Brightlingsea's 2021 WinterFest is to shine a beacon of hope for the town following one of the most difficult years in living memory.
The much-loved festival is to return in February, in a different from usual form, but with its enduring focus on celebrating and promoting community spirit, creativity and wellbeing.
Music, art, spoken word and activities to promote mental and physical health will once again be at the heart of WinterFest, which has always aimed to banish winter blues, but this year will be bringing some desperately needed light in the ongoing battle against the Coronavirus pandemic.
In a joint message WinterFest founders Alix Sheppard and Dave Griffiths said: “Last year's WinterFest was a huge success, with a wide range of events throughout the town. During that time the people of Brightlingsea proved how resilient they could be, when the town was battered by storms and flooding.
“Soon afterwards lockdown caused by Covid reared its head and since then the town has been showing its strengths again in the face of the greatest struggle of our times.
“The community has pulled together and all sorts of people from many different backgrounds have done extraordinary things.
“We are determined to reflect Brightlingsea's true spirit by ensuring that WinterFest still takes place this year, as it has done each February over the past six years. It won't be WinterFest as we have known it before, but it will still be a way of bringing the community together and lifting spirits, something that is needed now more than ever.
“ Many of our major events will be moving online, but there will be activities in the community too, which can take place in a safe way.”
We will be asking people to submit artwork to be featured on our website and for those interested in photography there will be a workshop with talented local photographer Colm O'Laoi.
WinterFest is linking with Brightlingsea Regent Football Cub to offer an exercise challenge and there will also be a chance for people to improve their fitness with a walking/running trail, online yoga sessions and exercise classes with Fresh Fitness.
Loneliness has been a huge problem during the pandemic and we are hoping to help tackle this with a pen-pal scheme. For those searching for a job or wanting a change of direction there will be an employment skills workshop.
We are linking with the Brightlingsea Lockdown Trail group to light up the town and hope that businesses and residents will display White Lights for WinterFest during February in any way they can, in their windows, in the town centre and beyond to signal hope and renewal.
A recipe book featuring feelgood food is being compiled and we want to encourage local people and businesses to contribute their favourite recipes by e mailing them to Dave Griffiths at email@example.com. We would like people to send ideally a document describing the recipe, detailed ingredients and a picture of the finished item. The recipe can be their own, but if from a book, please state the book.
If a business submits a recipe, they can mention how it applies to them, for example you can buy most of the ingredients from their shop. All contributors can add a short piece explaining why they have chosen the recipe.
For our online programme Brightlingsea's rising stars, When Rivers Meet, who now have an international fan base, will be staging a concert on February 19, which will be a pay to view event to raise funds for the WinterFest Wellbeing Fund. The fund supports local people and helps them to improve their mental and physical good health.
WinterFest's great friend, the poet and musician Martin Newell, has agreed to be a headline act again and his concert will also be staged online. A comedy event and acoustic night are also planned for the 2021 online programme and, for the first time, WinterFest will have its own dedicated YouTube presence.
We will be staging a 'Town Flips Out' pancake challenge, asking people to hold pancake parties in their homes on Shrove Tuesday, linking together on line.
With wellbeing in mind, we will also be offering online talks on mental health called 'How to Survive When the World is going Mad.'
We hope everyone will feel inspired to join us for WinterFest 2021 and help keep one of the town's best loved events alive.