Tonight’s the night – Why Ed Sheeran’s homecoming gigs are a huge deal for Ipswich
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Tonight, 40,000 fans will descend on Ipswich for the first of Ed Sheeran’s four homecoming concerts in Chantry Park.
The long-awaited gigs will help put Ipswich on the global map, boosting its economy and showcasing everything it has to offer, town centre leaders believe.
All eyes will be on Suffolk's county town this weekend as more than 150,000 fans descend on Chantry Park.
The impact of the performances on Ipswich and surrounding areas is expected to last far longer than the Bank Holiday weekend - with the concerts, and where they are being held, set to leave a lasting impression on visitors from around the world.
- Keep up to date with our live blog of Ed's concerts from noon onwards.
Who will benefit from Ed's concerts?
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"Around 150,000 people will be coming into Ipswich over the bank holiday weekend, which will bring a big boost to businesses - hotels, cafes, restaurants - but I expect there will also be a wider impact which is, really, putting Ipswich on the global map," said David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council.
"The first person to visit the Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk exhibition at Christchurch Mansion comes from Australia - Ipswich was featured on the BBC World Service as a result of this.
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"I anticipate this wider impact will give the local economy a huge boost."
'Concerts will showcase town in new light'
Meanwhile, Ipswich Vision Partnership chairman Terry Hunt said the performances will allow visitors to form their own opinion of Ipswich - and hopefully dispel scepticism about the town.
"There will be a huge number of people coming to Ipswich over the weekend and that gives the town a brilliant opportunity to showcase itself and show all of those people that it is a really great place to visit, to spend money and time exploring," he said.
"There is widespread animosity and scepticism about Ipswich, which annoys me, and most of it is very unfair.
"This is a fantastic chance to show Ipswich in a new light.
"The exhibition in Christchurch Mansion is absolutely fantastic - it really adds to the concerts and gives people a chance to come into the town before the concert, to come into Ipswich - which is as I said, brilliant - and to Christchurch Park, to hopefully see the town centre and see the beautiful Waterfront as well.
"This is a great opportunity for Ipswich to show itself off. I believe people coming to Ipswich will enjoy themselves, come to the concerts and hopefully go away with a positive view of Ipswich."
'We hope people are inspired to come back'
A spokesman for All About Ipswich, which represents businesses across the town, said: "We're really excited that Ed Sheeran is ending his global tour in Ipswich, especially thrilled that the hotels in and around the town have been fully booked for such a long time.
"We hope that everyone visiting Ipswich has a great time and are inspired to come back and explore Ipswich in the future."
MORE: Why you need to arrive early for Ed Sheeran's concerts