If it wasn't for Hervey Benham I would not be writing this article, and you definitely would not be reading it.

That's because he was the man behind the Essex County Newspapers Group.

During a lifetime in the local newspaper industry he expanded the two Colchester titles he inherited and turned them into a group which comprised of eight weekly newspapers and one evening paper.

So I have a lot to thank Hervey for, as do thousands of other people in the area, and not because they also work in newspapers.

For the last 40 years his legacy has continued to support and nourish young artistic talent through his Trust.

Born in 1910 and dying in 1987, Hervey founded the Hervey Benham Trust in his lifetime and today it continues to support many of the areas he was particularly interested in.

He was a founder of the Colchester Civic Society in 1964 and launched the campaign which led to the building of the Colchester Mercury Theatre in 1972 and long after his death he continues that support.

Because one such project the Trust has recently supported is the Mercury Theatre's new apprenticeship opportunities.

They started at the end of last year with Woody Whymark as its inaugural Hervey Benham Technical Theatre Apprentice, the first of three apprentices that will spend one year working with the Mercury Theatre’s Technical Department, training towards a career in the industry.

Learning the disciplines of Stage Lighting, Sound Engineering, and Stagecraft, it ensures each apprentice has a solid foundation from which to choose a future specialism. Each apprentice will also spend time working across the theatre’s other departments in order to get a full grounding in theatre operation, including Box Office, Wardrobe, Stage Management, Workshop, Marketing, and Production.

The Trust has also been instrumental in not only the original setting up of the Headgate Theatre in Chapel Street North, but its recent extension.

The theatre was launched in 1999 thanks to the Theatre Arts Action Trust, which took on a 25-year lease of the former chapel and raised the £240,000 needed to convert it into a theatre which opened the following year.

Currently, after taking over the former Warehouse restaurant next door, work is taking place to build rehearsal and workshop spaces as well as a meeting room.

Dave King, theatre chairman, says: "The Trust was instrumental in the setting up of the Headgate 20 years ago and so when we approached them about this extension, they were more than happy to help out."

The Trust's current Chair, local solicitor Martyn Carr, says it's just the kind of thing Hervey wanted of his Trust.

"I think the rationale," he tells me, "was that he had done rather well out of the people of north East Essex buying his newspapers, and that he wanted to give something back.

"As well as being a great lover of the theatre, he was also an enthusiastic amateur bassoonist, so whenever he could, he encouraged talented young musicians to realise their potential and enjoy their music making."

Which of course continues with the work of the Trust.

Martyn adds: "Music has always been a key area for us because it was something Hervey was particularly passionate about. He set up a special bassoon scholarship in conjunction with the Colchester Institute and we continue to work with the college helping out students with bursaries.

"We had one recently who wanted to go and study Flamenco in southern Spain and on his return he gave us a report, which every beneficiary has to do, and it was fascinating what he had learnt. He ended up giving the trustees a short history of the musical style, which was fantastic."

The Trust is also heavily involved with Music at St Botolph’s Church with one of the highlights being the church's annual Hervey Benham Concert in the first week of July which consists of musicians who have been helped out by the Trust coming back to the town to perform.

Each year the Trust gives out about £30,000 a year with each successful applicant receiving, on average, around £1,500.

"Of course this varies greatly," Martyn explains, "because in some years we might donate a larger sum to a bigger project, while in others split that up among lots of different smaller ones."

The aims of the Trust are, primarily but not exclusively, to support; artistic (particularly musical) activities which benefit the people of Colchester and district; individuals with potential artistic (especially musical) talent who are held back by physical, environmental or financial disability; preservation of Colchester and district’s heritage with particular emphasis on industrial heritage and the maritime traditions of the Essex and Suffolk coast; and local history and conservation affecting the heritage and environment of the area.

And those that can benefit from it are limited to ones based in the circulation area covered by the original seven newspaper titles published by the Essex County Newspapers Group when Hervey Benham was the proprietor and managing director.

As well as the Headgate and the Mercury, not forgetting all the music beneficiaries, the Trust has been major helpers of the Nottage at Wivenhoe, The St Botolph Subway artwork, Cuckoo Farm, Frinton Summer Theatre and the Roman Circus.

"We did think about giving all the money to one large project," Martyn says, "but the trustees wanted it to continue so potentially the Trust could go on forever, which actually I think is a rather lovely thing."

And I suspect something Hervey would have wanted as well.

For more information on the Trust go to herveybenhamtrust.org.uk