Ip-Hooray for festival fun

Ip-Art, the annual two-week Ipswich arts festival, is in full swing this week with a mirrored dancing tent and a host of fun activities - many of which are free.

Andrew Clarke

Ip-Art, the annual two-week Ipswich arts festival, is in full swing this week with a mirrored dancing tent and a host of fun activities - many of which are free. ANDREW CLARKE takes a closer look at some of this year's highlights.

THERE'S nothing better than free entertainment in these difficult times.

And the emphasis of this year's festival is getting a varied diet of quality entertainment drawn from influences from around the globe.

Ip-Art is a cultural melting pot with dance, drama, fine arts and music all bringing something different to the mix.

The fact that many of the events are free will, hopefully, mean that many people will be able to go to a wide range of differing events making this the biggest and most popular event festival in Ip-Art's seven year history.

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Ipswich dance organisation DanceEast's Spiegeltent, in Christchurch Park, is one of the much-heralded highlights. This large, Baroque style wooden construction features a dazzling interior of mirrored booths surrounding a wooden dance floor, creating a intimate space for dance performances, workshops and classes.

A range of programmes will be on offer from children's workshops to tea dances for all ages, along with performances by national and international dance artists.

Assis Carreiro, artistic director of DanceEast said: “The Spiegel-tent, which means mirror tent, will be an opportunity to try something different in a fun and relaxed environment.”

The Spiegeltent will be in Christchurch Park until July 12.

Meanwhile, at the New Wolsey Theatre tonight DanceEast will be presenting High Voltage 9 - its annual celebration of dance in the east of England bringing together the best youth and adult performance groups in the area. The varied evening will include a wide range of dance styles including street dance, ballet, contemporary and creative dance.

Dance is also in the air at P J McGinty's bar in Northgate Street, Ipswich, on July 2 as they play host to the first ever Pena Flamenca in the town. A Pena is an informal and intimate setting where musicians and dancers get together to perform Flamenco. Virtuoso guitarist Steve Holmes will be playing for some of the country's leading Flamenco dancers and regionally-based artist Juliet Aster.

The cosmopolitan feel will be enhanced by the performance of the Young Zulu Warriors in the Grand Hall of the Ipswich Corn Exchange on July 3. They will be performing a foot-stomping musical called Thule Siswe - the story of a child born to a king.

The free programme really kicks off tomorrow - at 6.30pm will a dazzling performance of Verdi's La Traviata beamed live from the Royal Opera House to a digital big screen in the middle of Christchurch Park. This is part of the BP Summer Big Screens project and allows visitors to Ip-Art to bring a chair or a rug and listen to one of the world's greatest sopranos, Renee Fleming, without having to pay.

For those who want to discover more about the opera then visitors to Christchurch Mansion can go behind the scenes of Verdi's La Traviata with an exhibition and trail.

The exhibition features a variety of costumes and accessories from several past Royal Opera House and Covent Garden Opera Company productions of La Traviata. Visitors to the exhibition can see stunning bodices, dresses, skirts and much more in this beautiful display which shows items from productions dating back to 1948.

The trail, which runs alongside the exhibition, is suitable for all the family, and will help visitors find their way through the different productions which tell this beautiful story. The exhibition and trail can be enjoyed free of charge and there is no need to book.

Today visitors can also enjoy a special tour of the exhibition with a guide from the Royal Opera House. The tours take place at 11am and 3pm and are free of charge. Advanced booking is recommended by calling the mansion on 01473 433554.

Returning to music in the park, the ultimate in free music spectaculars is a genuinely Ipswich event - Ipswich Music Day is now in its 18th year and is the largest free music event in the East of England. On July 5 five stages dominate Christchurch Park catering for a wide range in music - everything from jazz, soul, blues, rock, indie and dance. For those who love classical music, there will be performances inside Christchurch Mansion and in St Margaret's Church.

There is something for everyone and it will be the perfect opportunity to see old favourites and maybe discover some young, new fledgling talent. The music starts at noon.

Music of an entirely different variety can be found at The Indian Summer Mela on Sunday, July 12. The free event in Christchurch Park, is designed to allow families to experience the very best in Indian arts, culture and music. There are also plenty of opportunities to buy gifts and sample Asian cuisine. From noon.

Music isn't the only art form offering entertainment in the open air. Cinema is also moving out doors. On Friday, July 10 you can join Daniel Craig as 007 in the latest Bond classic Quantum of Solace (12A). It's another perilous mission, of course, but Bond is indestructible.

Then on Saturday, July 11 you can sing along with Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and another Bond, Pierce Brosnan, as they belt out the best of Abba in Mamma Mia! (PG). It was a huge hit last summer and the park is expected to be full as everyone sings… “Mamma Mia, here we go again…”

The two blockbuster films will be shown on a super large screen and although they are not free, admission has been fixed at �6 per adult or �15 for a family ticket, available in advance.

Christchurch Park is also the venue for Ipswich Colourscape on Saturday and Sunday, July 11-12. It is the big brother of last year's Colourdome, the walk-in Colourscape consists of more than 60 chambers of intense colour for the public to explore. Users of the Colourscape elsewhere say the experience is like being wrapped in a rainbow. �3 adults, children �1.50 on Saturday, �4 and �2 on the Sunday (Indian Mela day).

Among the other treats on offer are a series of author interviews with acclaimed writers such as crime novelist Stephen Booth, Boy In The Striped Pyjamas author John Boyne, man-in-the-white-suit Martin Bell and Justin Cartwright.

There is also a wide range of visual art on show including a reunion exhibition of the Young Blood group at the Town Hall Galleries; Eyestorm Gallery is staging All Mixed Up, an eclectic mix of contemporary limited edition prints by the likes of Sir Peter Blake and Damian Hirst; while the Frame Workshop Gallery is hosting Plastered! - a life castings and artwork exhibition by Michelle Payne to raise awareness of breast cancer.

What do you think of Ip-Art? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Backing for Ip-Art

Ipswich borough councillor Judy Terry who has responsibility for arts, culture and leisure, said: “Ip-art 2009 has something for everyone - visual arts, literature, dance, drama, comedy and music. Some of the events are free, which ensures that everyone has the chance to enjoy the festival.

“We do hope families will come along to these open-air spectaculars - and yes, we are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather!”

Brochures are available from libraries and tourist information centres and full details of the whole range of events are available online at www.ip-art.com