I’m Helena and I guess for my day job I’m a bit of a Jack of All Trades… I work for City of Chelmsford Mencap, a small local charity supporting adults with a learning disability. There, I teach music (we have a brilliant choir, Awesome Beats Collective), co-ordinate the business and digital side of our social enterprise, Independent Design’s and finally, I co-ordinate all our fundraising events throughout the year, which vary from Quiz nights, to sponsored abseils, to the Market events in Bond Street.
I was born here in Chelmsford and returned after a number of years living elsewhere. Coming back to Chelmsford was tough – most of my friends had moved away and I initially spent a lot of my time leaving Chelmsford to go into London. I settled down though, and through my involvement primarily with my work and Ignite, I found new friends, and a lot of satisfaction in working on making Chelmsford into a place I wanted to stay. I love these connections I have made with people who are equally passionate about the potential of Chelmsford. The drive of local artists and independents are the heartbeat of this city. I am excited about building on existing projects and working on new projects – and the prospect of a vibrant independent scene in Chelmsford!
What is Sunburst? Where did the idea come from?
Sunburst grew from a desire to reach a new audience that aren’t necessarily aware of the work we do at City of Chelmsford Mencap, or indeed the capabilities of adults with a learning disability. We wanted to build on the success of Christmas Markets we organised by expanding that idea to a new summer festival. Who can resist the idea of a hazy summer days outside with live music, delicious food and a glass of cold Prosecco at a free community event? The only charge is hopefully a few coins in one of our buckets!
We also wanted the event to provide a platform for small independent businesses who don’t usually have access to a sales spot in the heart of Chelmsford retail. We charge for a pitch, but I hope the prices are reasonable, and all the money goes to supporting City of Chelmsford Mencap. It would be great to grow the event and to be a part of changing people’s mindset to supporting more independent businesses.
What next for Sunburst? Do you have any long term ambitions?
We would love to grow Sunburst so that it becomes a feature of Chelmsford’s summer events calendar, with people joining us from further afield to soak up the atmosphere. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a public space put to community use. It feels very special to be a part of that. I would also like to increase our student’s input in the event. They currently co-ordinate the cafe in the Bowl, with help from volunteers, and always do an amazing job collecting donations in the buckets. But really, there are aspects I think, with the right support, they could run. I want people to associate Sunburst with their hard work, and it to be synonymous with our charity. We are only small, but our ambition is big!
How can someone get involved or support Sunburst of other aspects of your work?
We are in the process of preparing for another new Market taking place in Bond Street on the 7th and 8th September. ‘Folks Fest’ builds on Sunburst but I would like there to be more community involvement in this event. Naming it ‘Folks Fest’, reflects our idea that it is ‘for the people’. So we would love to have other community groups present – either running workshops or performing.
We are also looking for more independent businesses to have a stall – all the money from pitch fees go to supporting the work City of Chelmsford Mencap do.
And, of course, we are always looking for volunteers. For our day services, evening clubs, as tutors or at events, please get in touch and get involved!
If you would like to sign up to receive volunteer newsletters which contain all the info you need about events.
The Folks Fest event page is here: www.facebook.com/events/2142930606002488