PRINCE Charles has enjoyed tours of St Edmundsbury Cathedral and the Theatre Royal as part of his visit to Bury St Edmunds today.
He was greeted at the Cathedral entrance by the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich the Rt Rev Nigel Stock and Cathedral Dean Frances Ward before hearing about the refurbishment of the cathedral organ and the creation of the new oak vaulted ceiling.
The Prince, who has visited the cathedral before and taken a firm interest in the building of the Millennium Tower, chatted to some of the choir before he was shown the organ which has been rebuilt and has had new casing installed.
He enjoyed a performance from the cathedral’s choir and James Thomas, Director of Music, demonstrated the new organ’s quality with a fanfare.
Prince Charles then made his way to the organ himself, testing out the pipes with a brief tune.
The congregation included local figures including MP David Ruffley, civic dignitaries and benefactors for the two projects. Also attending were the Lord Lieutenant Lord Tollemache and Chief Constable Simon Ash.
His Royal Highness then visited the Theatre Royal where he inspected the £5.3 million restoration and watched a special rehearsal performance by Ballet Black, a North London company who normally work out of the Royal Opera House but will perform to a sell-out crowd in Bury tonight.
The company, who are the UK’s first and only all-black ballet cast, performed a scene from Orpheus before being introduced to Prince Charles, who recognised some of the dancers from other shows he had seen.
Next, in his role as patron of The Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts, the Prince of Wales watched pupils of Hillside Community Primary School, in Ipswich, take part in a workshop at the Theatre.
The 26 pupils, aged eight and nine, created a dance linked to a performance that they had seen recently.
Their teacher, Natalie Vincent, said: “The Prince’s Foundation sponsors schools in the area to use the dance studio as well as watch performances for free.”
Brain Stewart, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled that His Royal Highness came here to see the Theatre Royal as part of his program visiting Bury. He was interested in the history and architecture of the building. He was particularly fascinated with the fact that in the olden days the building had the capacity for 786 people whereas now we’re only licensed for 352.”
Colin Blumenau, the theatre’s chief executive, said: “That sort of recognition doesn’t happen very often.”
The Prince’s visit was completed with a trip to Pakenham Water Mill.
During an hour tour of the mill, he spoke to volunteers and had a chance to see the mill in action.
Those who spoke to the Prince were impressed with how relaxed and friendly he was.
Sandy Jackson, a volunteer, said: “You totally forgot he was royalty - he was quite humourous and easy to talk to.”
After seeing how the stone-ground wholemeal flour was produced, the Prince was presented with some flour and a loaf of bread from mill curator David Eddershaw.
The 18th century watermill is the last of its kind working in Suffolk and is run exclusively by volunteers.
The last time that he visited Bury was in July last year when he presented medals to soldiers from Wattisham airfield.
See parts of his visit on Facebook http:/tinyurl.com/6yke7me and www.twitter.com/buryfree and Friday’s Bury Free Press for more pictures and full story.