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Caring – Christopher Burgess

Brightlingsea residents take four Pride of Tendring awards

A young Brightlingsea carer and three organisations with Brightlingsea connections have been recognised in the Tendring District Council's version of the New Year’s honours list – the Pride of Tendring Awards.

Among 19 Tendring residents nominated by district councillors from were: carer Christopher Burgess; Brightlingsea Free Music Festival and its chairman John Godfrey; the Cinque Port Liberty of Brightlingsea; and the Lads Need Dads organisation, whose founder lives in Brightlingsea.

The awards aim to celebrate people from all walks of life who make a real difference to those in their community. Now in their tenth year – after a break last year because of Covid – there'll be an official awards ceremony at Clacton’s Princes Theatre on 11 February 2022.

See below for the citations supplied by Tendring District Council.

Christopher Burgess

(Nominated by councillor Jayne Chapman)

For 10 years, Christopher became his mum's main carer as his Dad was the main wage earner. His mum has been in and out of hospital since he was four.  As he got older he did everything for her, including personal care, dressing and food requirements.  He went to the sports college to train in sports but after qualifying they found he has a severe back issue and could never play sport, he did play some football. He went into depression for a year and only focused on his mum.  After losing three stone and gaining back his confidence he went on to help a local resident who has two sons, one with severe special needs. Christopher built a strong relationship with the boys and gained their trust. He spends time with them and helps the family out by babysitting and taking them out to play, giving the parents a break.

When his mum was well enough Christopher would look after his great grandmother and was the one that helped her when she fell. During Covid, if I called to see his mum and dad he would offer to help if I needed prescriptions delivered and for those who were in lockdown.

All his effort in caring for his mum has had an impact on the people around him and made her life and those of his family and friends more rewarding. Although he never has asked for thanks, this is one way others can show how grateful they are.

John Godfrey, Chairman of Brightlingsea Free Music Festival

(Nominated by councillor Mick Barry)

Brightlingsea Free Music Festival was established in 2001 and last year celebrated its 20th anniversary. The festival has been organised from the beginning by a group of community volunteers who are responsible for planning, fund-raising, publicity, and running the festival, which has now grown into a three day event.

Pride of Tendring 1

Brightlingsea Music Festival volunteers - John Godfrey is third from left with the hat

The festival costs in the region of £20,000 each year and showcases some of the brightest musical talent in our area. It is a significant community event in Brightlingsea and only works as a free festival because of volunteers dedicating their time and energy throughout the year. A core group of eight volunteers lead on all aspects of festival production - they engage with the town council and community businesses and other organisations. They recruit volunteers to help with stewarding, and organise licences and event safety. From humble origins it has grown into one of the most popular and well established events in the town calendar.

The Free Music Festival has become an established event in the Brightlingsea Town Calendar, through the dedicated work of the volunteers a whole range of musicians and artists have been able to showcase their talent to a wider audience. The people of Brightlingsea have enjoyed over 300 mainly original bands and performers over the 20 year period of its operation.


Cinque Port Liberty of Brightlingsea

(nominated by councillor Graham Steady)

Formed in 1885, the Cinque Port Liberty of Brightlingsea's role has developed over the years to give support to the community via fund raising for Christmas lunch outings and afternoon teas for vulnerable groups, social evenings and liaising with local schools so that pupils can attend the annual visit by the Mayor of Sandwich.

The organisation is keeping Brightlingsea and national history alive, as it has done since 1885, continuing to give support to the local community in many different ways.


Lads Need Dads

(nominated by councillor Anne Davis)

Lads Need Dads (LND) was founded in 2015 in recognition of the disproportionately negative impact the lack of a father figure can have on the mental wellbeing, educational achievements and life outlook of boys. With her background in both the statutory and voluntary sectors, working predominantly with males, Brightlingsea resident Sonia Shaljean – now mananaging director of the organisation – recognised that there was a problem that needed to be urgently addressed. Lads Needs Dads, with the help of committed and trained volunteers from the community, seeks to equip, engage and inspire boys with absent fathers or lacking a male role model to reach their full potential.

Its stated mission is "to empower and enable boys aged 11-15 with absent fathers, or limited access to a male role model, to be motivated, responsible, capable, resilient and emotionally competent to PREVENT them from becoming at risk of underachieving, offending, exclusion or dropping out of school".

LND has been recognised on a national level with awards including the Queens Award for Voluntary Services 2020 and winners of the CSJ National Family Award 2018 but has yet to be fully recognised by TDC. Its work is growing and expanding to educate and support single mothers of boys, with a vision to extend this support nationally. Working closely with schools, and the third sector, Lads Need Dads is regularly consulted by the media and has spoken in Parliamentary select committees – it was among the first organisations to speak at the All-Parliamentary Group for Men and Boys in 2021. It is currently conducting research across Essex Schools exploring the impact of the absent father on boys’ education, behaviour and emotional well-being with a hope to implement a flagging system in schools so boys with absent fathers are identified and provided with support and early intervention.

Lads Need Dads works with boys long-term, throughout their adolescence. Some of its first graduates have gone on to volunteer as mentors themselves, while others have progressed to university because they have learned to believe in themselves and found their purpose. The work of LND has had an inspirational effect on the boys it mentors and has a lasting effect on their lives, their families and their communities. LND deserves our utmost respect and admiration for the amazing work it does and is absolutely deserving of recognition by Pride of Tendring.

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