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Newsletter, January 2011 (Issue 182)

The Anniversary Dinner


Intrepid, determined and brave. Perhaps Society members don't easily recognise themselves as fitting that description! But the words are (almost) apt considering that of the 133 members who had booked in for the dinner on 3 December only six cancelled - with not even the number of absentees you'd expect from head colds, let alone icy roads. The heaviest snowfall of our early winter had occurred on the previous day, but thoughts of a good meal, good fellowship and perhaps the unusualness of the event brought people out of the warmth of their homes. Gresham's proved an ideal venue for such a large gathering. It was originally built by the Guardian Royal Exchange insurance group (their HQ in Civic Drive is now AXA's) as their sports complex on Tuddenham Road, outside the built up area but just inside the Borough boundary - which was important for The Ipswich Society. The main hall was transformed to create a welcoming ambience on a cold night.

There was adequate time for chatting and mixing before our very enjoyable three course meal, after which our chairman, Jack Chapman, reminded us of our celebratory reasons for being there. I then introduced our guest of honour and member of the Society, Sir Trevor Nunn, outlining his career achievements - artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and then the National Theatre, and perhaps even more widely known as the director of musicals such as Cats and Les Miserables, and still a very active freelance director in the UK and USA. More specifically for the occasion, I recalled my first memories of Trevor and the stage - as a hilarious Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing at Northgate Grammar School for Boys and his wonderful production of Hamlet at the Art Gallery in High Street next to the Museum. While still a student and with striking initiative he got together a cast of students from various schools in Ipswich to mount an impressive full version of this demanding play. With hindsight we can appreciate that was the start of an illustrious career.

Trevor Nunn's speech was aimed ideally at his Ipswich audience. He re-visited the Ipswich of the 1950s as seen through the eyes of a schoolboy - the Gondolier Coffee Bar, the skiffle group, the working docks, the Town's promotion from the Third Division South to the Second Division and, most significantly for him, treading the boards at the old Arts Theatre as a 13-year-old with Paul Eddington and Wendy Craig. The audience loved it.

The Society is very grateful to Trevor for his continuing interest and his time. And equally grateful to his wife, the actress Imogen Stubbs, who had to come on a later train from London which, because of problems on the line, took three hours to get here, so she arrived just after we'd finished eating. That's being a good trouper - and Imogen's not even an Ipswichian!

Very properly, the evening's 'formalities' were rounded off with a presentation to Su Marsden for organising such an enjoyable occasion, the culmination of our Golden Year.

NEIL SALMON

    Front cover of issue 182 Cover, issue 182

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