THEY'VE brought their audiences the likes of Frank Sidebottom, Jenny Eclair, Ed Harcourt, Isy Suttie, Josie Long, Luke Wright, Scroobius Pip, Pictish Trail, John Hegley, Kate Tempest, Ladygarden, and way more than could possibly be mentioned here. They've collaborated with Arts Council England, Apples and Snakes, Whitechapel Arts Gallery, Arctic Circle, Village Green, Southend Festival, Metal, Leigh Folk Festival, John Peel Centre, The Feminist Library, Essex Book Festival, and again, way more than there is room to name in this space.

They've held events at home on Southend turf and taken it on the road to the likes of the Union Chapel and Latitude Festival. I write about Sundown Arts, one of the most longstanding, professional, independent, non profit making events in Southend.

But for two people - Jo Overfield and Ray Morgan - to turn something out to such a high standard, and to keep doing so for 15 years, managing to pay artists and for promotion, while never taking any salary for themselves, is obviously no mean feat.

So it's with a mixture of sadness, gratefulness and fond reflection that the Echo announces that Sundown Arts has decided to come to an end.

But like all good endings, it is closing with a party.

Director Jo Overfield explains: "Sundown Arts events have been on the quiet side this year. We've been doing less because we have been working hard on our own creative projects alongside our full time jobs.

"Running events is tough - it requires great time, effort, funds, passion. The passion is still there, but we're at the end of our 15th year with no money in the bank. We want to pay our artists - so the events are coming to an end. When we were in our 20s, we did monthly nights, packed out the Royal Hotel Ballroom to sell-out crowds, we filled the Union Chapel in Islington on busy Saturday lunchtimes. We hosted enormous circus tents at many a Village Green, and filled the Scout Hut to a dangerous capacity for a decade of Leigh Folk Festivals. We've had a blast. But change is good.

"The name 'Sundown' never came from us - it was inherited. We worked hard to make it our own but always felt a little bit in the shadow of it as well. We've had some huge successes over the years. We have never been turned down for Arts Council funding, something we are incredibly proud of. We've been a part of the Southend arts scene (albeit rather on the periphery at times) for a decade and a half.

"We have made an enormous amount of friends through Sundown. Best friends, all from our events! We've brought people together creatively, romantically, hell, we even got married ourselves!

"Sundown has been a huge part of our lives, but we have decided to stop. It's not the end of us running events - we still have so many ideas buzzing around our heads. Whatever we do next, it will be under a different name - who knows, it might create a bit more excitement. We can't wait to start something new, there will be the return of spoken word, comedy and live music but there will be no rules, new ideas, anything we damn well fancy and we think you'll enjoy!

"Although we never take money for Sundown events, it has always been what we have considered a serious job, and it has always been a thrilling, enjoyable, inspiring ride. To change, to new adventures, and to our dear performers, helpers, supporters and audiences, without whom none of this would have ever happened.

"Thanks to the Echo too who have always been a great support to us. That support is vitally important to us and is the glue that holds us together so thank you to all.

"We can't wait to start something new next year!"

Sundown's Christmas Party held at Chalkwell Hall, Chalkwell Park, Westcliff, on Saturday December 15, will be the last of its kind.

You are invited.

Admission is free.

It starts at 8pm.

*Photos by Stephen Collins