Ipswich's problems are small compared with the contagious revolutions in the Middle East and the destructive earthquakes in Japan and in Christchurch, New Zealand - a city probably visited by a good many members of our Society. But problems here at home are not negligible, with the financial and political threats to many publicly funded services which we have hitherto taken for granted in a civilised town.
The possible closure of some branch libraries and the loss of funding for school crossing patrols have hit the headlines in the local press. Whatever (one.s political opinions, isn't it galling to know that just one Big Banker's annual bonus would easily coyer a year's funding of these community facilities? And we all know there will be worse to come.
On a happier note - at least for the time being - the town centre is reasonably vibrant. There are fewer empty shops in Ipswich than is the case nationally on average. Vacancies are 11% in Ipswich and nationally 14.5% (even in a place like Watford it is 20%). It is helpful to have this sense of proportion and so avoid the pessimism or hyper-criticism which can contribute to a self fulfilling prophecy of doom. Town centres as we know them will be under new and increasing pressures - not least from internet shopping. But let us support what we've got now! Who wants to live in a town where the centre has little more than mobile phone outlets, coffee shops and empty premises?
Perhaps we could take heart from a few more positives, mentioned here at random and some of which are referred to in this Newsletter - IBC's retention of Ipswich Buses and willingness to subsidise a few bus services abandoned by the County Council: better trains on the Bury and Cambridge route; attractive new uses of the Art School in High Street; substantial investment to come in traffic management in Ipswich: the nourishing Dance East and Ipswich Film Theatre. There is also an ambitious new scheme being discussed by IBC and Ipswich Central to develop a new 'Merchant Quarter' of mixed uses and housing, linking the town centre and the Waterfront; this would clearly involve consultation, and a lot of time and money! But the alternative to such vision and energy is decline. However if nothing in that preceding list pleases you, don't forget what should always inspire us all- nature has provided us with one of the finest settings for a town in the whole of the UK!
I hope you will find plenty of things to read in this issue - articles light and weighty; subjects local and national; topics of the past, the present and the future. Please let me have a good variety of material for the next Newsletter by 20 May.