Ipswich is having a bit of a surge of cultural activity of late, much to the surprise of many of the locals. Sure, for a few years there’s been hi-brow events at the NewWolseyTheatre and Jerwood DanceHouse, and the chattering classes love it when productions in these venues are mentioned in The Guardian Guide. Alongside this, the annual Ip-Art Festival also brings a cosy but somewhat parochial Gig In The Park, visual art and performance to the town, and big name acts play the football stadium or big parks throughout the year for the X-factor crowd. But for a town with a growing University, a vibrant FE College and culturally diverse population, Ipswich lacks a musical/cultural scene that many other towns of a similar size take for granted. There have always been a lot of gigs over the years, run on a shoe string and in the back rooms of pubs by music obsessives, but you have to know they are happening and they take a little hunting out for anyone new to the town. I’ve stated much of this before on Dubdog, especially earlier this year when there was a call for an Ipswich Arts Centre, (you can read previous posts about this here). But this week sees the Switch Fringe Festival get into full swing which should hopefully start to redress the balance:
The excitement amongst aged local gig goers is palpable as Switch takes the town by storm with its diverse range of acts and culturally rich itineracy. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the Sons of Joy play the local Labour Club tomorrow night, supported by Nathaniel Robin Mann of The Dead Rat Orchestra.
While I have my gripes about Switch—I think it has an identity problem, Ipswich already has the (albeit performance art focused) Pulse Fringe Festival to rival Ip-Art, and Switch is happening when most of the university students have gone home for the summer—but I can’t knock it for the effort that has gone into making this happen, and that it has created the sense of vibrancy about Ipswich that it hasn’t had for a while. That has got to be a good thing.
Switch will hopefully fuel others to get up and do something in this town, and that, to me, is the beauty of this little festival. It doesn’t feel like it has been organised by the local town council doing something for the ‘kids’, nor does it come across as something created by a cultural elite desperate to get in the pages of coffee table magazine. So all power to Switch, and thanks to those who are involved for making it happen.