A Better Start Southend (ABSS) today kicked off its Festival of Conversations with an opening event for Southend families and professionals followed by a free magic and entertainment show for more than 100 children and parents at the Park Inn by Radisson Palace. 

Over the next two weeks, until Wednesday 26 October, some 40 free and innovative events and activities are taking place in 23 venues across the city of Southend. The festival’s events and activities are 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.

At the opening ceremony, Councillor Kay Mitchell, said of the festival: 

“In my experience meeting other parents who had similar experiences made such a big difference to me, it provided support and gave me the confidence to speak to professionals. 

Conversations between professionals and families are crucial to understanding shared goals, common experiences and what we can achieve together” 

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. Parent Champion, Natasha, spoke at the opening, sharing: 

“A Better Start Southend has become my second family, and helped me to create community spaces to create a better city for my children to grow up in; it’s within the ABSS partnership that I’ve felt listened to where others wouldn’t and encourage all to participate in the Festival of Conversations’ events” 

Hosted by local organisations across the city, the programme of events covers a multitude of topics including food, arts and creativity, environment, mental health, storytelling, pregnancy, home and community safety and many others.

The full programme of events is available at abetterstartsouthend.co.uk/festival with pre-registration required for some events – a waiting list is in place for those events that are fully booked. For more information, contact: festivalofconversations@eyalliance.org.uk.

More unique festival highlights include: 

  • Autumn Beach Clean, with Surfers Against Against Sewage and Southend BeachCare, learning about the importance of protecting our beaches and coastal habitats for marine life – with a litter pick!  (Saturday 15, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm, Jubilee Beach opposite the fountains)
  • A Bugs Life – building lives that thrive aimed at dads and their children, making bug hotels while chatting about life and everything we need to thrive (Saturday 15, 10:00 am – 12:30 pm, Trust Links Westcliff, breakfast included) Pre-registration advised.
  • Talking Drums, storytelling and poetry; Communication culture and tradition of the Yoruba people, Nigeria hosted by Klimax, celebrating Black History Month, this event will mark a culturally rich Southend community (Saturday 22, 3:00 – 5:00 pm, Priory Park Visitor Centre). Pre-registration advised.
  • Ideas Fair – Building our community one gift at a time; An introduction to ABCD – 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 will be based on the key principles of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). Adult-only event. (Tuesday 25, 12:00 – 2:00 pm, Beecroft Art Gallery). Pre-registration advised.

The festival highlight will see four themed roadshow events for families, children and professionals that will host different community groups, interactive sessions, and child-friendly events with professionals in attendance to give information and advice to parents. These roadshow events provide a space where children can take part in activities while parents can gain support and advice. Just turn up on the day, no pre-registration is required.

  • Thursday 13 October, Early Years Activity & Wellbeing Roadshow, Shoebury Youth Centre, 9:30 – 11:30 am – with Southend United Football Club and introductions to sports for young children with other community and specialist groups, expect hands-on sessions, with demonstrations and advice.
  • Monday 17 October, Early Years Activity & Wellbeing Roadshow, Garons Leisure Centre, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm – with similar activities to the first roadshow.
  • Thursday 20 October, Pregnancy & Health Roadshow, The Cliffs Pavilion Maritime Rooms, 12:30 – 2:30 pm – with immersive role-play activity Little City for walking aged children, with a sensory and play zone for the little ones, plus other organisations and professionals including doctors, pharmacists, dentists and practitioners. 
  • Saturday 22 October, Southend Fire Station Roadshow, Southend Fire Station, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm. An opportunity for a fun and interactive fire station open house, with the fire service, RNLI, Essex Police, face painting and other organisations.