My Suffolk - David Edwards
David Edwards is the chair of directors for the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich. He was born and brought up in Suffolk, moved away for career reasons but always yearned to return
When David returned to Suffolk in 2002 to become Head of Operations at Aldeburgh Music but since his retirement in 2008 has been spearheading the New Wolsey board.
Can you tell us something about your early years?
I grew up in Ipswich and went to Northgate High School and always dreamed of having a career in the theatre. When I left school I worked at the Arts Theatre in Tower Street, It was marvelous and for a season the young Sir Ian McKellan was there. Even then you could tell he was going to go places.
Why did you decide to return to Suffolk?
We just love the county and of course my wife and I were both from Ipswich. We lived away from Suffolk for a long time but we came back to visit family and friends on a regular basis. I was chief executive of Derby Playhouse for 25 years but when the job came up at Aldeburgh Music I knew I needed a change. When we were in Derby we were as geographically as far from the sea as you could be and we really missed it. Suffolk is a beautiful county, it’s peaceful and it’s close to London too. But there has been a change when we lived here before we were town people, but living in Rendlesham we are now country people.
What do you think of the cultural mix in Suffolk?
When we were talking about returning here we thought we’d miss the huge variety that’s available in the Midlands because there’s easy access to so many cities. However what we’ve discovered is there’s such a lot going on here too. There’s Dance East, classical music at Snape and of course the New Wolsey and the Aldeburgh festivals. But, there are lots of other festivals too in most of the smaller towns. The range of work that you can see is really rather special and everything seems to complement each other. Suffolk is also a mecca for a range of visual artists as well.
Where do you like to eat out?
Well my wife Valerie is such a good cook we don’t eat out as much as some people but we do have our favourite places - The Ship at Levington and we particularly like The Blue Naan in Felistowe. Friends recently took us to a vegetarian pub,The Red Lion at Gt. Bricett, near Needham Market where we had a splendid meal, with very friendly service, and we will certainly go again!
Where do you like to walk?
Mainly in Rendlesham Forest or beside the River Deben in Woodbridge or the Alde. We also like to walk from Aldeburgh to Thorpeness along the beach and back through the woods.
Where would you take people if you were introducing them to Suffolk?
We’d go to Woodbridge, it’s a wonderful little town with lots of interesting shops and we’d take in the Marina and the Tide Mill. Of course we’d also go to Tunstall Forest and take them on the Captain’s Walk (between Snape and Tunstall) to see the deer and in spring the bluebells. Snape would be a must to see the wonderful concert hall and the view over the marshes and river. Then we’d head to Aldeburgh for fish and chips, walk along the beach to see Maggi Hambling’s Scallop and then have a cup of tea in Thorpeness. If we had time we’d take them to Covehithe to see how the sea is eroding the shore.
Have you got any interests or hobbies?
Theatre has always been my big passion and it still is. However, I also sing in two choirs: Aldeburgh Music Choir and Aldeburgh Voices, a chamber choir. This gives me the opportunity to sing at Snape Maltings, which is very nice. I like to read a lot and get out into the open. My wife does the gardening.
I understand you have a new grandson - when he comes to Suffolk what will you show him?
Well of course there will be the seaside and ice-cream on the beach. At Christmas we’ll go to the New Wolsey pantomime and of course there’s Christchurch Park and Ipswich Museum. The New Wolsey is a charity and obviously does a lot of work in the community and I know you’d really like private funding to extend your reach further.
But apart from that is there anything you’d really like for the theatre?
I’d love us to be able to do some more grand scale theatre - Shakespeare or Chekhov- but it’s so expensive. The only way we could do it is by co-producing it with two or three other theatres.