A MUSIC and arts festival staged to raise awareness of mental health has brought sunshine to dark days.

The four day WinterFest in Brightlingsea was the brainchild of Alix Sheppard who hoped the community activity would raise spirits in what is traditionally the most depressing time of the year.

Alix said: "In Brightlingsea last year, there were four suicides.

"A group of us decided to have an event which will bring the community together in the dark winter, a time when many people suffer more with depression and low mood."

One of those who died was Alix's partner Joe Keighley, 42, a firefighter and father-of-three who was well-known as the lead singer of The Vipers.

The band performed at the Royal British Legion hall in Sydney Street as part of the festival which also hoped to raise awareness and funds for the mental health charity MIND.

"The response has been absolutely amazing.

"People have appreciated the opportunity to talk about mental health. Some of their stories have moved us to tears."

For more on this story and a selection of pictures, see tomorrow's Gazette.