Ed Sheeran closes Divide tour with Ipswich homecoming gigs

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Media caption,
Ed Sheeran: Ipswich garden party gigs and the early years

An Ed Sheeran fan has travelled "36 hours in a tin can" from New Zealand to see the singer end his tour with four homecoming gigs.

Up to 160,000 people are expected to watch the singer-songwriter as he starts the end of his record-breaking Divide tour in Ipswich on Friday.

By the end of the run Sheeran will have spent 893 days on the road - beating U2's record of 760 days.

He said it was "really weird and cool" to be performing in his home town.

"I just love being here and I'm so happy to be able to end the tour here," he said.

Image caption,
Ed Sheeran moved back to Suffolk seven years ago after a spell living in Los Angeles

Gary Mills moved to New Zealand in 1979 and has flown his family back to Ipswich for Friday's concert.

"When Divide came out, especially Castle on the Hill, I was out walking the dog and I must have listened to it on a loop for about 20 minutes," he said.

"It'll be fantastic just to be there, the atmosphere, to listen and enjoy the first homecoming concert with everybody else. It's kind of a dream come true."

Image source, Mills family
Image caption,
The Mills family have travelled from New Zealand for the concert

Elizabeth Lara Villacis, 22, and Daniel Fuxa, 29, met through a Sheeran fan group in Majorca five years ago.

This will be their third time seeing the singer as a couple, but their first in the UK after moving to Cromer, Norfolk.

"We've moved here now and continue the love story and Ed too," said Miss Villacis.

Image caption,
Daniel Fuxa and Elizabeth Lara Villacis now live together after meeting through a fan group
Image caption,
Fans queued from 06:00 to bag a prime position at Chantry Park

Sheeran was born in Yorkshire but moved to Framlingham in Suffolk at a young age.

Many of his songs reference the county, including his "love song" to Suffolk, Castle on the Hill.

Francesco Pisu, 21, and Mattel Spiga, 20, travelled to Ipswich from Sardinia to celebrate their three-year anniversary.

"We wanted to come here because we love him," said Mr Spiga.

Rapper Piers James, who was selected through BBC Introducing to open the show on Friday, said after coming off stage it had been "the experience of a lifetime".

"For me that's a dream come true. It's what I always envisioned myself doing and this is just another stepping stone," he said.

Image caption,
Rapper Piers James was the first of the BBC Introducing support acts to take to the stage
Image caption,
An array of guitars were lined up backstage for Sheeran's performance

The singer gave staff and pupils from his old school, Thomas Mills High School, free tickets for Sunday's show.

His former music teacher Richard Hanley described it as "a typically generous act".

Some pupils from the school will also be performing on stage on Sunday after their band Salvador was chosen to be on the line-up.

Image source, Harry Souter
Image caption,
Ed Sheeran performed in a garden in Ipswich early in his career

One person who will almost have a front row seat is Tina Cook, who can see the stage from her garden.

"My daughters bought me a ticket so I am going on Friday. I didn't need to go, I will be able to hear it from here, every night," she said.

The singer-songwriter's tour has surpassed U2's 7.3 million record attendance and has averaged 34,541 people per show over the 255 shows.

It is the highest grossing and most attended tour ever.

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