Monday, 5 August 2013

Fiona Bruce's Britain: Sudbury, Suffolk...

My brother sent this article by Fiona Bruce to me. It makes for slightly dismal reading - as if the town has nothing much to offer at all, other than its links with Thomas Gainsborough. Granted, it's sadly true that it is suffering in the same way as many other small towns during this recession, but it is fighting back. The picture Ms Bruce paints of Sudbury is at best minimalist, and at worst something akin to a work by Damian Hirst (good title, but not much real substance). She has damned Sudbury, and poor old Saint Pete's (as it is affectionately known by some), with very faint praise indeed!

Saint Peter's, in the heart of Sudbury, is rather too good a space to be dismissed with, "Now it’s a relic of past observance, no people, not even a pew. A sign declares 'Saint Peter’s is now redundant', in care of a conservation trust." Saint Peter's is so much more than that. It has a beautifully painted ceiling, some intriguing carvings and lovely stained glass windows, all of which are worth more than a cursory glance - as evidenced by the number of visitors every day.

But if the building itself isn't enough, then its diary of events surely is - the Farmers' Market, craft fairs, fashion shows, and exhibitions, as well as concerts by the likes of the Canadian Youth Orchestra, and the Birmingham Philharmonic, are always well attended. With no cinema, and only a small theatre, Sudbury has found in Saint Peter's an alternative venue for all sorts of interesting events, right in the centre of town.

When not in use the building is open to visitors every day so that they can quietly appreciate and explore the space in a way that Ms Bruce evidently didn't quite manage to do. It is a shame her visit didn't coincide with an event, as she might then have left with quite a different impression. There are several working churches in Sudbury, and having a so-called 'redundant' one dedicated to bringing people together in a way that doesn't rely on religious belief is definitely a positive thing in my book.

Incidentally, Ms Bruce also suggests taking a stroll along Gainsborough Street, and turning 'left down a little alleyway' to Gainsborough's House. If you're coming from Saint Peter's (perhaps in rather a grumpy mood) then you might want to turn right into the alleyway instead of left, otherwise you'll only end up feeling even more cheesed off... But before you leave, stop at the water trough outside St Peter's and just imagine for a moment the white and black-spotted, silly deliciousness, of the 101 Dalmations (yes, the very same!) who stopped to have a drink there as they fled from the dastardly Cruella De Vil!


Helen Hallows said...

I'm looking forward to my visit. I always find Sudbury very much alive.

Else said...

Hmmm, that could be because YOU are in town, of course! x