My introduction to Felixstowe was in the 1960s. I was born in London; we moved to Ipswich when I was four, but when I was 11, I was imported to the new Felixstowe Comprehensive school, the first year of the new system in Felixstowe. I went to the middle school until I was 14 – previously the secondary modern in Maidstone Road – followed by the high school, the old grammar school in Garrison Lane.

I was a shy, quiet little thing – a fact many who know me now wouldn't believe – and I found school a bit difficult to cope with. Being bussed in from Ipswich was gutting as a teenager because it meant I couldn't stay behind after school and hang out with my pals, unless my dad came to pick me up later.

I do have great memories of Felixstowe when I was young; playing around the old Dooley Fort, canoeing in the dock basin, hanging at the Nuts and Honey Cafe, and the Grand Bar, working as a Saturday girl at Gino's, the Golden Shell Restaurant on the seafront, and spending time at my friend's beach hut, watching the boys through half-closed eyes.

Great British Life: Laura Locke's school photo. She's sixth from the left on the middle row. Laura Locke's school photo. She's sixth from the left on the middle row. (Image: Courtesy Laura Locke)

There were fabulous bands and beer festivals at the Pier Pavilion, and I loved browsing Andy Gray's record stall, trying look cool. Many of these landmarks have disappeared and I think canoeing in the dock basin may not be well received...

I left school for teacher training college in London, which was a relief, to be honest, although teaching in the city suburbs proved terrifying for this small town girl and I soon gravitated back to magnetic Felixstowe.

It was a fabulous era, with the birth of the passenger ferry services to Zeebrugge. I got a terrific job at the new Townsend Thoresen passenger ferry terminal, starting out at 19 as a courier on European tours. It was exciting and a bit daunting, but I quickly worked out whether I was in Paris, Amsterdam or Brussels by using the landmarks. If it's Tuesday and that's the Eiffel Tower – it must be Paris!

Great British Life: Townsend Thoresen's passenger ferry leaves Felixstowe for Zeebrugge. Laura worked as a courier for TT, hosting tours to European destinations. Townsend Thoresen's passenger ferry leaves Felixstowe for Zeebrugge. Laura worked as a courier for TT, hosting tours to European destinations. (Image: EADT archive)

I became tours manager and was really excited to be on the inaugural sailing to Rotterdam. I learnt such a lot and left after five years to start my own tour company in partnership with a local coach operator. Then I met the man who would become my husband and I realised I would have to be out of town rather too frequently, so LMJ Travel International was quickly wound up.

I loved travel though, so I worked at John Hilary Travel in the town centre for six years, eventually becoming a relief manager. We settled in Trimley St Martin in a beautiful 300-year-old cottage and where I stayed for over 40 years. My two sons went to school in Trimley and Felixstowe, and both are still in the area.

Outside work, I was very involved in the amateur dramatic scene, performing with FADOS (Felixstowe Amateur Dramatic Society) and other groups. My favourite parts ever were Rita in Educating Rita and Miss Hannigan in Annie. We performed at the Spa Pavilion, which is still going today, hosting professional shows and local pantomimes. I also loved working with the young section of the group, Fados YOUF, running workshops and directing shows like The Wiz at the Spa Pavilion.

Great British Life: Laura perfromed on the Spa Pavilion stage with FADOS.Laura perfromed on the Spa Pavilion stage with FADOS. (Image: EADT archive)

When I had my first son – 40 years ago, how time flies! – I realised how difficult it is for women to continue a career whilst rearing children, particularly working in the travel industry. So, I decided to change direction.

After lots of blood, sweat and tears, I eventually gained a degree in media and literary studies and worked in local media. But I loved being in academia so I worked at Suffolk New College in the research centre, in the early days of web-based learning. I ultimately became a senior lecturer and course leader on an event and tourism management degree programme at the University of Suffolk in Ipswich, with (finally) a teaching qualification and a masters in arts management. I took early release in 2017 – and felt lost!

But really it opened up new opportunities. I wanted to support women in my home town, so I created events – using my university experience – called Cocktails and Conversation. They were informal networking opportunities and were pretty popular, but, sadly, along came the Covid pandemic. They did bring another opportunity my way, though – to present a radio show with Felixstowe Radio.

Great British Life: Laura at the microphone, hosting her weekly show Laura Unlocked on Felixstowe Radio. Laura at the microphone, hosting her weekly show Laura Unlocked on Felixstowe Radio. (Image: Jayne Lindill)

It's called Laura Unlocked, a weekly two-hour show focused on women. There's never a shortage of fascinating interviewees or topics to cover, and I also present a home-run show weekly, talking to local people and sharing their stories. I am also a board director, so pretty involved with the running of the station.

I still run events for women and with a team of great friends produce a series of events that showcase women's creativity – WAMfest (Women Arts and Music) Felixstowe. We're now in our fourth year and have just held our first Women's Wellbeing Day. We're now busily planning the next music, arts and literature festival for the weekend of October 12/13.

So, although I was dying to escape as a teenager, I've had many wonderful years living in this fabulous community. I've served as a governor at Trimley St Mary School and Orwell High School, and was a trustee with Level Two youth group.

Great British Life: Laura now lives close to Felixstowe beach. Laura now lives close to Felixstowe beach. (Image: Jayne Lindill)

I now live near Landguard Nature Reserve, a stone's throw from the beach, and feel so lucky to be able to experience our lovely seaside. I'm loving the opportunities to work with the community, collecting oral histories for a project called View from Convalescent Hill and compering some of the Mayoral charity events. They're the icing on a very busy and fulfilling cake.