Musician’s leading role in special county charity

Date: Friday 3rd January 2014
SUNBEAMS Music Trust founder and chief executive Annie Mawson has been awarded the MBE for her services to music therapy.
SUNBEAMS Music Trust founder and chief executive Annie Mawson has been awarded the MBE for her services to music therapy.

SUNBEAMS Music Trust founder and chief executive Annie Mawson has been awarded the MBE for her services to music therapy.

SUNBEAMS Music Trust founder and chief executive Annie Mawson has been awarded the MBE for her services to music therapy.

The singer and harpist founded the charity in 1992 to encourage children and adults with special needs some of whom might otherwise find no way of communicating to feel included, build self-esteem and improve their quality of life.

Annie, who lives at Sockbridge, worked for many years as a music teacher at the Roundhill special needs school in Kendal. When this closed down, she established herself as a successful freelance musician and around the same time was also inspired to set up the Sunbeams Music Trust, for which she worked almost entirely as a volunteer, until the charity won a Community Fund award in 2001.

It was through several inspirational events that Annie became more and more aware of the therapeutic benefits of music. One was brought about by her own family, when she was visiting her father in hospital many years ago. Annie heard beautiful music from along the corridor and commented to staff what a wonderful CD it was only to be told it was a stroke patient singing.

Sunbeams has developed over the years to be able to offer not just therapeutic sessions but also music qualifications endorsed by the Open College Network. It also has its own special needs performing group, the Sunbeams Concert Troupe.

About five years ago, a project was launched to build a new music centre, to offer purpose-built accommodation to service users. The charity has raised more than £1.3 million towards the centre, with a further £500,000 to go, and building work is expected to start at the Redhills site in June.

The charity now has an annual budget of £300,000 a far cry from when it began on a shoestring of precisely £13.40 and Annie’s young niece set about raising money by selling conkers to her friends.

Annie herself was named Cumbria Woman of the Year in 2000 and has performed throughout the world in front of notable faces including royalty, and through Sunbeams has attracted world class music back to the county.

She said: “This award is a reflection to the whole of Cumbria for their unswerving support. When we were promised £2 million of funding from the NWDA and that fell through, it was the community that came back to us to raise the money. This also gives the team here and the whole organisation a great boost.”