EPIC festival now stands for Entertaining People In aid of Charity. (It used to mean cancer charities but has since been broadened to include many other charities dear to my heart). The idea for the festival was born in 2017 at a time when all around me family and friends were suffering from various strains of cancer. I felt helpless but wanted to use my powers for good, and make a difference through fundraising and raising awareness of the various types of cancer out there.

Amongst those nearest to me affected by cancer, was my Auntie Norma who was my rock, my counsellor, my guide and had been like a second mum to me throughout my life. I knew I wanted to plan, organise and host a large scale music event and raise funds for Macmillan charity which had helped her greatly. Macmillan was also one of many charities Norma had done volunteering and fundraising work for during her lifetime.

I enlisted the help of my hilarious, quirky, and talented friend Holly who ‘hooked me up’ with meetings and networking events to help me find a venue, start conversations with local suppliers and vendors and get the message out there. I quickly learnt how much work would be involved in organising, and hosting an all-day music festival! You mean you don’t just book some musicians and a venue et voilá? No, there was so much more to consider…

Due to the complexities of single-handedly planning EPIC fest alongside a busy schedule of performing, teaching and conducting, and then being engaged fairly full time at the Royal Shakespeare Company on their 2018 season of Macbeth, EPIC fest was parked for a short while. It came to fruition in 2018, fuelled by the news that Holly; herself; had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and that my Auntie’s health had deteriorated. This tragic set of events reminded me of why I was planning this festival in the first place and motivated me to complete my plans for EPIC fest, pouring as much love into it as I possibly could. So I set about securing the musicians and venue, and that was only just the beginning…

After equipment and backline checks with each musician had been completed, caterers, face painters, artists, stall-sellers and a bouncy castle had been booked and charity fees negotiated with suppliers, the festival was starting to shape up. Holly was a wonderful help to me during the early brainstorming process, putting me in touch with writers for local magazines, and several movers and shakers of the local business networking world, to help me advertise the event. I learned a lot about marketing and ‘schmoozing’ all thanks to her. It’s at times like these that I’m also grateful for having a hugely creative photographer husband, Owen on hand to help with posters, and flyers.

In the final weeks leading up to the first mid-summer EPIC festival, I found myself running around local businesses, reaching out to my local community requesting raffle prizes, and selling market stalls for arts, crafts, cakes, food, jewellery, etc.

The first festival was a stonking success, and we raised somewhere in the ballpark of £1200 for Macmillan. I did, however, learn that you should probably ask for help from friends and family as 11 hours on your feet with just 2 of you managing an all-day festival can be a little exhausting…(but worth it!)

The following year I grew the event, engaged bigger bands, more food vendors, and even the hilarious musician Murdoch Swales as an MC for the day. There were better raffle prizes, drinks offers and I even had help from several friends as volunteers on the day too. (Thank goodness!) We raised another whopping £1400 this time for Cancer Research UK, and Holly’s chosen charity ‘Something to look forward to’.

Since the second EPIC festival in 2019, I have hosted several smaller music gigs, and I was even sponsored to dye my hair BLUE for ‘Something to look forward to’ cancer support charity! EPIC has also changed its face somewhat. I now fundraise for other charities that I feel passionately about, as well as cancer charities (hence the change to the meaning of the acronym).

2020 saw the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread lockdowns across the country for most of the year. This has meant most performing work has been cancelled for us singers and musicians. In a bid to keep on singing, provide a platform for other singers who may be at a loose end, and to continue my fundraising efforts through EPIC I’ve hosted 2 online concerts so far (the concept of which would have terrified this technophobe a year ago!)

‘Arias for Autism’ was the first online concert I compiled. It was a beautiful programme of operatic arias, and songs performed by myself and tenor Ben Thapa. I have many friends with autistic children and siblings and wanted to raise funds for the Orchestra of St John’s ‘Music for Autism’ project to support the wonderful work they do in special schools around the country. OSJ go into schools and perform workshops with live classical music played by members of the orchestra. The children and young people then have the opportunity to experience this stunning music without the usual restrictions and conformity society places on sitting quietly and listening in concerts.

‘Carols for crisis’ was the second online concert I hosted. It had a stellar line up of choirs, ensembles and soloists, celebrating the magic of music at Christmas, whilst also raising money for those worse off than myself, who may be homeless, or may be on their own, or on the edge of society.

In total, I have raised just over £4200 for various charities which hold a place in my heart.

Tragically both Auntie Norma and Holly lost their battles with Cancer in 2018 and 2019 respectively. This has left a huge void in our lives but this drives my desire to continue my fundraising projects well into future years and to do so in their loving memories.

I am currently exploring my options to grow EPIC music events whilst also taking my newly acquired digital skills to the next level.

Watch this space for future EPIC developments coming to a screen or stage near you.