The ‘curious county’ is not short of beautiful piles to visit. A stone’s throw away from this keyboard are oodles of medieval churches, the world famous Flatford Mill, the Lavenham Guildhall that traces its origins back to 1529, and Melford Hall. These last three are National Trust venues and therefore have the strength of middle England (and increasingly, non-middle England) behind them. So imagine you have your own pile: how do you stand out against the NT and carve out your own role among Suffolk’s attactions?
One answer is provided by Kentwell Hall, Long Melford. Kentwell seems to have accepted that it needs to play a different game. Of course, the appealingly idiosyncratic house is open for visitors. But Kentwell’s owners aggressively seek the support of the communities of southern Suffolk and northern Essex. Several times a year, the hall and grounds are host to re-enactments of different times – from the Tudor period (before the current hall was built) through to World War II. There is an annual burlesque extravaganza, Clandesdine. And, the inspiration for this post, the annual, award-winning Hallowe’en spectacular, Scaresville. These are refined each year, enough to get repeat business with people driving from all over East Anglia to attend. And, even though the ventures are profit making, they attract plenty of volunteers who are happy to dress up in Munch masks or worse.
Kentwell’s a good example of an organisation that knows it needs to do something a little different, and it does it well. Check it out.