A brief history
The Friends of Suffolk Summer Theatres (FSST) was founded in 1986 by the late Margaret Chadd, MBE who was our President until her death in July 2018. The simple aim at that time was to drum up local support in promoting the Southwold Summer Theatre which Jill Freud and Company had inaugurated two years previously.

The job of a Friend in those days was principally to help with the distribution of the theatre's advertising fliers. As a reward for their efforts, Friends were invited to socialise with the company at a pre-season garden party at the Freud home, Westons, in Walberswick. By the end of the first year, 112 Friends had joined, 30 of whom attended the party.
Wine was provided and everyone was asked to bring a plate of food. The whole concept was judged hugely enjoyable and a great success by all involved.

By1994 the Friends organisation had become a force to be reckoned with. There were now 300 members paying their annual subscription and the need for some kind of formal infrastructure became apparent. The late John Veitch was appointed Treasurer and Jack Clayton started a twice-yearly Friends' Newsletter as a way of communicating with the increasingly far-flung membership. The first issue was distributed in November 1996.

So successful was the newsletter at spreading the word that membership growth accelerated and sufficient surplus funds were generated to enable the Friends to start making significant financial awards not only to help diffray the theatre's production costs but to support the now discontinued children's theatre and to contribute to the Summer Theatre's student fund which at that time helped young performing arts students gain summer work experience with the company.

By this time, the company was taking its productions to Aldeburgh as well as Southwold and a whole new 'branch' of the Friends, headed by Terry Collins, started fund-raising events there.

Apart from the annual garden party and a variety of fund-raising events, the AGM is popular annual social occasion which invariably features an entertaining guest speaker.

By 2004 there were nearly 900 Friends and, as we grew in numbers and as our aspirations as a grant-awarding organisation grew in scope, it became clear that a formal, written constitution was needed. At the same time, the potential financial benefits of attaining charitable status were obvious.

The decision to work towards charitable status was finally ratified by the membership at an Extraordinary General Meeting early in 2006. After a great deal of work by the committee, headed by Chairman, Sidi Scott, the Charities Commission finally granted the Friends charitable status in May 2007.

With our new status came our new name: Friends of East Suffolk Performing Arts, and our new broader mission...

Our mission
To facilitate education in the performing arts for the people of East Suffolk and to support a variety of theatrical initiatives for the benefit of young people in particular and the community in general.

We may do this
by making grants to individuals and organisations and/or by providing expertise, manpower, opportunity and other resources.

This is an unofficial summary of FESPA's goals. To read the full, official version, visit our entry on the Charity Commission website.

To see a
summary of our Charity's draft rules, click here(opens in new window)

To read our Privacy Policy, click here

To learn about the latest projects adopted by FESPA for support, click here




The late Mrs Margaret Chadd, MBE, President of FESPA until her death in July 2018

Lady Jill Freud
Lady Jill Freud, founder of the Summer Theatres

Theatre Fete 2011
The FESPA Theatre Fete.