• TTDA  - The Red House - Benjamin Britten at The Red House c.1966. Photographer: unidentified, image reproduced courtesy of the Britten-Pears Foundation.

Composed on the Coast!

From the crashing percussion of rolling waves to the shrill tones of gulls overhead the Suffolk shore is a cacophony of sounds. It is no wonder then that so many composers and musicians hail from this most inspiring part of the country...

Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten continues to be one of the most performed 20th century composers of opera from anywhere in the world and his strong local links are well known. He lived on the Suffolk coast for nearly his entire life and as well as being his home, this coastline was the source of inspiration for many of his most famous compositions. Looking back in 1951, Britten remarked that he was "firmly rooted in this glorious country… I proved this to myself when I once tried to live somewhere else. Even when I visit countries as glorious as Italy, as friendly as Denmark or Holland – I am always homesick, and glad to get back to Suffolk... I treasure these roots, my Suffolk roots."

He was born in Lowestoft in 1913, in a house on Kirkley Cliff Road that overlooked the sea. He was the youngest of four children and his musical talent, was evident from a very young age. After attending Gresham’s school in Holt for two years, he went to the Royal College of Music in London at the age of only 16, returning to Lowestoft during the holidays.

For a number of years he lived in both London and Suffolk: initially returning frequently to the family home in Lowestoft, but also acquiring his first home in Snape in 1938. It was during this time that Britten began his relationship with lifelong partner Peter Pears, who was himself a prominent and successful tenor. The pair shared the belief that music, art and literature should be widely accessible and they established the Aldeburgh Festival in 1948, an annual event which continues to this day. 

Between the years of 1947-57 Britten and Pears moved to Crag House on Crabbe Street in Aldeburgh. Inspired by the sea views, Britten composed a ‘Sea Opera’ there: Billy Budd, set during the Napoleonic wars in the eighteenth century. The house was flooded in the storm of 1953 – something Britten appeared to dramatise in his 1958 opera Noye’s Fludde. By that time, Britten and Pears were living in The Red House, near the golf course in Aldeburgh. The sea-front house was becoming too public, given that both men were internationally well-known by this stage. The sacrifice of the sea view was more than compensated for by the quiet lane, beautiful gardens, and comfortable rooms of The Red House. Britten also arranged for a studio to be constructed over the garage, where he could compose away from the house, and a Library for rehearsals and to store the couple’s increasingly large collection of books and artworks. They remained at The Red House together until Britten’s death in 1976 and Pears’ in 1986.

Today, visitors to The Red House can find out more about his and Pears’ lives together; view Britten’s Composition Studio and Library, discover their lives in the gallery and view the archive. There are exhibitions, recitals, discovery sessions, study days and come and sing events that take place across the year as well as family-friendly activities and trails.

Joseph Gibbs

Joseph Gibbs, born in 1698 spent the entirety of his illustrious career in Ipswich where he made quite a name for himself as a Baroque organist, composer and performer.

He is most well known for his solo violin sonatas- quite a rarity before the 18th century, and was known to have been inspired by the work of Arcangelo Corelli, the Italian violinist and composer. Gibbs used Corellian stylistic features throughout but added his own unique style to create music of great virtuosity. He was not afraid to experiment with eccentric decorations and striking rhythmic variety. His styles varied from highly florid dance titled movements, to simple, pastoral melodies harking back to folk song.

In the latter part of his life, Gibbs was the organist for the St Mary Le Tower Church, a position he held until his death in 1788. He played a prominent part in the musical life of the region, giving recitals and becoming a true ambassador of provincial music and was given a full civic funeral upon his death where Gibbs was buried next to the organ stool. Today, the deputy head chorister is known as the Gibbs Chorister in his honour.

Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran has sold over 150 million records worldwide, making him one of the world’s best selling music artists, but this critically acclaimed singer/songwriter spent his formative years in Framlingham, Suffolk.

Sheeran was a singer in the church choir from the age of 4 and attended Thomas Mill’s High School where teachers described him as a ‘natural performer’. He began writing music during this time and gigged around East Anglia, performing in venues in Ipswich such as McGinty's Pub and The Steamboat Tavern.

In 2011 he signed a six album record deal with Asylum records and began a meteoric rise to fame, winning two Grammy Awards, collaborating with artists such as Taylor Swift, Eminem and Beyonce and performing for Her Majesty the Queen. 

Despite worldwide fame, Sheeran has very much maintained his connection to Suffolk, ending his ‘Divide’ tour, which broke records as the longest and highest grossing tour in history, with a homecoming gig in Ipswich. He clearly loves his local fans and has chosen to live in the area, buying property to form a small estate in Framlingham, which is made up of five houses and a pub.

The singer/songwriter has donated hundreds of items to the local East Anglian Children’s hospice shop, which has raised thousands of pounds for the charity and he’s a dedicated supported of Ipswich Town FC. There is even a Museum that charts Sheeran’s success; the ‘Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk’ exhibition includes a variety of artefacts from Sheeran’s life including the Grammy envelope that delivered him the award for best song, and some of his childhood Lego.

Listeners to Sheeran’s 2017 release ‘Castle on the Hill’ will recognise the references to local landscapes in this so called ‘love letter to Suffolk’. The music video features Framlingham Castle as the backdrop to Sheeran’s tribute to his youth spent in Suffolk. Sheeran says of the region “I love walking in the countryside, the open skies, the light, the coast, fish and chips on the beach, or a pint of local beer in an ancient pub”.

The Darkness

With their signature glam rock and heavy metal sound, The Darkness are one of Lowestoft’s most unlikely exports.

Formed in 2000, the band are made up of brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins along with Ed Graham and Frankie Poullain. Justin and Dan attended Pakefield Middle and Kirkley High School where music lessons and occasional privileged access to the instrument cupboard fostered an already brewing love of music.

At home, the pair listened to their parents’ records and developed a taste for Bowie, T-Rex, Blondie and Queen. Justin, Dan and their friend Ed were in various other groups and gigged in Lowestoft and the surrounding area before being signed by Atlanta records.

In 2003 they opened the main stage at Glastonbury and the following year they headlined Reading Festival. In between they won four of the main awards at the 2004 Brit Awards - Best British Group, Best British Rock Act, Best British Breakthrough and Best British Album. Many of their songs are influenced by local Suffolk folklore and landmarks with references to ‘Black Shuck’ the beast that legend says attacked the church in Blythburgh, and ‘Stuck in a rut’ which is about the Barnby bends, a road that comes out of Lowestoft and leads to Norwich.

The song ‘Friday night’ lists the ‘extra curricular activities’ that were on offer at Kirkley High school, amongst them ‘badminton, ping pong and needlework’. In 2006 Justin Hawkins left the band and it disbanded for 5 years before getting back together in 2011. 

Image: Britten at The Red House c.1966. Photographer: unidentified. Reproduced courtesy of the Britten-Pears Foundation.

Things to see and do

The Red House, Aldeburgh

The Red House, Aldeburgh


Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears' home in Aldeburgh offers a charming snapshot into the couple's life. The farmhouse, nestled in a beautiful five-acre garden, is home to their collections and archive, alongside a gallery space, museum shop and café.

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Free wifi Dog friendly Wheelchair Accessible

Snape Maltings

Snape Maltings


Snape Maltings sits on the bank of the River Alde, surrounded by a designated National Landscape and just five miles from Aldeburgh.

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Free wifi Dog friendly Wheelchair Accessible EV charging