EVEN a Hollywood star is taking part in what promises to be a spectacular art auction including the work of some of Southend's finest artists. It's being held this Saturday evening.

After hearing about the event, Dame Helen Mirren donated a signed poster of her film -Woman in Gold - to the cause, which is being held in aid of Harp and the Mayor's charities, The Fund and The Samaritans.

The donated poster will take its place alongside work by the likes of Paul Karslake, Sheila Appleton, Paul Alcock and many more.

The project was spearheaded by Dawn Lister of the Dawn Lister Therapy Centre in Leigh, who, as part of her Karma Yoga practice, sets herself yearly projects to raise money for charities.

She said: "I also help out at a soup kitchen, so got to know about the homeless problem in Southend. And there really are so many homeless people in Southend, it's like an epidemic. I don't know what the answer is to that, but I knew I wanted to do something to help."

That help came in the formation of the project CAP (Community Arts Project). It involved various workshops that some homeless people from the HARP shelter took part in, as well as people from other community organisations, such as children from local schools and the Mosque.

Dawn explained: "A group of artists took part in the workshop and and helped give the homeless people a voice - a way to express themselves through art. They've created this fantastic installation which will be shown in the exhibition. I also wanted the art to ask questions. I mean, these are just ordinary people who might be down on their luck or struggling and need some support - how, in this day and age, are there people living homeless on our streets? I really don't understand it."

The auction is being held at the Beecroft Gallery, in Victoria Avenue, from 7:30pm with Mark Stacey of Stacey's Auctioneers and Valuers in Rayleigh, standing at the gavel and block.

Artist Lester Mills, has been working on the project as curator along with Kevin Marsh of the Beecroft Gallery.

He said: "The exhibition is held in two halves, the community arts side, which has artwork by lots of well known artists as well as the homeless and local children, with the general theme running through it being homelessness and vulnerability. There is also whole wall of art which is on sale - it's looking great and it's still coming in.

"We're really hoping the amount we raise at the auction will be in its thousands."

The exhibition is open to the public now until Saturday, with all welcome to attend the auction.