My main connection with Aldeburgh came in 1985, when I spent three months living in Red Studio, in the grounds of Benjamin Britten's former home. Peter Pears was still alive (although it was to be his last year on earth) and I vividly remember him walking rather gingerly on a stick through the small orchard outside. That autumn I lived on windfalls from those trees combined with blackberries from the scrubby hedgerows towards the North Sea.
I've only occasionally visited since then, but now that my own music is going to be featured in the 2024 Festival, I've been giving the town and area a bit more of my attention. Obviously a great deal has changed from what I remember, and for the better. Snape Maltings has become a major arts campus with very fine facilities, musical and otherwise. And CEO Roger Wright has overseen a transformation of how everything gets done, with the Maltings and everything to do with the legacy of Britten and Pears combined into one powerful organisation.
However, it's satisfying for the visitor that the town of Aldeburgh still looks exactly like you expect it to, especially during a stormy day in December, with waves rasping over the shingle and fishermen cutting up fish out of beachside huts (thanks to Kate Johnson for this fine image). I noted that the shops had gone greatly upmarket from what was there 40 years ago. That's not always helpful, if you're just looking for an ironmonger or a launderette. But it means that (unusually, in my experience of visiting out-of-the-way small towns in Britain these days) the high street is not just one long parade of charity shops and burger bars - heaven forfend! There's an active cinema and several fine bookshops.
Of course it's become a prosperous place, but I'd like to suggest, that's because of the year-round music (and art, dance, talks, all of it exquisitely planned) available thanks to a Festival started on a small scale by local artists, which has been in operation now for 75 years. Local authorities everywhere else, please note.