Arts/Community - Colchester's BIG Sunday

It's back, and bigger than ever! 600 performances across 19 venues, and it's all FREE!

Colchester's BIG Sunday will take place this Sunday, July 2nd.

The free family festival was started as a direct result of the unavoidable cancellation of the well-regarded Colchester Free Festival, leaving a vacuum in our town's annual festival calendar. Dorian Kelly (the man behind the movement) felt something had to be done to showcase the incredible music and arts that make Colchester the creative capital of the county. "Colchester has more musicians, actors, poets, comedians, DJ’s, painters, dancers, choirs and orchestras than the whole of the rest of Essex and Suffolk put together," tells Dorian. "At the time we had Firstsite, the Minories, the amazing Waiting Room and the even more amazing SlackSpace, all grouped together in that semi-derelict, down at heel, unloved area."

Inspired by the Pink Floyd song “What shall we do with our empty spaces?” Dorian and his supporters created a festival in less than six weeks. Right from the word go it was agreed that everything (apart from the catering and beer!) was to be completely and utterly free. No catch. And so the BIG Sunday started, with just three music stages and a few stalls, but the atmosphere and attendance were way beyond expectations.

The BIG Sunday is unique in as much as it is completely community led, using the model of enabling different people to mount all kinds of arts and entertainment events within a framework of a traditional festival structure under the guidance and management of an experienced events enabler. 


It is also truly different because it is largely unfunded, relying on the generosity of the artists, poets, musicians, dancers, film makers, craftspeople and actors of Colchester to provide their services free of any charge. The result of their enthusiasm is that this year's BIG Sunday will be held over a spectacular 19 venues and showcase a staggering 600 participants!

This year's highlights include Essex Music Education Hub presenting 'Grown', the Grime Opera they have commissioned with the 40-piece Essex youth orchestra and a youth gospel choir, which will take place at the disused bus station on Queen Street; The Tent of World Dreams on Firstsite's lawn, featuring story telling, drumming and African/Chinese musical fusion, and the first ever Children's Poetry Performance Festival, at the GO4 Cafe in Trinity Street. No recitals, no readings, just performances that bring poetry to life. (And there is cake!).

Whatever your choice, be it comedy, theatre, jazz, classical music or spoken word, it's sure to be a fantastic and spirit-lifting day out. (Colchester Life will be outside Firstsite, handing out programmes, so do come and say hello.) The BIG Sunday Facebook page has all the details or the packed-to-bursting programme is available here.

(There is now almost too much for one day so maybe next year's event will be the BIG Weekend or maybe even the BIG Week! Dorian is keen to find a local sponsor to ensure this great event's survival, so do get in touch if you can help in any way: