Gallery:Big Weekend brings big crowds

SUFFOLK'S showcase of cultural and sporting prowess basked in a belated swathe of sunshine over the weekend.

SUFFOLK'S showcase of cultural and sporting prowess basked in a belated swathe of sunshine over the weekend.

The county threw open its doors with a range of free attractions to celebrate the region's part in the Cultural Olympiad, a countrywide initiative in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympic games.

While many adults and children enjoyed the Big Weekend celebrations, throngs of people took advantage of the glorious early autumn sunshine with a drink and a walk along the Waterfront.

To mark the launch of the Cultural Olympiad, Suffolk hosted a variety of free, subsidised events and offers at cultural and sporting organisations.

Everything was planned, from complimentary open bus tours around Ipswich to a free taster DanceEast dance workshop session in the Corn Exchange in Ipswich.

Adults learning to swim for the first time were also treated to a unique lesson by Olympic champion Duncan Goodhew.

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Mr Goodhew visited Crown Pools in Ipswich and Hadleigh Pool over the weekend as part of a project by EveryDay Swim Suffolk, the Amateur Swimming Association and Suffolk County Council.

The adults had all taken up the EveryDay Swim Suffolk offer to learn to swim for £10 and had the chance to ask questions and get tips from Mr Goodhew, who won gold in the 100m breaststroke at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Children who won a competition also had the chance to take part in the lessons.

Corinna Hudson, of EveryDay Swim Suffolk, said: “It is much harder to learn as an adult so it was a great chance for them to get encouragement. Duncan made it fun and spoke very well so it really inspired them.”

Otley College's state-of-the-art equine centre also took part by offering visitors a tour of the indoor and outdoor facilities and rides on the mechanical horse named Madge.

Meanwhile budding dancers were given free taster lessons by DanceEast at Ipswich's Corn Exchange.

Alex Paul, a manager with the Suffolk Tourism Partnership, which co-ordinated the campaign in partnership with the county council, said: “Suffolk's Big Weekend is all about showing residents that there are some wonderful things for them to enjoy right on their doorstep and many of them are free.

“The major purpose of the weekend is to encourage everyone to get more involved and try something new.

“After all, we're very fortunate that there are so many cultural and sporting opportunities on offer across Suffolk.'

Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for culture and economic development, said: “This is a showcase for Suffolk and for the wonderful sites and attractions we have here on our doorstep.

“The event has shown how businesses and people across the county are so enthusiastic about getting involved and living life to the full in this wonderful county we live in. I hope the weekend will be a boost for tourism.”

Did you enjoy the Big Weekend? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to

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