Organised by A Better Start Southend (ABSS), the festival’s last event took place on Wednesday 26 October. Hundreds of families attended almost 40 events over a two-week period at 23 different venues across the city, all aimed at families who are expecting a baby or with children under the age of four – as well as at professionals, partners and organisations who support them.

ABSS is a partnership of organisations that work with families and young children. It works closely with ‘Parent Champion’ volunteers who help to shape and co-produce the partnership’s services by providing a voice for the communities it works within – including on Raising Southend: A Festival of Conversations.

Hosted by local organisations at venues ranging from youth centres to libraries, community gardens to family centres, local parks, beaches, and a plethora of others the programme of events covered a multitude of topics including food, arts and creativity, environment, mental
health, storytelling, pregnancy, home and community safety and many others.

Partners included NHS services, Focal Point Gallery, YMCA, Family Action, SAVS, Trust Links, Safe Steps, Essex Fire & Rescue Services, Klimax Community Hub, University of Essex, Southend Adult Community College, Surfers Against Sewage, Jacqson Diego, Wellbeing @
Garon Park, Metal and many more.

Tara Poore, Director, A Better Start Southend said:
“This was a true celebration and recognition of Southend as one of the best places to bring up a child. Families joined us for fun through to the thought-provoking with advice, support and information shared along the way. The Festival was inclusive, accessible and only possible thanks to community partners through the city.”

We would love to know what you thought of Festival of Conversations 2022! Please let us know at

The wide variety of events included:

● Autumn Beach Clean, with Surfers Against Against Sewage and Southend BeachCare – we learnt about the importance of protecting our beaches and coastal habitats for marine life – with a litter pick! The sun shone and the community came together to care for Jubilee Beach

● A Bugs Life – building lives that thrive – a sunny morning spent in the therapeutic Trust Links gardens. The event welcomed dads and their children, making bug hotels while chatting about life and everything we need to thrive.

● Cost of Living Toolkit Workshop – in connection with Crosslight Advice, the event took place as an online webinar. Discussions were opened around budgeting,
finances and thinking about ways to save or earn extra money.

● Talking Drums, storytelling and poetry; Communication culture and tradition of the Yoruba people, Nigeria – hosted by Klimax, we celebrated Black History Month
through this culturally rich event within our Southend community. Tales and poetry were shared and families were encouraged to take part in percussion in this
interactive session.

● The Chat-a-Thon Read-a-long week – the book ‘The Bear Who Stared’ by Duncan Beedie was shared at Early Years settings across Southend; the book is about a bear
who learns how to communicate with friends – childminders, nurseries, pre-schools and libraries enjoyed sharing the story imaginatively with role play, props and outdoor reading to help spark children’s imaginations.

● Diwali Play & Stay and Diwali Messy Play – we began Diwali week with themed drop in child led play events involving colour, texture, messy play activities and arts
and crafts.

● Ideas Fair – Building our community one gift at a time; An introduction to ABCD – in association with University of Essex. The event was aimed at those with a passion to build the community they live and work in and who have a desire to see the citizens take the lead, the event was based on the key principles of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). The session opened discussions around identifying what we can individually offer to build a stronger community.

The festival highlights were the four themed roadshow events for families, children and professionals which brought together community groups, interactive sessions, and child-friendly events with experts in attendance to give information and advice to parents:

● Early Years Activity & Wellbeing Roadshow – with Southend United Football Club and introductions to sports for young children with other community and specialist groups,hands-on sessions, with demonstrations and advice.

● Early Years Activity & Wellbeing Roadshow – with similar activities to the first roadshow.

● Pregnancy & Early Years Health Roadshow – with immersive role-play activity Little City for walking aged children, sensory and play zones for the little ones, plus other organisations and professionals including doctors, pharmacists, dentists and practitioners.

● Southend Fire Station Roadshow – this was a popular event which included a fun and interactive fire station open house, with the fire service, RNLI, Essex Police, face
painting and other organisations.

To thank the Parent Champions who helped co-produce the festival, we held a party at Twenty One where we were able to come together to celebrate the festival, share feedback on areas that worked well and those that could have been better. The evaluation of the festival is now in place which is important for us to understand and plan for future events.

We are accepting feedback surveys up until Friday 11 November which we would gratefully encourage everyone who came to the events to complete:

For more information, contact: