Five Favourite Essex Things

Jennie Skingsley

Jennie Skingsley - Credit: Archant

Jen Skingsley is an associate and the marketing manager at Essex law firm Birkett Long LLP. She is also the musical director of Exaltation! Gospel Choir and an active member of St Andrew’s Church in Halstead. Jen and her team at Birkett Long recently won the Essex Digital Award for the use of social media in business. She changes her hair colour fairly regularly and believes life is too short to wear boring shoes.

My favourite day out in Essex

Colchester Zoo

You can’t beat Colchester Zoo for a great day out, particularly with children. Although not exclusively, as a friend of mine celebrated her 30th birthday there! We’re really lucky to have such a brilliant zoo in Essex. I only live a few miles away, but don’t go there anywhere near enough. I love taking my niece there because you can always guarantee a good day out and, unlike at other attractions, the gift shop isn’t outrageously expensive. I’ve been to several other zoos and none come close. The closest possibility is Valencia Zoo, but that’s a long way to go for a day trip!

My favourite Essex building

St Andrew’s Church in Halstead

I’ve been a member of St Andrew’s since I was born and yet I can still appreciate how beautiful the building is – inside and out. When I was younger there was an arson attack which destroyed most of the choir vestry (I was in the choir at the time), and while that was horrific, it meant that a lot of renovation took place. Part of that renovation revealed amazing wall paintings in the chancel, which I marvel at every time I see them. I’ve been on the Parochial Church Council for eight years now and it is a privilege to be involved in the life of such a wonderful building and community.

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My favourite Essex people

Exaltation! Gospel Choir

This is cheating a bit, but my favourite Essex people are the members of my choir, Exaltation! Gospel Choir, which I direct with my friend Jane. We set up the choir when we returned from university 11 years ago and were looking for something musical to do. The emphasis is always on having fun – we don’t make anyone audition and we don’t perform anywhere or learn anything the majority of the group aren’t interested in. There are about 25 members ranging in age from eight to 78, and apart from enjoying singing together, we have all become great friends.

My favourite Essex venues

Colchester Arts Centre

I think we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to entertainment venues in Essex. Music is a big part of my life and I love going to the Colchester Arts Centre to see bands, comedians and the occasional children’s show with my niece. I also love the Mercury Theatre in Colchester and the Towngate Theatre in Basildon – I’ve seen numerous shows and I’ve had the pleasure of performing at both.

My favourite Essex charity

The Rob George Foundation

The Rob George Foundation has only been in existence since January this year, but already is making a massive impact. The foundation is named in memory of Rob George, the son of Birkett Long’s former managing partner, Philip. Rob died aged 21 in December 2013 following a long battle with leukaemia. His family set up the foundation with two aims. Firstly, to provide practical and financial support to young people with life threatening or terminal illnesses, and secondly, to provide financial support to young people who demonstrate exceptional commitment and/or ability in sport or performing arts but may be held back by their financial situation. The foundation has already been able to help so many people. You can read more about Rob and the charity at