Both Colchester Chronicle and The Gazette have written nice words about my decision to step down as organiser of Colchester Free Festival.

Colchester Chronicle wrote

Cast your mind back to the August Bank Holiday weekend. John Ward was still the manager at Col U, the #essexlion was on the look out for some kitekat and the third annual Colchester Free Festival showed just what is possible when the Sunny Colchcommunity comes together.

And here we are, just weeks away from Halloween; Col U have finally kick started their season, there’s a snake / worm on the loose around the Dutch Quarter and all those involved with the Free Festival have hopefully recouperated on all that was achieved on that glorious day in Castle Park.

Which brings us around to Ben Howard, the man that *some* have dubbed the Michael Eavis of Sunny Colch.

Having been responsible for resurrecting a free music festival in Castle Park back in 2010, Ben has been one of the key players in helping the Colchester Free Festival to continue to grow over the past three years. Time, energy and no personal financial reward – it all takes its toll.

Which is one of the reasons as to why Ben has announced that he is taking a step back away from the Colchester Free Festival.

Speaking to The Chronic, Ben confirmed:

“I decided earlier in the summer that the festival I was working on would be my last. I just felt I’d personally taken the Festival as far as I could over the three years and that the team around me were more than capable than taking it on.

The Festival itself this year was the best one yet so it was perfect to be able to call that my final one but I do believe the Festival will continue to go from strength to strength over the forthcoming years. Colchester Free Festival has installed a great deal of community pride in what the town has to offer in terms of its music, arts and culture.”

These Free Festivals don’t just happen themselves. Plans are already starting to form for the Colchester Free Festival 2013. Now is a good time for Ben to make the team aware of what he is personally able to offer.

Andy Winmill has very kindly stepped forward to take a lead role for next summer. Marc De’ath will be working behind the scenes to create a festival toolkit to support future organisers and secure the long-term legacy of the event.

The theme of sustainability was the main aim from the core Festival Team in 2012. Right from the very first open meeting @firstsiteback in April, the message was one of passing on the keys skills needed to run the Free Festival to help secure the future of the event over the coming years.

The call for volunteer support responded well, showing that there is no shortage of community commitment in Sunny Colch. It is never enough of course, but the packed firstsite Learning Space on the eve of the 2012 Festival was perhaps testament to the passion that the team is able to put across when trying to mobilise the troupes.

And so three glorious summers for Ben, with many memories tied up in every corner of Castle Park. What are some of the highlights?

“I will always be proud of my involvement in getting the Festival off the ground and how the community came together to make it happen. Those early days seem like a very long time ago already but the Festival has grown so much in that time.”

As for the future of Ben Howard?

He’s a busy chap with his business firmly based in Britain’s Oldest Recorded, as well as a young family around him. We don’t think that we have seen the last of Ben around the hyperlocal music scene – he’s already confirmed another classic night coming up at Twisters alongside another Colchester music legend in DJ Gilly this Saturday.

“For now, I’m going to continue to promote the town’s music and arts scene via Keep Colchester Cool and I’’m already looking forward to spending time as a punter with my family at the festival in 2013.”

You can take the Colchester Free Festival out of the skinny white dude, but you can’t take the skinny white out of… We look forward to moshing with Mr Howard down at the front of the Castle Park stage in the summer of 2013. Many thanks for putting in place a very special day in the Colchester calendar.

 The Gazette wrote