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Chamber 140 – looking back to look forward

In 2024, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce will celebrate its 140th anniversary. Established initially in Ipswich in 1884, the Chamber has developed into a countywide organisation working to support and represent member interests and directly provide a significant depth and breadth of services to the wider community.

140 years is a long time for any organisation. Over that period, the economic and social base of Suffolk has changed significantly. New technologies and business practices have revolutionised how we work and the sectors we work in. Lifestyles and community expectations have changed. We have endured world wars and pandemics, and experienced economic downturns and years when some believed we ‘have never had it so good’.

Throughout this time, Suffolk Chamber has played its role acting as the ‘voice of business’, delivering focused support services and advocating policy innovation. The 140th anniversary provides an ideal opportunity to stand back and reflect on what has been achieved and how this can inform future work and planning.

We all have some interest in the past. However, as the opening lines of L.P. Hartley’s classic novel The Go-between remind us: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” Understanding the past can be difficult and interpretations of past actions can be contested. To get a better understanding of the Chamber’s own history and heritage, a new initiative has been established to investigate the past using the Chamber’s extensive paper archive currently housed with the Suffolk Record Office at the newly constructed Hold in Ipswich.

The initiative, C140, aims to use the 140th anniversary as a catalyst for activities designed to reveal the hidden heritage of the Suffolk Chamber and wider narratives regarding the impact of its work, and wider business and commercial activity on the social fabric and people of Suffolk. To achieve this, the initiative, working with professional staff at the Hold and a committed team of volunteers, will:

· Chronicle the work of the Chamber through a timeline set against the major social and economic issues of the time. This work will draw on local media archives and other archives and records to contextualise local actions nationally and globally
· Explore a series of themes to understand how the Chamber, Suffolk businesses, and their local communities engaged with national and global issues
· Disseminate research findings to support new and diverse audiences to engage with the historic and current role of the Chamber and its contribution to, and impact on Suffolk society and economy

The work has started and will culminate in an exhibition and series of events and activities in 2024.

It will also aim to leave a legacy, one which builds on the review of the past to explore how this understanding can inform and steer work and priorities in the future.

We will be providing regular progress updates on this exciting initiative on the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce website and through social media.

If you would like to know more, or would like to contribute as a volunteer or in other ways, please contact:

The Chamber Needs Your Help

2024 marks the 140th anniversary of the launch of Chamber of Commerce activity in Suffolk. This offers a unique opportunity to reveal and share a hidden heritage of economic and employment change to new and diverse audiences in thought-provoking, creative, and exciting ways.
Part of the initiative is Celebrating Diversity, a project funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, with thanks to National Lottery players. It will explore the changing structure and diversity of business organisations in Suffolk over 140 years, how the role of women in employment and self-employment has changed, and the impact of people from migrant backgrounds on economic activity and success.
We are looking for stories which could feature in a public exhibition, scheduled to launch in Ipswich in the spring. The exhibition will be complemented by a range of online content and educational material.
Please contact Elma Glasgow, who is leading Celebrating Diversity, with historical stories regarding businesses ran by people from migrant backgrounds and/or women in the Lowestoft area:

Thanks to National Lottery players

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Suffolk Chamber

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