon Parker

He said: "We've covered Ed's career since 2008, and followed his extraordinary journey from playing in Suffolk pubs to becoming one of the biggest stars in the world.

"We were even there to capture the moment he signed his six-album deal at The Station pub in Framlingham in 2011 in front of family and friends. So, our fantastic archive of stories and pictures provide a fascinating look back at the early years, and show his deep-rooted connection and affection for Suffolk.

"We're proud and excited to be involved in this very special exhibition, which will be the perfect complement to his homecoming shows in August."

Meanwhile, Aspall - the Suffolk cyder and vinegar maker with a nearly 300-year history - will sponsor the exhibition. 
Ipswich Mayor, Jan Parry, said: "I am proud and pleased to welcome Ed Sheeran back to Ipswich for the biggest musical experience the town has ever seen.

Ed performed at secret gig at The Steamboat Tavern, Ipswich, in 2014  Picture: Lucy TaylorEd performed at secret gig at The Steamboat Tavern, Ipswich, in 2014 Picture: Lucy Taylor

"This unique exhibition will, I am sure, attract an audience not only from Ipswich and Suffolk but across the UK and beyond. It is of huge cultural significance to the town and will leave a lasting legacy.

"Ed's story is well known but many pictures and sculptures in 'Made in Suffolk' are on show for the very first time.

"Thanks to the curation of Ed's father, John, this is an intimate portrait of a singer-songwriter who revels in his roots and who is proud of both town and county.

"Ed Sheeran has come such a long way from the days of busking in the town and playing in front of a few dozen people in local pubs. This exhibition is a road map of that journey.

Ed Sheeran will perform four gigs in Ipswich this August. Picture: PAEd Sheeran will perform four gigs in Ipswich this August. Picture: PA

"I want to thank everyone who worked together to make this exhibition happen, especially Aspall, the exhibition sponsors, another famous 'Made in Suffolk' brand."

Henry Chevallier Guild, founding family member and Aspall board advisor said: "It's an honour to be the exclusive partner to this exhibition. Just like Aspall, Ed is fiercely proud of his Suffolk roots and we are delighted that this exhibition will help shine a light on our beautiful county.

"Aspall is a brand with a long history of doing things differently and taking the road less travelled. Ed could have ended his tour anywhere, but he chose Ipswich, proving a passion for Suffolk and integrity that we as a brand share."

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce: "Suffolk Chamber believes that the Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk exhibition and Ed's four concerts in Chantry Park will not only bring a wow factor to our county town; but will put Ipswich and the county of Suffolk on the global map.

"With over 150,000 people attending the four concerts this is a great opportunity for Suffolk to grasp this opportunity of a big economic and cultural boost and importantly use as a lever to create a lasting legacy. We are delighted to have played a role in bringing together a number of Suffolk businesses to discuss with the organisers how they can best support this exciting programme."

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