GUEST BLOG: Sunburst Festival to Shine Light on City Centre

Our first guest blog in the series, written by Helena Nussey, Events Co-ordinator at City of Chelmsford Mencap.

Sunburst Festival is, at its very heart, a celebration of community. The Festival presents us at City of Chelmsford Mencap with the unique opportunity to work in the core of retail business in Chelmsford, and to bring something unexpected and different to our city – a Festival which not only brings local and independent traders and musicians to an area otherwise exclusively ‘big-business’, but does so whilst providing adults with a Learning Disability the platform to engage with the wider community, and to show that the contribution they make to society is important and meaningful.

Our students will be highly visible throughout the day – members of the public will be able to bop along to the choir and dance group, enjoy a cream tea with scones and jam made by the students, and buy products made in the social enterprise, Independent Designs. The students’ input is already clear – the poster for Sunburst features icelollies drawn, digitised, and colourised by Independent Designs artist Aktar, who is thrilled to see his work on posters around town. Grilling Aktar on how he feels about his artwork being seen by so many members of the public, his short answers of ‘happy’ and ‘proud’ don’t quite demonstrate what it means to him, but the huge grin on his face more than says it. His new-found fame hasn’t gone to his head though, and he still encourages as many people to come and enjoy the event as possible – he may even put in an appearance with the dance group and choir – and also to sign some autographs.

Aktar shows off his design skills

Independent Design artist, Sumedh, at work













City of Chelmsford Mencap is a small local charity situated on Mildmay Road, in an unassuming building whose drab exterior hides the buzzing activity within. More than 70 adults with a Learning Disability use the lifelong learning services offered by City of Chelmsford Mencap, but we open our doors regularly to the wider community – I recommend coming to a Community Lunch, the best (and cheapest!) three course meal a person can find in Chelmsford!

City of Chelmsford Mencap is affiliated to but receives no financial support from Royal Mencap. This has always been a really important factor in our work because it means in order to support our service users, or ‘students’ as they prefer to be called, our team has to come up with ever more imaginative ways to fundraise and raise awareness of what we do. It was out of this drive to be different and unique, and to make a mark in our community, that Sunburst was born.

The opportunity for Sunburst arose after the success of the Bond Street Christmas Market last year, which saw over 20 local businesses come together for a day of shopping, music, mulled wine and bratwurst. City of Chelmsford Mencap co-ordinated the event in collaboration with The Bassment and Shakster Records, two absolute powerhouses in the local music scene. We feel very lucky to be working with them again, with added support from The Transition and entertainment company CDC Productions. Their support means Sunburst takes over Bond Street for a whole weekend in June, providing a platform for local businesses and musicians to reach a wider audience, whilst also raising vital funds for a wonderful charity.

So come along and see us on the 16th and 17th June in Bond Street! Drink a summer cocktail or an ice coffee, bask in the sun in our cafe and discover some local musicians before browsing through a selection of independent traders and support bringing more events like Sunburst to the heart of our city!

Brad, who works on the social media side of things – Instagram @indesignenterprise – with Helena