Latest From Ben Gummer

From the Studio Floor: Suffolk’s artistic talent to be showcased at Town Hall

Next time you are passing the Town Hall and have a moment, go in and turn left so that you face the great double staircase that takes you upstairs. There, hanging over the half-landing, is a giant picture – given by the greatest of my predecessors as Member of Parliament, Felix Thornley Cobbold. It is of a hunched figure, both menacing and menaced – Pope Alexander, with the infamous Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia by his side. It is a remarkable painting, by the late pre-Raphaelite British painter John Collier. Like so many of the other paintings in the Town Hall, it is not shown off to best advantage and is seen by too few – something I am determined to change.

Our Town Hall is one of the great underused assets in our town, something that I know the Borough Council is as keen as I am to put right. One way is to ensure that we are putting on as many exhibitions along the great art that hangs there all the year round. Now you too have an opportunity to contribute to that endeavour. For from 13th to 15th November, there will be a brilliant new exhibition in Gallery 3 of the Town Hall. From the Studio Floor will be showcasing the artwork of local artists and art lovers in Suffolk. Free to enter, you will be able to see new and unseen art made here in Suffolk, from etchings to installations, sculptures to drawings, and of course paintings.

This is an exhibition that you will make yourselves – so this is not just an advertisement to come, it is also a call to contribute. If you are an artist, living in Suffolk, and you would like your work to be considered for showing, then please get in contact with Jessica Oliver, the curator, by Monday 12th October; details can be found at

Sponsored by MLM, a great Ipswich construction consultancy company, this is going to be a real celebration of Suffolk’s considerable artistic talent. You never know, we may find a new Collier, whose work can hang in a better used Town Hall soon. Here’s hoping.

Parkway Dreaming

Speaking of local talent, I was blown away by Eastern Angle’s show ‘Parkway Dreaming’, which I saw on Wednesday night. Ivan Cutting’s long-established theatre deserves even greater recognition than it enjoys now – and this production is evidence why. Taking local voices and stories from Peterborough, this exceptionally acted and produced piece tells a tale far more movingly than even the best local history could achieve.

This is the kind of territory where Eastern Angles really scores. Ivan and his fellow writers specialise on explaining local history to local communities, bring to life a past – sometimes a recent past – that is unknown to local people, sometimes the very people who lived through it. Why is a show about Peterborough interesting in Ipswich? Well, apart from being moving and very funny, the issues it tackles are not so different from the same that we are seeking to address today: how do we develop our town successfully, balancing change with the kind of continuity that all communities need in order to stay rooted and stable.

It’s on tonight and tomorrow, Saturday, for both matinee and evening performances. If you’re still free, go and grab a ticket. Like me, you’ll come away thrilled that our old town can produce such quality and such talent, and more than a little frustrated that more people don’t see it that way.

This week I have visited Bolton Aerospace, attended a meeting with Ipswich Headteachers and have met with the Ipswich Vision board to ensure the transformation of our town remains on track.

I have had over four hours of surgeries with constituents and have had a meeting with the Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore to discuss current issues on Norwich Road.

After such a positive week in Ipswich. I know this town is going places and it is incredibly exciting to be a part of it.

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