When it comes to my home town of Ipswich, cut me in two and you will find Ipswich writ through me… like a stick of rock, only chubbier.

It is the place in the world I am happiest – though I do, occasionally, risk a nosebleed by venturing beyond the boundaries of Suffolk. The theory of ‘six degrees of separation’ is that everyone on the planet is six or fewer social connections away from each other. In Suffolk that can probably be reduced to two and for me, in Ipswich, it is one.

This can be discomfiting. In my 20s, I was keen to move away because it felt as if everybody knew me and I haven’t always been good as gold… I’m still not to be honest. But, here in my home town, I can be myself and that is as good as it gets.

Great British Life: Lynne Mortimer as a child in Holywells Park. Lynne Mortimer as a child in Holywells Park. (Image: Lynne Mortimer)

My childhood pleasures (late 50s, early 60s) revolved around the beautiful Ipswich parks. My father would take me to Chantry Park to watch cricket. Being small and easily distracted, I would run around, making a nuisance of myself, I daresay; lbw = Lynne before wicket.

My uncle was a park-keeper on Holywells Park. He had a cottage by the gate (it’s a block of flats, now) and would let me follow him around as he checked the ponds and chatted to Nelson, the one-eyed swan. Uncle Dick was my conduit to early pretensions to grandeur; I used his position to insist other children handed over a swing to me.

In my youth, Christchurch Park was home to the magical Co-op Fete. Nana Jeffries worked for the Co-op and she was in the tea tent, handing out greaseproof paper bags containing a sandwich and a cake. Today, I’m not allowed on the swings but the parks are still a joy. Music on the Park is one of the best – if not the best – free festivals in the country.

As soon as my grandsons arrive from Essex, they immediately ask to go to the park to see the ducks, feed the squirrels, go to the playground and buy an ice cream. Then they ask to go swimming at Crown Pools and then… to go to McDonalds… ah well.

Great British Life: Ipswich's famous son, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey's statue in Silent Street.Ipswich's famous son, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey's statue in Silent Street. (Image: John Norman)

At school, teachers nurtured my love of singing and my headmaster, Mr Poulter, encouraged me to play the violin. The neighbours who heard me practising in our small terrace were less encouraging. So instead of playing (cheer from the people next door) I go to Ipswich orchestral and choral concerts.

One of the reasons I was so thrilled to become the Mayor of Ipswich was that, quite simply, I love this town and this office gives me many opportunities to say so.

Ipswich is often undervalued and yet… it is home to one of the most successful football teams in the country; it is the oldest continuously occupied English town; Thomas Wolsey, son of an Ipswich tradesman, became Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor; it has more parks and green spaces than any English town or city of comparable size (probably); culturally, it is sophisticated with museums and galleries, and dozens of arts organisations embracing the visual and performance arts; the town has the support of a fantastic army of volunteers and charities; the civic life of Ipswich remains steadfastly at its centre.

Great British Life: Lynne Mortimer ventures north to Southwold. Lynne Mortimer ventures north to Southwold. (Image: Andy Abbott)

Thanks to the River Orwell, Ipswich was once one of the most prosperous maritime towns in the country and today its port remains a great trading artery of the nation. We have a vibrant marina featuring restaurants, waterfront living, the port, the University of Suffolk and the historic customs house. It also hosts numerous events during the year including the colourful, exuberant dragon races.

Ipswich has 12 medieval churches within its historic boundaries. It also had a shrine to the Virgin Mary, second in importance only to Walsingham. Among the pilgrims that worshipped there were King Henry VIII and Queen Katharine of Aragon. The statue at the shrine was torn down in the Reformation and ended up in Italy… but that’s another story.

Great British Life: Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society through the years. Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society through the years. (Image: Photo: Newsquest archive)

One of the big influences on my teenage life was the repertory theatre’s youth group which sparked a lifelong passion for the theatre. At the same time, the Co-op Juniors were and still are producing sell-out shows, as was and is Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society (IODS).

In the 1960s IODs performed the country’s amateur premiere of West Side Story and has, over the years, seen many excellent actors, singers and dancers pass through its ranks, some of whom have become theatre professionals. Likewise, the Juniors embraced the early talents of Gary Avis MBE, Royal Ballet principal character artist, and many more dance and musical stars. Outstanding artists have been able to reach the dizzy heights of fame without privileged upbringings. They were lucky enough to live in Ipswich.

Great British Life: Granny as featured on the Giles statue in Ipswich town centre, opposite where the famous cartoonist had his office. Granny as featured on the Giles statue in Ipswich town centre, opposite where the famous cartoonist had his office. (Image: Owen Hines)

My full complement of two left feet and passing ability on stage meant that I was destined only to have the most wonderful time taking part in amateur shows. Today, I don’t get the parts, to be honest. There aren’t too many granny roles… but once I was Eliza Dolittle.

Then there are the choirs, the orchestras and bands that put on concerts in the town and elsewhere. There are also poets, writers, visual artists and broadcasters. My cousin once had a programme on (the late) Radio Orwell, which broadcast from the old Electric House in Crown Street. She played country music and the legendary Percy Edwards did bird impressions. Percy lived near Ipswich and I was reminded of him when I saw the film Born Free, recently. I understand he did the lion noises.

The late Carl Giles created a family for his cartoons in the Daily Express. The family matriarch was Grandma, a statue of whom stands with miserable cousin Vera opposite Giles’ former Ipswich office, near the Town Hall.

And yet, for all its wonderful history and enduring heritage (I could witter on for ages), it is Ipswich’s communities, its people and its rich diversity that I love the most.

The Mayor of Ipswich’s charity fundraising ball for Suffolk charities Inspire and Brave Futures is on March 8. Find out more at ipswichtheatres.co.uk Search: mayor

Great British Life: Percy Edwards, the man who mastered birdsong, lived near Ipswich. Percy Edwards, the man who mastered birdsong, lived near Ipswich. (Image: Newsquest archive)