My Suffolk - Jill Freud

Jill Freud has spearheaded Southwold and Aldeburgh Summer Theatre for 30 years. It’s been a full-time job and this year having stepped back from her former role she’ll just be involved in the acting giving her more time to explore the county she loves.  Jill tells Anne Gould about her Suffolk

When did you first come to Suffolk?

I first came here in 1950 to meet my future parents in law who had a house in Walberswick. They left Germany very early in 1931 and Clement had spent his summers here since the age of seven. They’d chosen Walberswick because it was very like an island in the Baltic called Hiddensee where they used to have their holidays. They named their house here Hidden House.

What were your first impressions?

Well Clement didn’t bother to tell me that Walberswick was a village but I thought if a young man invited me to stay with his family that it was going to be a bit grand. I packed chiffon dresses and high heels which of course were all the wrong things. We were married five months after we met and Clement’s parents were very kind, they used to let us have their house for the odd week. Then Weston’s came on the market and it was the first time we’d had any money so we bought it. My children spent every single summer of their youth here and my daughter (Emma) and her children spend every holiday here too.

Has Walberswick changed much?

Well it’s got more houses and more people but it’s much the same. It’s delightful, it’s got one wonderful shop, two good pubs/hotels, a little cluster of shops for tourists. Then there’s the harbour and the crabs and fishing for children. I am so lucky to be able to live here and I’m here for a lot longer for most holiday makers. Some people complain that it gets very busy here in August but we’ve got it for the rest of the year.

What do you do to relax?

Up until this year the theatre has always kept me really busy so I can’t tell you about interesting churches I’ve been to or anything like that. I do like to walk down to the beach and back though. I might also venture out on a pony round The Hoist and round the fields. I’ve always had ponies for the children but because of work I haven’t ridden for three years but I’m planning to do a bit more now.

Do you like to eat out?

I go the Anchor in the village, The Lighthouse in Aldeburgh and Trinity’s in Southwold. I’ve eaten out in Westleton but only the once – I do not eat out very often. It’s very very nice to be able to stroll down to The Anchor for a drink and a meal. I always sit in the bar rather than the restaurant because there is always someone to chat to which makes it a lovely social evening. But I like The Bell too, when the theatre company was based in Southwold we used to have our meetings there. There’s also an darling coffee shop, The Parish Lantern, in the village which is excellent.

Can you tell me about FESPA (Friends of East Suffolk Performing Arts)?

It’s a charity, which evolved out of a group of 800 Friends of Southwold and Aldeburgh Summer Theatres. In 2007 it became a registered charity in its own right with two objectives, to promote and facilitate a healthy and vigorous performing arts scene within East Suffolk for the benefit of our community. And to encourage and support education in the performing arts for people in this area. The charity has supported a number of young people in the area for instance with bursaries.

Jill Freud and Company has been involved in the Summer Theatre in Suffolk for 30 years, what was it like?

It’s been hard work and used to take up the whole year. I worked in the box office, behind the scenes, found accommodation for actors in local houses, I’ve acted, done the accounts and taken auditions. It wasn’t just me though there’s been a team of people. I’ve loved doing it – you wouldn’t devote 30 years of your life to something if you didn’t enjoy it. It’s been very busy but my new project is getting used to not having so much to do.