New theatre announced for Ipswich

EXCLUSIVE THEATRE in Ipswich has been boosted today with the announcement that a major new venue is to be built in the town.

THEATRE in Ipswich has been boosted today with the announcement that a major new venue is to be built in the town.

An Ipswich based theatre and film company has released details to The Evening Star of plans to build a new theatre at the heart of the town's waterfront.

Red Rose Chain, which creates live drama performances and short films, has signed contracts with one of the developers working on the regeneration of Ipswich Waterfront to build and open the new theatre.

And the venue is set to be named after an historical find made during an archaeological dig at the site.

The 250-seat venue will be called The Witchbottle Theatre, after archaeologists discovered an ancient witch bottle while excavating next door to the former Cranfield Mill, which is where the theatre will be built.

Plans for the theatre have been kept top secret for more than a year while discussions about its potential name were held and Red Rose Chain waited for confirmation the project would go ahead.

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The Witchbottle Theatre will be at the centre of an open square on the waterfront and will overlook the docks. It will be built by developers City Living and will help meet the company's requirements to include a community space in the development.

Jimmy Grimes, one of the directors of Red Rose Chain, said the company are excited about the development and the way they were able to choose its name.

He said: “It's at the very early stages, but it's all happening.

“We always thought we'd like our own space. There were lots of ideas for the name but they weren't very inspiring and a bit dry. “There are lots of dock developments with all the same sorts of names, we wanted a name that was clever and that would inspire people to think it sounds an exciting place to be.

“We heard there were archaeologists there making sure nothing was being destroyed. We were watching closely and thinking whatever they found might be inspiration for the name.

“We didn't know what a witch bottle was when they first found the remains.”

The witch bottle found on site dates back to the late 15th Century and is a relic from the days when people would use special trinkets in a bid to ward off evil spells.

Mr Grimes said: “As soon as we heard what they had found we all knew that had to be the name.

“It was a bit like naming a child. We came up with so many ideas but didn't have anything that stuck. This is bold and different but it's also locally reflective and hopefully will ignite people's imaginations.”

Detailed plans for the building are still being drawn up and Red Rose Chain is waiting for the final drawings to discover what the new headquarters will look like.

Early plans are for the auditorium to be a flexible area, where the seating can be arranged to suit the production and it is hoped that the theatre will be opened in autumn 2009.

Formed in 1997, Red Rose Chain Theatre and Film Company is currently based in Fore Hamlet.

Because the Fore Hamlet headquarters has no performance space, the company have earned a reputation for appearing in unusual venues, such as on the roof of the Willis building and the St-Mary-At-The-Quay Church. They have also performed at the New Wolsey and Sir John Mills theatres.

Red Rose Chain are best known for their annual summer productions in Rendlesham Forest, this year the show will be Hamlet.

The company have also branched out into film making and in January won an award at a Los Angeles film festival for their 15-minute film, Friday Night Shirt.

They are currently planning to make a feature length film.

Red Rose Chain also works extensively with schools and groups of people such as youngsters facing expulsion from school or people with special needs.

WITCH bottles were the result of superstition about witchcraft and evil spells and have been dated as far back as the 15th Century.

Folklore said that if a person feared they had been put under a spell they should take a bottle, usually made of pottery, and fill it with their own hair, urine and other objects, such as bent nails, coins, feathers or knotted threads.

The bottle would then be buried inside a wall in the house, with the belief that if a spell came into the house it would be attracted to the bottle, with the hair and urine tricking the spell into believing it is the person, and the bent nails and other objects would then trap the spell inside the bottle.

Many of the witch bottles created in Ipswich used bottles originally used by Dutch sea merchants to transport alcoholic drinks.

The bottle found in Ipswich contained hair, a coin and a bone. The use of witch bottles was particularly common in East Anglia where the belief in witchcraft was strong.

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