My Suffolk - Brendan Keaney

Dancer and choreographer Brendan Keaney is the Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Dance East. He talks about his life in Suffolk

Where were you born and how did you come to live in Suffolk?

I grew up in Walthamstow and have lived in London all of my live, pretty much, and I came to Suffolk for the job as Artistic Director & Chief Executive of DanceEast. I did know a little bit about Suffolk because my wife is from Suffolk, and my mother-in-law lives in Halesworth so I have been visiting Suffolk for a number of years.

Do you enjoy walking?

I do like walking but I don’t get as much time for it as I’d like. I have been so preoccupied with work that I haven’t done the amount of walking I’d like to, yet. I walk through Christchurch Park on the way to work occasionally. Hopefully, when things calm down at the office I will do more walking and more exploring.

What makes the county special?

There are lots of things that make it special. It has a real identity, which is great as it’s hard to maintain an identity when you’re so close to London. There’s a lovely mixture of the coast and the countryside. It’s got some extraordinary places and extraordinary cultural offerings – Aldeburgh Music, DanceEast, New Wolsey Theatre, Gecko, Pacitti Company, there’s a great mixture of contemporary art, culture, tradition and history.

What is it like working in one of the most celebrated modern buildings in Ipswich and are there any other places you have been to on the waterfront that you would recommend?

It’s one of the most celebrated dance buildings in the country, it’s an extraordinary facility. The quality of the dance studios is amazing and people of Suffolk, not just Ipswich are incredibly proud of this asset as there’s not much to better it across the country. The Salthouse Harbor Hotel is a lovely place to eat, and even nicer place to stay. Lots of bistros that I’ve used I would recommend wholeheartedly. There’s a great balance between a good night out, at Isaacs for example, and lots of nice little intimate places like the Waterfront Bistro, Bistro on the Quay and the lovely boat restaurant, The Mariners.

What’s it like working here?

 It’s fantastic, it’s fun, it’s a lovely place to work. You get to meet new people every day.

 Where do you like to eat out in Suffolk?

Suffolk Food Hall of course, is a great place to eat, extraordinary food, and it’s in a beautiful location. I haven’t eaten out as much I’d like to, life has been a bit of a rush and I’ve only been here a year so I’m planning on doing some more exploring. I live on Henley Road so The Greyhound a great little place for a pub lunch. The Butt & Oyster at Pin Mill is a great place too and Arlingtons is also nice.

Adnams, Aspalls or Greene King?

That’s a difficult one.  I would say, if it was beer, it would definitely be Adnams or Greene King, no honestly I think it would have to be an Adnams Ghostship. I do also love cider, and there’s no other cider to drink other than Aspalls.

Where do you like to shop?

I haven’t really explored the retail offer at all since moving to Suffolk. I’ve noticed that St Nicholas and St Peters Street has lots of lovely little independent shops which look great, along with other little shops in Woodbridge. Shopping isn’t my number one past time, but for food, again, Suffolk Food Hall is a fantastic place, to be able to get a variety of local produce all under one roof, is great.

Have you got any hobbies?

I’m afraid I have one hobby, which some people may frown upon, and its motorcycles, I love them. I love Ducati and Ducati Monsters in particular, I am very proud of my motorcycle. 

What do you love about the arts in Suffolk?

I love the diversity - I don’t think people quite understand the extent of our arts offer. We have our Constables and that kind of thing, but we also have a fantastic contemporary offer with fantastic contemporary artists. 

What makes the people of Suffolk special? 

They are incredibly friendly and very nice, I love the fact that everyone seems to have time to talk to you, even in supermarkets, which is something that definitely doesn’t happen in London.

Where would you take newcomers on a tour of the county?

I’m a newcomer – I wish someone would take me on a tour of the county! I suppose I would have to do the bits that I know, and the bits that I know best are Southwold, Walberswick and Orford and I also love the little villages around Clare and Cavendish, they are incredibly beautiful. The contrast between the coast and the countryside is just fantastic.