Artists, Writers & Thesps

The Blyth Valley has inspired generations of writers, artists and photographers. Films & television programmes are frequently made hereabouts.


Philip Wilson Steer, an avant-garde impressionist painter 1860-1942, often visited Walberswick. The Tate calls the paintings he did on Walberswick beach “among the most authentically impressionist works produced in Britain”. The film, The Bridge, made in 1991, is a bio-pic about Steer and his love for the wilds of North Suffolk, using the same locations featured in his paintings.

George Orwell (Eric Blair) went to school near Southwold and lived in the town from 1929. His house is in the main street.

J M W Turner visited Suffolk, especially the coastal areas, on a number of occasions. Works range from paintings of coastal scenes at Aldeburgh and Lowestoft to Sketches of the Suffolk Coast: Orford, Aldeburgh and Southwold 1822 where the sketches are used to depict landmarks along the coastline…

Harry Becker, painter, draughtsman and printmaker lived in Wenhaston and Darsham. He illustrated the late Adrian Bell’s Suffolk trilogy (Adrian was the father of Martin Bell, mentioned below).

Not exactly a ‘celeb’ but still – notorious iconclast William Dowsing was born in Laxfield and was in the forefront of Puritan destruction of church iconography.

WG Sebald focused his profound second novel, The Rings of Saturn, on an account of a walking tour in August 1992 “when the dog days were drawing to an end, I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work.”

Sir Clement Freud, the grandson of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, (father of Emma Freud – see below), a sometime MP and humorous panellist on radio, had a home in Walberswick.

Scenes from the autobiographical novel, Iris, with Dame Judi Dench and Kate Winslet were filmed at Southwold and television’s Lovejoy and The Chief were filmed locally. David Copperfield, Akenfield, The Fourth Protocol, Drowning by Numbers, Tomoorow Never Dies, Eyes Wide Shut, Lara Croft:Tomb Raider, The Golden Bowl and many other movies feature scenes filmed in Suffolk.


Scores of well-known personalities also take advantage of the area’s attractions to visit or have a second home…….

Southwold is the home of the original super model Twiggy – and also responsible for her new role! (The story goes that after a walk on the beach, Twiggy was relaxing with her husband in a local pub, perhaps not looking not quite her usual glamorous self in a woolly hat and old anorak, when she bumped into the Executive Marketing Director for M&S – who also has a place in Southwold).

The late Ruth Rendell’s strong connection with the Suffolk coast is revealed in many of her crime novels – as is the case with those of the late PD James.

Richard Curtis, screenwriter, producer and director of smash hits such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and The Vicar of Dibley, shares a second home in Walberswick with partner, well-known novelist Emma Freud.

Paul Greengrass, director of hit films such as The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Supremacy, has a home in Walberswick.

Journalists living locally include columnist, writer and Radio 4 presenter Libby Purves and her husband, presenter Paul Heiney – who canoed the Blyth River from source to sea for a television programme, Secret Rivers (Episode 3 Season 1). Naturalist writer / author, Simon Barnes also lives in the area from where white-suited war reporter (and sometime politician) Martin Bell, a regular visitor, also hails.

Rowan Atkinson and Ralph Fiennes have places hereabouts as does Bernard Hill (late of Wolf Hall) and celebrity chef Delia Smith. Jaimie Oliver has been spotted!

Radio 2 DJ Simon Mayo and his wife, former radio producer turned ceramic artist Hilary Mayo, live in Walberswick

Maria Aitken actress and her brother, the politico Jonathan Aitken, grew up in Halesworth with which they retain connections and Michael Palin, Stephen Fry, author Julie Myerson and Griff Rhys-Jones make regular visits to old haunts.

The musician & record producer, Brian Eno, perhaps best known as the keyboard/synthesiser player for Roxy Music, is nowadays a big player in the music industry. He grew up locally and his brother, musician/composer Roger Eno lives in the area.