The King’s River

The King’s River is a unique musical theatre performance composed by Jana Rowland, Librettists Sylvia Fairley and Dominic Shea.

Woodbridge Riverside Trust commissioned The King’s River to celebrate the regeneration of the derelict Whisstocks boatyard as a new open public space on the Woodbridge waterfront.

A cantata from Part 1 was performed by Woodbridge Choral Society with 18 children from Kyson school at a concert in Snape Maltings in April.

The King’s River was performed 5 times on 11 – 15 July to capacity audiences of 250 people on each occasion and sold out 3 weeks in advance. 100 people bought tickets for the dress rehearsal.

Part 1 took place in the open air in front of the new Longshed building on the Whisstocks site. Part 2 was held in the Riverside Theatre.

33 children and 59 adults from the local community took part in each performance as singers, dancers and musicians alongside 10 professional singers and musicians. Ages of the performers ranged from 8 to over 80.The production was led by a team of 16 professionals and supported by 112 volunteers. Some performers had no previous experience of dancing or singing in public and some could not read music.

Being part of The King’s River was a life-changing experience for many participants. Building on the confidence and enjoyment they gained through the project some of the young people involved have for example gone on to sing, join Dance East and compose their own music for performance.

The performances were very well received – achieving a rating of 4.28 out of 5 stars from 144 respondents to an online audience and participant survey and a large number of very positive written comments including:

This was quite simply the finest example of true community cross generational engagement in a modern-day opera… music, dance, theatre, art, woven into a work that engaged, touched the senses and lingers… resonating long after the curtain calls…

The whole experience was totally unique so we didn’t really know what to expect. It was absolutely brilliant- a real community project. Many congratulations to ALL those involved…

It was an amazing experience to be part of this new community opera telling the story of the town I live in and love – and to do it with so many local people, many of whom I didn’t know before we started, and such a talented musical and production team was a privilege and joy.

So very, very proud of the children who undertook their final performance of The King’s River on Saturday.  They have shown all of the qualities that we value at our school.  They attended rehearsals at weekends, working tirelessly to take part in a stunning production at the Riverside.  They have had the opportunity to work with a professional team, many who are resident in Woodbridge.  The children’s attitude to all the challenges that this has entailed, has been exemplary.

Woodbridge Primary School newsletter (written by Caroline Moore, Teacher)

Alongside the performers and volunteers who were directly involved in the performances, the project was supported by:

  • 10 local schools
  • 6 choirs
  • 32 organisations
  • 26 individuals who provided advice and support in kind

The King’s River could not have taken place without the financial support provided through:

  • Funding from the National Lottery Grants for the Arts programme
  • Grants provided through the Suffolk Coastal District Council Enabling Communities Programme

And sponsorship from many individuals and organisations:


  • Carolyn Gibbins
  • Nancy and Pete Clay
  • Barrets of Woodbridge
  • FW Properties


  • Anglia Drain Doctor
  • Deben Inns
  • Samuel David Construction
  • Deben Decorative and Fine Arts Society


  • Alan Swerdlow and Jeremy Greenwood
  • Steve and Anne Tilsey
  • Sandra Kamrath
  • Cornerstone Estate Agency
  • Jewsons
  • Longbon Associates
  • Notcutts
  • Woodbridge School


  • The Crown
  • Ensors
  • Five Insurance
  • Gressingham Foods
  • Island House Dental Care
  • Lightfoot O’Brien Westcott
  • The Table
  • Ufford Park Hotel, Golf and Leisure
  • Woodbridge Violins
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£8m Whisstocks development
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