Wednesday, November 28, 2007



“Those of us who live in Essex know that our county has some of the finest choirs in the country,” was the comment of one enthusiast who loves music and song.

Chelmsford, however – our county town – has many singing groups and is appropriately the home of the Essex Police Choir. This was formed in 1989 and is now considered to be one of the very best. It enjoys its excellent reputation for fine singing, both in this country and abroad and its membership is drawn, not only from present officers of all ranks, civilian support staff, but also friends of Essex Police.

“The aim of our choir is obviously to enjoy ourselves – singing is one of the most wonderful pastimes - but an important aspect is to help raise fund for charities and to promote good policing relations with the general public,” said its Chairman, Peter Simpson OBE.

Since its inception, the Choir has raised almost £200,000 for Essex based charities as a result of performing 225 concerts. This work supports their chosen charities which are selected annually. This year, they will support the Broomfield Urology Department who need to purchase laser equipment.

The Choir consists of around 50 singing members including Musical Director Norman Eastbrook MBE and its Deputy Musical Director, the talented accompanist, Doreen Potter. They have a wide-ranging repertoire, including popular music, arrangements from the shows, spirituals and traditional secular music. In addition to the Choirs concerts in Essex, they have also performed in Canada, France, the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Billericay is preparing to welcome the Essex Police Choir on Saturday lst December when they will be singing at the lovely circular Emmanuel Church, Laindon Road. The EPC are often joined by superb soloists and on Saturday the group ‘Musicality’ starring Doreen Potter, Fiona Whittaker and Wayne Carpenter will be present. The Choir’s first CD was well received and their second A Grand Night for Singing will be on sale soon.

Saturday’s Festive Concert is sponsored by the Air Training Corps and the cadets will be attending with their Commanding Officer, Flt.Lt Steve Horncastle. Songs from the shows, followed by traditional Christmas music and carols are on the agenda and tickets at£8.50 can be obtained by phoning 01277 623013 or from the door. This includes wine. The concert starts 7.00 for 7.30pm.

Monday, November 05, 2007



Next week, Elizabeth Wallace arrives from Denver, Colorado to launch her new book in England. In her book, Elizabeth describes the life and times of the people in the county at Christmas. She outlines the life of the rich and the poor and how they celebrated. Many of the folk migrated to Essex from the London area and, of course, they brought with them their distinctive customs and traditions that are still used at Christmas-time.

Christmas Past in Essex offers the reader an extraordinary historical glimpse into lives of the people of Essex. From the little girl who fondly recalls her Christmases in an orphanage to Jack Bartlett, the Billericay postman who diligently delivered the post and then returned home to fall asleep over his Christmas dinner. There are scores of wonderful stories and excellent photographs, many of which have never before been published.

As Elizabeth collected the wonderful memories and treasured photographs, she was mindful of the responsibility placed in her hands. To this end, she recorded the memoirs verbatim, and was therefore able to keep the individual’s voice and essence. There are more than 60 fascinating photographs, original artwork from Essex artists and over one hundred intriguing stories, customs and traditions contained in Christmas Past in Essex.

Elizabeth hopes that readers will enjoy the stories and photographs contained in Christmas Past in Essex and in doing so will rekindle pleasant memories of their own Christmases that will be handed down to future generations.

Publisher: Tempus Publishing ISBN-13: 978-0752444635 £9.99

Thursday, November 01, 2007




For months now the stores have been stocking up and preparing for the great onslaught of festive shopping The huge cavalcade of planning, buying, gift wrapping, cooking and Christmas card sending is well underway, yet there are still weeks to go. Each year, this massive shopping race seems to start earlier and children’s hopes are raised as TV and in-store advertising becomes more flamboyant.

It’s easy to forget that Christmas will not be fun for everyone, particularly the lonely and needy folk around the world. But there are many groups of people in Essex who are aware of this, mindful of children who will have little chance of receiving gifts at this universally festive time.

One person who not only knows about the sad state of children overseas, but does something about it, is Maggie Beale, a Billericay-based volunteer who sets aside each year time to travel to Chelmsford to take part in "Operation Christmas Child". This project is organised by "Samaritan’s Purse", an International Relief Charity whose warehouse headquarters are in Robjohn’s Road, Chelmsford.

Maggie, who works around the year making and buying gifts for children from 2 to 14, is enthusiastic about her chosen charity. She said: "The plan is to provide gift-filled shoe boxes to some of the neediest children in the world. Since its start in 1990, more than 47 million children have received a shoebox and last year alone the UK 18 million boxes to children in 13 countries.

"As a local volunteer this is a particularly busy time at our nearest warehouse in Chelmsford where we check, sort and top-up shoe boxes to ensure that they comply with various import regulations and that the contents are suitable for the boys and girls of the various age groups. Before they are sealed, packed and transported to their final destinations. Last year we sent 67,051 boxes from our warehouse alone, to children in Kyrgyzstan, India, Ukraine, Bosnia and Serbia.

"The mainstay of our operation is the group of schools, nurseries, churches, voluntary organisations and individuals who donate filled shoe boxes for collection between 4th and 20th November to allow sufficient time for transporting around the world in this Annual Project.

"Although the busy period is upon us, I get great pleasure throughout the year making, buying and collecting things that will ultimately put a smile on a child’s face. I am proud to work with the team of volunteers to help ensure the gift of happiness to children who otherwise would receive nothing. For more information on this year’s appeal see the website at and perhaps be inspired to help or contribute next year."