Southend Raft Race – Thorpe Bay, Essex – 25 June 2017

Last run in the 1990s, the Raft Race returned for 2017. Various amateur teams built their own rafts and raced from Thorpe Bay, east of Southend town, on a short course in the Thames Estuary . The event organised by Thorpe Bay Rotary Club raised funds for various charities including the local RNLI, who supplied cover for the event. Strong winds and choppy seas made the going hard with few vessels making the finish line, and some travelled further backwards than forwards! One group winning raft had local Olympian Dean Macey amongst the crew, but the overall win went to the Watchcraft team.

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Rally to Save Southend ‘Blue Light’ A & E – Southend High Street – 20 May 2017

As part of cost cutting measures a proposal by the Conservative government is threatening to downgrade the A&E facilities at both Southend and Chelmsford hospitals, centralising the 999 service at Basildon hospital. Locals are worried that the additional distance will impact patient survivability for serious cases. Protesters marched up Southend High Street and gathered in Victoria Circus to listen to various speakers, including local candidates Ashley Dalton (Lab), Peter Gwizdala (Lib Dem) and Ron Woodley (Ind). The Conservative party sent a spokesman to read a prepared speech which wasn’t well received by the audience. As if to highlight the issue an ambulance had to be called to attend to one of the protestors who collapsed, the speed of arrival of which – from Southend hospital – didn’t go without mention!

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‘Poppies:Wave’ opened on Barge Pier – Shoeburyness, Essex – 11 April 2017

‘Poppies: Wave’ is one of two sections of the ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ art installation originally displayed at the Tower of London in 2014 which is being taken on tour around the UK. The artist of the work – Paul Cummins – opened the Wave section today on Barge Pier in Shoeburyness, Essex, within view of Southend and its longer pier. Barge Pier – formally Garrison Pier – is on the MoD-owned foreshore close to Gunners Park which has Great War history. The Shoebury Garrison was a training school for the Royal Garrison Artillery and the Royal Field Artillery, where new weapons were tested – work which continues today. Poppies: Wave will be on view to the public until 25 June 2017. Barge Pier itself is classified as an unsafe structure so will not be accessible, but viewing structures have been erected to allow raised viewing above the seawalls. Parking is available near to the Coastguard station, with a sign-posted walk.

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RNLI Boxing Day Dip – Southend-on-Sea, Essex – 26 December 2016

Swimmers braved the cold waters of the Thames Estuary to raise funds for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution charity in this traditional winter ‘dip’. They weren’t put off by the chilling water temperature which was measured to be 6.1 degrees C, nor the equally bitter bright but fresh blustery weather. The entry fee (paid to the RNLI) included a reviving hot drink and mince pie on leaving the water. Many swimmers sported festive garb or fancy dress, whilst the RNLI attended to ensure their safety. More sensible visitors took advantage of the conditions to walk the pier and beaches – wearing far more suitable attire.

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Southend Christmas Lights Switch-on Event – 19 November 2016

Hosted by Heart FM’s Martin & Su, the annual Christmas lights switch-on event in Southend offered a day of music and entertainment throughout the town’s High Street. Starring ‘X-Factor’ and ‘The Voice’ contestant Lydia Lucy – latterly promoted by Will.I.am and the newest member of Black Eyed Peas –  as well as performances from local talents The Avenue, Adam Duffill and Joe Gibson, the large crowd enjoyed and joined in with some powerful singing. Lydia Lucy and Martin & Su were joined by ‘Ryan the Lion’ and Southend’s Mayor, Councillor Judith McMahon, to switch on the lights at 6pm, prompting an instant snow storm. Lydia Lucy ended the event with a sing-along of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas’.

With thanks to Heart FM.

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24 Hour Human Hamster Wheel Challenge – Southend, Essex -21-22 May 2016

Local resident Dean Ovel, 39, designed a six foot diameter wooden ‘hamster wheel’ in which to carry out this challenge to raise funds for Southend Hospital Charity’s Dementia Appeal. Starting at mid-day on 21 May, and positioned in Southend’s busy High Street, Dean ran non-stop for 24 hours – only stopping for toilet breaks. Finishing on Sunday 22 May after covering nearly 81 miles, Dean celebrated with his wife, children and supporters. Dean is also illustrated here after 9.5 hours and 40 miles covered in the dark of Saturday evening, still facing a whole night and morning of continuous running.

Dean is hoping to raise £10,000 for the appeal, donations towards which can be made here: Just Giving

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‘Fa la la la la la la’

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‘Southend Shakedown’ – Southend-on-Sea, Essex – 28 March 2016

The ‘Shakedown’ is a mass meeting of motorcyclists along the promenade of the Essex seaside town on the Easter Monday bank holiday, traditionally the first outing of the year after the winter – hence ‘Shakedown’. This, the seventeenth running of the event, almost didn’t go ahead in its usual format. A jump in the fee requested by Essex Police to the Ace Cafe, who have organised the run in recent years, saw them pulling out after deciding that they could not afford this fee for a free event from which they gain little income. Most of the bikers vowed to still make the run regardless, but a collection of local traders led by Grumpy’s Diner came forward to pay the fee to secure the policing at the event. In the end it was Storm Katie that had a final say in the size of the event with many bikers choosing not to take the risk, leaving the reserved western area of the seafront empty. Thousands of bikers did still make the journey, many arriving later than normal once the storm front had passed through.

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