In 1887, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, Newson Garrett, together with the lord of the manor, added a large public hall to the already existing reading room, intended for “Concerts and dramatic entertainments provided by well-known artistes, dances for the little people on wet afternoons and for the ‘grown ups’ in the evenings.”
The hall was the prinipal venue for performances organised by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears in the early years of the Aldeburgh Festival, from 1948 until 1967 when the concert hall at Snape Maltings was built.
The demands made by the increasing prestige of the Festival led to the hall’s extensive renovation in 1959, when the backstage areas were increased and the orchestra pit built under the stage. The new-look Jubilee Hall re-opened in 1960, with the first performances of Britten’s opera ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream‘, composed for the occasion.
Other notable premières to have taken place at the hall include Britten’s opera ‘The Little Sweep‘, William Walton’s opera ‘The Bear‘ and Harrison Birtwistle’s opera ‘Punch and Judy‘.
The Hall is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) and its purpose is, as it has been for many years, “The provision and maintenance of a public hall for the use of the inhabitants of and visitors to the Borough of Aldeburgh without distinction of political, religious or other opinions, including use for meetings, lectures and classes, and for other forms of recreation and leisure-time occupation, with the object of improving the conditions of life for the said inhabitants and visitors.”
The Hall operates as a ‘hall for hire’ and is used for a variety of theatrical and musical performances. It is the home of Jubilee Opera (see link, RH side of page) and since 1995 it has been used as the Aldeburgh venue for Suffolk Summer Theatres, formerly Jill Freud’s Summer Theatre Repertory Company.