My Suffolk - Sarah Holmes

Sarah Holmes is the Chief Executive of the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich.
he talks about her life in Suffolk


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

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I was born in New Zealand, and was probably a descendant of some of those Suffolk folk who emigrated to New Zealand and Australia when things got tough in the 18th century. I left New Zealand in the late 1970s to see the world and once I started working in theatre in the UK I never found the money or the time to return. The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich lured me and my partner (Artistic Director Peter Rowe) to Suffolk in 2000.

What makes the county special?

On account of the fact that no part of Suffolk is more than 450ft above sea level there is a vast amount of ever changing sky in every direction every day. It is also very close to London, one of the most exciting capital cities in the world, but despite the close proximity Suffolk has managed to retain a gloriously calm and somewhat laid back style. 

Where do you like to walk?         

My absolute favourite walk is to circle the Minsmere reserve - starting at Eastbridge across farmland and marshes to the coast, then up the coast to the Coastguard Cottages, across the heath and through woodland ending with a pint at the Eel’s Foot.  A stunning walk because of the dramatic diversity of landscapes. 

Where do you like to eat out?

A lot of local restaurants in Ipswich are great – not just for food, but for the service and atmosphere they bring. The Townhouse was a favourite and I look forward to it reopening. Arlingtons and The Museum Street Café are both close to the theatre and a great place to take people from out of town. Taking people to The Salthouse and introducing them to The Waterfront is always a special treat. Further afield, I’d recommend the fantastic Suffolk Food Hall which has recently given us some excellent support for our Young Company’s show Four Knights In Knaresborough and are ready to look after you from breakfast, right throughout the day and into the evening.

Adnams, Aspalls or Greene King?

How can one choose? What is remarkable is that I don’t think I have ever been in a pub in Suffolk that does not have one of our locally brewed beers on tap and maintained in mint condition. All especially satisfying after a good long walk. 

Do you have any hobbies?

As well as enjoying all manner of theatre, I’m a big lover of holidays, although I can’t sit still when I get to my destination!  I often take a fishing rod with the fantasy of catching and cooking local fish, but truthfully don’t have the patience and are more often in the water myself or undertaking some massive walk researched by my family.

Where do you like to shop?

Ipswich has everything I ever need, it is full of independent businesses, and enough of the big retailers too. St Nicholas and St Peter’s Street is exciting to explore, especially if looking for a present but you don’t know what it is going to be!

Is there one picture you'd take to sum up our county?

I have one in my imagination which is a mix of a big Suffolk sky with moody clouds, grey stormy sea and big ships with stacks of shipping containers but I don’t think it exists.

What do you think of the arts in Suffolk?

The cultural offer in Suffolk is incredibly vibrant and all encompassing. There is a wealth of different art forms to engage with and enjoy. The unique thing about arts in Suffolk is the diversity on offer and we need to shout it from the roof tops to remind all of us who live here and to attract more visitors from out of county.


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