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Hag Fest music festival in Stansted hits right fundraising note for Isabel Hospice




A mini music festival born out of lockdown helped to raise £1,600 for Isabel Hospice thanks to a community choir.

Hag Fest was staged earlier this month in the grounds of Herts & Soul choir member Jo Bass' home in Bentfield Green, Stansted. It featured choral performances, sing-alongs and pieces performed by students past and present from The Herts & Essex High School and cover band Ancient Geeks.

Organiser and chorister Lucy Ireland Gray said that the event was an opportunity for the Bishop's Stortford-based choir to reunite after a lengthy absence and to help bridge the fund-raising gap experienced by the hospice, which serves East Herts.

Hag Fest raised money for Isabel Hospice (51492752)
Hag Fest raised money for Isabel Hospice (51492752)

"A small group of us met up in Jo's garden and said how nice it would be to stay here and camp together, and then said 'Why don't we have a festival?', the idea being that for people who were anxious about meeting face to face again for rehearsals, this would be an icebreaker to get back together," said Lucy.

"It was an introduction back to normality and a celebration of being back together, and because Isabel Hospice's fundraising has been massively down and ordinarily we would have held a concert in their honour, it was nice to be able to do something for them."

Renee Friend, the charity's Bishop's Stortford area support group leader, said: "Enormous thanks to everyone who generously supported this incredible festival in support of our hospice and raised over £1,600, which could help fund our Isabel Living Well day services locally.

Hag Fest raised money for Isabel Hospice (51492784)
Hag Fest raised money for Isabel Hospice (51492784)

"Isabel Hospice nurses, staff, patients and families are incredibly grateful."

Hag Fest gets its name from hag stones – stones with holes in the middle, worn away by the sea, which Lucy and a few friends started collecting from beaches and which became an emblem for the choir during lockdown as a symbol of good luck.

"We called ourselves 'The Hag Stones' off the back of collecting them and it morphed into a bit of a name – we gave everybody who came to the event a hag stone as a souvenir."

Lucy said the festival was a great success and thanked Jo and Malcolm Bass for hosting it. "We had a couple of good sing-alongs with everybody, whether they were in the choir or not, and sang some Abba and Queen. It was great fun.

Hag Fest raised money for Isabel Hospice (51492742)
Hag Fest raised money for Isabel Hospice (51492742)

"We had craft stalls set up by choir members and their friends, food and beer stalls, a lucky dip, tombola and giant Jenga. It was low-key but good fun and we were lucky that the sun came out and it was hot."

She thanked sponsors Tesco Express in Stansted, Marks & Spencer in Bishop's Stortford and Sainsbury's, Thorley Park, which donated Prosecco and vouchers as prizes.

Herts & Soul Community Choir describes itself as "one of the largest, upbeat and most popular community choirs in the UK" and is for anyone who loves to, or wants to learn to, sing across a variety of genres – pop, rock, soul, jazz, folk, traditional, musical theatre and light choral music.

Under the musical direction of Susie Savage and Peter Clayton, the choir enjoys contributing to community fundraising by staging concerts. Over the 11 years since it was founded, it has raised £55.6k for a variety of local charities including Isabel Hospice and Essex & Herts Air Ambulance.

The choir is currently inviting new soulsters to join them for taster sessions each Friday in October at 7pm at Herts and Essex High School. Contact sing@hertsandsoul.co.uk

In the months to come, the choir is looking forward to resuming its public performances, starting with the Remembrance Sunday Service in Castle Gardens in November and the Isabel Hospice Lights of Live Service in Market Square on December 5.

Hag Fest raised money for Isabel Hospice (51492787)
Hag Fest raised money for Isabel Hospice (51492787)
Hag Fest raised money for Isabel Hospice (51492790)
Hag Fest raised money for Isabel Hospice (51492790)


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