Visitors to Bury St Edmunds will inevitably fall in love with the town’s colourful history - but there’s much more to experience here, not least the town’s thriving arts scene and rich culture. Aside from the famous Bury St Edmunds Festival, an annual event which features live performances and exhibitions encompassing numerous forms of art, the town offers many splendid arts and cultural destinations.
Situated in Charter Square in the heart of Bury St Edmunds, the Apex is a multipurpose arts venue which has played hosts to a variety of art programs since 2010. Musical performances, including pop, rock and classical are regular affairs here. In fact, the Apex is arguably the most ‘happening’ live music venue in East Anglia. Plays and comedy events also make frequent shows, while craft fairs, yoga classes and workshops make the occasional appearances. There is also an art gallery on the first floor of the Apex, which frequently presents acclaimed exhibitions to the public. To round the experience off, the Apex offers pre-show meals to visitors at the Sodexo (including vegan meals!).
The Theatre Royal is arguably the only surviving Regency theatre today, and is also the only one to be under the patronage of the National Trust. An 1819 renovation under the supervision of English architect William Wilkins has lent the Theatre Royal with a slight touch of Greek revival in its design, and contributes to its spectacular exterior. The Theatre Royal consistently produces high quality productions and regularly welcomes touring performances by some of the best theatre groups in the country. Make sure to check performance dates while you’re in town – it’s an experience unlike any other.
Formerly known as the Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery, the venue was renamed as Smiths Row to reflect its renewed focus as the primary destination for contemporary art in the region. Housed inside a Grade I listed building which dates back from 1583, Smiths Row underwent extensive renovations under the supervision of legendary Scottish neoclassical architect Robert Adam in 1776 which gave the building its trademark Georgian revival architecture design, arched windows and vaulted ceilings.
You don’t have to live in London, Paris or New York to have beautiful cinemas that screens little known, foreign or independent films - Bury St Edmunds will do just fine, with Abbeygate Cinema. Located in Hatter Street, the former bingo hall offers comfortable, reclining sofas to moviegoers to enjoy both classic and contemporary films, as well as the occasional plays. Did we mention that you can bring wine and snacks from the in-house restaurant, cryptically called No.4, into the theatre? Wear your beret – you’ll need to look sophisticated during the pre-show and post-show chats.
The historical cathedral also has an active music scene. Under the leadership of its director of music, James Thomas, the cathedral has a choir numbering well over a hundred people which performs regularly at the 726-seater concert hall. In addition, the iconic cathedral also welcomes visiting choirs and theatre groups for live performances. Please check its schedule and book in advance as tickets are regularly sold out.