Much to do this May on Mersea Island
- Credit: Archant
With two Bank Holidays and the brighter weather, May is a month of much promise. Lily Floyd reveals why Mersea Island is the perfect place to visit as thoughts turn to holidays and day trips
Mersea Island is the most easterly inhabited island in the UK. Located around eight miles from Colchester, Mersea Island is situated between the estuaries of the Colne and Blackwater rivers. Despite its size, this unique place boasts a population of around 7,000 people with West Mersea as the main urban centre and East Mersea offering more rural surroundings.
This month, this gem of the Essex coast will host a variety of spectacular events which will attract local residents and visitors, all very welcome to enjoy the engaging atmosphere and scenery of the island. The Mersea Island Food, Drink & Leisure Festival is an event which combines the best of local food and drink with a celebration of the people and places that make Mersea Island the distinctive town it is today. Being hosted for the sixth year at the Mersea Island Vineyard, the festival presents local food and drink, arts, crafts, home furnishings, items for the garden, music, dance and entertainment for everybody to enjoy.
Festival organiser and local resident, Beverly Perkins, explains why Mersea is an island that has an unique identity. ‘The last couple of years we have seen between 6,000 and 8,000 visitors come to our event. It is rare to have a community occasion like this, where you bring together different aspects and it reflects the whole community. We are proud to support local groups, while offering a fun-filled weekend for friends and families in the lovely setting of a working vineyard and micro-brewery.’
This free event takes place over the spring Bank Holiday on May 24 and 25 at The Mersea Island Vineyard in East Mersea. During the day the festival will host a variety of activities including a food theatre, which comprises cookery demonstrations, tasting and skills workshops. A variety of music will also be played over the weekend, including an A to Z of musical local talent that will represent every genre from folk to jazz. Children can enjoy free craft activities, a bouncy castle, face painting, storytelling sessions hosted by local author Veronique Eckstein and art activities with the theme of Pirates & Princesses.
Now established as an annual event, the festival will provide food for any palette, from oysters to pies, plus a traditional hog roast and exotic Asian, Caribbean and Indian dishes. Talented artists and craftspeople will be displaying their goods including clothing, jewellery, painted furniture, driftwood art and much more.
Beverly adds: ‘We normally accommodate 18 to 20 charity groups, which have raised more than £30,000 over the last five years. This money has been raised by local charities and community groups, and every penny is spent to provide support to Mersea residents.’ But there is more than one reason to visit Mersea Island this month.
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Over May 2 to 4, the Cosmic Puffin Festival is a not-for-profit music event which features bands, performers, artists and traders, each giving up their time for free to help local and national charities.
Jamie Anderson, founder of the Cosmic Puffin Festival, started this charitable event seven years ago after his friend’s daughter had been taken very ill and spent three to four days in a critical condition.
Jamie says: ‘I’m really happy how this festival is slowly growing and everyone always comes back. However, there is more of a buzz this year, so I’m hoping more locals will attend. I would love for the maximum capacity of 1,000 people to come, as this means £50,000 will be raised for all the chosen charities, which is fantastic.’
Based at Mersea Youth Camp in East Mersea, the festival will support Bliss (the special baby care charity), The National Autistic Society for people with autism and Asperger syndrome and ALDLife (a support group for patients and families affected by Adrenoleukodystrophy or Adrenomyeloneuropathy). The festival will also support the Help Roxi Walk Appeal, which is helping to raise funds for the daughter of one member from one of the long-standing guest bands, to enable her to have an operation.
Jamie adds: ‘We are helping to support someone who has played at every festival we have hosted. His daughter needs an operation in America, which is going to cost £50,000, and £30,000 has been raised so far. It’s payback for all of his help and support for the festival.’
The month of May is certainly a special time for this special part of Essex according to Peter Clements MBE, the town mayor. Peter has lived in Mersea for more than 40 years and says: ‘The community is very close and caring, although residents do have remarkably varied interests. There is something for everyone and there are indeed many exciting events happening over the next couple of months — I certainly won’t be missing them. They are all fantastic, as they are created for everyone to have fun, with a little gentle charitable fund raising.’
Mersea Island Food, Drink & Leisure Festival
Mersea Island Vineyard
Admission is free and the event runs from 11am to 5pm
Cosmic Puffin Festival
Mersea Youth Camp
An adult weekend ticket is £47.50 and a teen weekender ticket is £32.50. Day tickets cost £28.15 for adults and £11.75 for teen tickets.