About Us


What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘grandparent’? If it’s a little old lady knitting in a rocking chair, then you might want to think again. These days you’re as likely to see an octogenarian tweeting from her iPad as casting off her purl stitch.

Gransnet, the social networking site for the over 50s (don’t let the name fool you – all older people male or female, grandparent, parent or not are welcome to join us!), launched in 2011 and is now the largest social networking site for older people in the country. New members have been joining every day for the past 2 years, to talk about everything from politics to memories, books to relationships, snorkelling to, OK, yes, knitting. In 2013 came the launch of Gransnet Local, a network of sites across the country run by people aged 50-plus, offering listings of activities and events; a directory of services, from health centres to plumbers; forums for discussion of local issues; and the possibility of meeting up.

One of the joys of the internet is that no one has to know what you look like. The great thing about the web is that prejudices – about someone who has a disability, or is over 50 and living alone – don’t have to get in the way of who you are. Gransnetters value this anonymity. Even so, it quickly became apparent that many of them do want to meet offline, particularly once they’ve made friends. Members have taken it upon themselves to organise lunches and visit each other, including in hospital; some have even holidayed together.

Gransnet Local Colchester is the local site covering the whole CO postcode area and is thriving with new groups, businesses and events being added each day. Discussions have started on the local forums and a monthly newsletter is being sent out. Gransnet Local Colchester also has Facebook and Twitter pages for those wishing to take social networking for the over 50s one step further.

It is free to join and free to add to the local website listings, whether it’s to tell everyone about your fantastic hairdresser or inviting us all to your jumble sale. There is also the opportunity for local businesses to advertise to their target market or to offer promotions or competitions.

We want to hear from you if you have something to add to our local Gransnet community.



History Writing Competition

hubsmall_keyboardWrite Wai PR & Copywriting Services have launched their 4th Writing Competition for 11 to 18-year-olds, with the support of four great local organisations.

Young people have chance of winning one of our fabulous prizes, if they enter by writing 300 to 400 on an historic theme (fact or fiction). Why not encourage your sons and daughters or nieces and nephews to enter? It would look great on their CVs in the future.

It is the fourth year that  Write Wai PR & Copywriting Services have run our writing competition (each year it is supported by the Colchester Gazette and a partner). This year Andrew Summers of Essex Hundred Publications is running our History Writing Competition with us, and Colchester Castle and Wivenhoe Bookshop are sponsoring prizes.

This year’s competition is bigger and better than ever before. At a time when standards of English seem to be dropping due to the digital era we live in, it’s good to encourage young people in their writing skills, isn’t it?

To enter 11 to 18-year-olds simply need to pick a local history topic, write 300 – 400 words (fact or fiction) and submit their entry to sally@writewai.com by midday on December 31st 2017.

This Year’s Prizes are:

  • 1st A digital camera for you and £100 worth of books for your school (sponsored by Write Wai PR & Copywriting Services and Essex 100 publications)
  • 2nd An annual pass for 2 people for Colchester Castle plus a guided tour & book sponsored by Colchester Castle
  • 3rd £50 book token sponsored by Wivenhoe Bookshop
  • Bonus Prize! The Colchester Gazette will publish the top 3 stories and the 3 winners will have a guided tour of their offices.
For full details about the competition see the news section of our website: http://writewai.com/news-blog/

Sing Out Loud Is Changing Lives

1Karen Hughes, credited to Tess Gardener of New Vintage Portraits

Karen Hughes by Tess Gardener of New Vintage Portraits

North Essex is alive with the sound of music thanks to a woman whose life has been transformed by singing.

After the break-up of her marriage and being diagnosed with ME, Karen Hughes decided to start Sing Out Loud, community singing groups in Colchester and Chelmsford, and she has never looked back.

It’s well known that singing can improve your well-being both physically and psychologically and Karen is living proof of the health benefits.

I decided to start Sing Out Loud after a low point in my life, when I was beginning to recover from a physical breakdown,” said Karen of Maldon.

It was singing, and being involved in Sing Out Loud, that made me more confident and helped to bring ‘me’ back to life, inside my own skin. For quite a while, it was like my body was walking round, but I was so very broken, and fragile inside, that it wasn’t really recognisable, as me, any more.”

Now, I know how to carefully manage my time, energy and what I do, each week. I run Sing Out Loud on a voluntary basis, which always keeps me busy. I know my limits, and occasionally, I have to give in and say ‘No more – at least, for now!’

As you walk through the door to join Sing Out Loud in Colchester or Chelmsford, you feel the friendly atmosphere and are welcomed by smiling faces of all ages, singing with voices of all ranges and abilities.

You don’t have to be able to read music to join, either, as the songs are learnt by ear under the expert tuition, of Brian Crockett. Using a guitar for accompaniment, Brian teaches a variety of songs, from Eric Clapton and The Beatles, to Folk, plus songs from the shows, along with tunes from the 1930s, 1960s, and contemporary melodies. Some of the songs have harmonies or are sung in rounds. During the tea break members get chance for a chat and to get to know each other.

For Grace Perkins, 87, of Colchester, Sing Out Loud is her one night out of the week. She said: “I love it and look forward to going, all week. Everyone is lovely and friendly. You meet some nice people and we all enjoy ourselves. It makes me feel uplifted and alive and I’ve made some new friends.”

A general service manager, Chris Brown, 64, of Chelmsford said: “I’m learning to play the piano and singing along as you’re playing helps. You do feel good after attending Sing Out Loud. Afterwards, I get in my car and find I’m belting out the songs all of the way home.”

Liz Allen, 63, of Chelmsford said: “There’s a lovely friendliness at Sing Out Loud. At some groups the members aren’t friendly, but here, everyone is welcome, whatever your talent or ability.”

The Sing Out Loud community singing groups welcome invitations to perform at local fund raising events and festivals and recently sang at Willingale Village Fayre near Chelmsford, at Galleywood Festival and at the Spirit of The Corn Festival, at the Museum of Power in Langford.

All are welcome to the Sing Out Loud groups and you don’t have to audition to participate. The groups meet for 10 weeks during term time at The Quaker Meeting House, Colchester, CO1 1NF, on Mondays at 7pm for 7.15 pm

For details, phone 07853 132 633 or email info@sing-out-loud.co.uk or visit their website www.sing-out-loud.co.uk

Special Offer from Colchester Classics where Music matters!


Welcome especially if you’ve read our columns in the Essex County Standard, Essex Life, Daily Gazette or Colchester 101

This year we are celebrating 11 years as a Classical Music service to clever collectors, those starting their love affair with music, choirs and at concerts. We’re as passionate about providing the best service as we were when we started in 2006.

We are always here to help you hear more music and are offering you 10% OFF YOUR NEXT ORDER* placed by ‘phone, email, social media or post.

If you have the time and are that way inclined, please do pop by and say hello on our links below. Thank you in advance for this.

Liz Leatherdale Colchester Classics & Classical Music columnist FREEPHONE 0800 999 6994

*10% off does not apply to P&P. Offer ends 31 May 2017

Colchester Classics, St Austell, 47 Gladwin Road Colchester CO2 7HW

Zhang Enli – Gesture and Form

Firstsite, Colchester, is delighted to present Gesture and Form, a major solo exhibition by acclaimed Chinese artist Zhang Enli.

Installation Images-page-001

The presentation marks the start of the gallery’s year-long focus on identity; a key component of Zhang’s artistic practice, from his depictions of commonplace objects, such as cardboard boxes, to his observations of the ordinary rituals of everyday life.

Gesture and Form is comprised of ten works in oil, as well as a ‘Space Painting’, a monumental, site-specific installation that will be created by Zhang over a 10-day period before the show opens on March 11th, 2017, remaining at the gallery for one year before being ‘unmade’.

The Firstsite commission will see Zhang cover the gallery’s 140-metre curving wall with swathes of pulsating colour, washed, scrubbed and stroked into place with expressive brushstrokes. The scale of the work, which sees the artist deliberately blurring his abstract and figurative practices – many Chinese and British trees will be featured – draws the viewer into an imaginary environment, inviting them to consider not just the spectacle of the painting, which is rendered in watercolour, but also the aesthetic enquiries behind its creation.

Zhang began this series in 2007 – other works have been seen at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), and the Muse Duarte Contemporaneity di Villa Croce, Genoa – with the aim of challenging and ultimately conflating the relationship that exists between an artwork and the space it inhabits.

The same stylistic trajectory of the ‘Space Painting’ is manifest in the ten figurative and abstract paintings that feature in the show. The figurative works are inspired by the painter and calligrapher Jin Nong (1687-1764) whose own depictions of branches and blossoms, like Zhang’s, often waved in the wind. Rendered in oil, the artist’s mark-
making is invariably underpinned by a faint, pencil-drawn grid. This structures the rapid expressionistic gestures, coiled tendrils, perforated sheets and majestic tree trunks that are depicted.

In Red-Green Brushwork (2016), for example, sketchy patches of carnelian red, forest green and muted, rusty orange are delineated across the canvas. The grid is still discernible amid chaotic brushstrokes that swirl and blend into one another, with watery rivulets of pigment travelling down the surface plane, creating further, unpredictable marks.

In contrast, Tension 1 (2013), in shades of teal and juniper green, channels a mass of tangled lines wrapped around two thin brown arches. These are seemingly pulled together under the dynamic tension of what could be coils of vine, water-hoses or string.

These same lines reappear in The Transparent Fabrics (2014), threading through the holes of a translucent turquoise veil, and again in The Tree Stump (2) (2015), where they loosely fall from and curl around severed branches.

In all of these works, from the ‘Space Painting’ to the joyful, colourful abstracts and carefully-rendered figurative canvases, Zhang references Buddhist philosophy, and the way it mediates ‘sentience’ (the ability to feel or perceive) and the ‘material’ (our spatial relationship to our environment), exploring what unites humanity rather than what sets it apart.

Says Firstsite Director, Sally Shaw: ‘Firstsite is truly delighted to be staging this show of recent works by Zhang Enli, and honoured that he will be creating a Space Painting of such monumental scale for the gallery, which we feel sure will captivate everyone who comes to see it.’

Business Merger Leads To Global Growth For A Colchester Accountancy Firm

A thriving accountancy business has gone from offering local to global services after joining unnamed (1)forces with an Ipswich firm.

Simon Robinson, founder of SAS Accounting Services sees the merger with DAA Tax Accountants as means of expanding their cost effective solutions for bookkeeping and accountancy work for sole traders, companies and partnerships.

Sue Davies, head of DAA Tax Accountants, who specialise in tax services for expatriates around the world, has relocated her client base, and herself to work as a consultant, from her premises at Brightwell Barns to The Colchester Centre, Hawkins Road, Colchester, under the umbrella of SAS Accounting Services.

“I’ve known Sue for five years. We’ve always got on and she came to me with this proposal,” said Simon, who has been self-employed for 15 years and whose business has steadily grown since he started it in 2013.

He said: “You have to adjust your business according to the economic climate and my business is going well. We’ve been registering new clients, including many for our cloud bookkeeping services – instead of businesses paying someone to do their bookkeeping and accounts full time in-house, we’re being seen as cost-effective outsource solution for them.”

Sue said: “Simon is familiar with our clients and shares the same values we do and the decision exceeded our hopes for a firm we can work with and continue the tradition we have for excellent service, deep expertise, and an environment our clients and associates want to be a part of.

Simon has had to recruit a new member of staff to join his established team of four and SAS Accounting Services has moved into a larger premises at The Colchester Centre to accommodate his growing business.

Sue said: “For myself, having been professionally qualified for nearly 40 years, it is time to ensure that someone with new ideas and foresight continues the growth of the business in the future and this will enable me to concentrate on the specific areas of the business where I have the most experience and can add value.

 “The growth of our business has been predominantly internal, stemming from the referrals of our client base and those of other professionals. We have been fortunate to attract an interesting and varied client base whom we hope we have helped to contribute to their development and growth. As a result of those efforts, we have also experienced expansion over the past several years, which in no small way is also directly related to the success our clients have had in their business and personal pursuits.

 “We have decided to work alongside another firm because we believe that a larger organization will allow us to provide a wider array of services and more depth in particular fields.  

 “We cover a large area of the UK but finding and retaining excellent people as associates is a constant challenge and a larger organization will also mean these individuals will benefit from even more and stronger opportunities in the future.”

SAS Accounting Services now offers a complete accountancy and tax return service, including expatriate tax as well as bookkeeping and payroll services. The business is aiming to offer new services and areas of expertise in the future.

DAA Tax Accountants existing Ipswich telephone number will continue to operate for the time being and calls will be automatically transferred to the new Colchester offices.


Business Buddies Band Together To Boost Funds For Charities


A group of likeminded business owners are working together to boost funds for Colchester charities in a bid to show their joint Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).


Essex Networking is a small, independent business networking group who meet fortnightly at Wivenhoe House Brasserie and has raised more than £2,400 for various organisations.

The members most recent event, a quiz at Marks Tey Parish Hall, raised £1,033 which is being shared between Home-Start Colchester and Autism Anglia’s Doucecroft School. About 70 people gathered for a fun evening, during which clues to questions could be purchased as an extra means of raising funds. Six local businesses also donated prizes for a raffle.

After a similar quiz event last year, members of Essex Networking donated a cheque for £1,100 to Headway and they’ve previously collected £296.55p for St Helena’ Hospice in the Birkett Long £50 Challenge.

“The main focus of our group is the passing of business between members, along with business support and social activities,” said Nick Kokolski of Maid2Clean who is the organiser.

“Larger organisations have a dedicated Community Champion who spend their time raising funds for local worthy causes and two years ago we felt members of Essex Networking could pull together and make a contribution to the local community too. The members put forward the names of local good causes they consider worthwhile supporting and two names are drawn from the hat. This year was Doucecroft School and Home-Start.”

Essex Networking, who are looking for new members, are planning to do some more fundraising in the coming months before handing over cheques to Home-Start and Doucecroft School.

If you are interested getting in touch with Essex Networking to ask them to raise funds for your charity or if would like to become a member of the group, contact them via their website: http://essexnetworking.com




Reporting Fly Tipping


The Environment Agency has issued a 24/7 Hotline to try and gain intelligence to combat the illegal dumping of rubbish also known as flytipping.

If you witness or find fly-tipping or have any information about it you can now report it to the Environment Agency 0800 807060.
Reports should include as many details about the incident and type/amount of waste as possible.
Some key points about if you witness such activity:
* Witnesses are vitally important in enabling action to be taken against people who fly-tip waste, so please do not hesitate to report any incident that you witness as soon as possible.
* Do not put yourself in danger by approaching anyone you see dumping waste; they are criminals, who may be involved in other criminal activities, and as such are unlikely to respond well to being challenged. If it is possible to observe them safely, the more information you are able to provide, the better the chances of an investigation.
Information that is useful includes the following:
1. Time and date of incident;
2. Description of person(s) dumping waste;
3. Description of vehicle(s) involved, including registration numbers;
4. Description of the waste dumped;
5. Photographs can also be very useful, but only if it is possible to obtain them safely.
Please be reassured that any information supplied in connection to any such incident is treated in strictest confidence. If you make notes please keep them, even if they are scribbled notes on the back of an envelope. Actual notes taken at the time can be very valuable as evidence.
Do not try to rummage through the waste yourself to look for evidence, as there may be hazardous or sharp items hidden among the waste.