What a year it has been for Level Best Enterprises!
2023 has been the biggest year for Level Best Enterprises since we first began back in 1970. Not only have we opened the doors to our brand new, purpose-built café, art space and gallery, but we have welcomed a world-famous children’s author and illustrator, a four-time Invictus Games gold-medal winner, a Member of Parliament, artists and creatives and hundreds of old friends and new faces to our thriving new café in Colchester city centre.
2023 has been beyond our expectations, and we would like to thank our wonderful Trustees, team, trainees and supporters for making it happen. Thank you.
A famous face for our official opening
After our soft launch in April, we followed up with an official summer opening with best-selling children’s author Nick Butterworth, creator of Percy the Park Keeper books. Nick led an official cutting of the ribbon ceremony with a moving presentation before running a live drawing session for trainees and visitors. As well as a barbecue, cake decorating, and music, we had demonstrations across all our activities, enjoyed by a full house of guests. Thank you to everyone who attended and to Team Level Best for your hard work in making it happen.
We welcomed an Invictus Games hero
Wali Noori, an Invictus Games hero paid us a special visit in October accompanied by military charity, The League of Remembrance. Wali, a translator, and cultural advisor to the British Army in his home country of Afghanistan was blinded by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in 2009. After re-settling in Colchester Wali started running with the support of Help for Heroes and All Together ambassador Gareth Gailey, with whom he completed the London Marathon in 2019.
During his visit, a ‘Certificate of Outstanding Merit’ was awarded to Wali by the League of Remembrance, to mark his amazing achievement of winning four gold medals in the visually impaired 100m, 200m, 400m, and 1500m races at the Invictus Games in Dusseldorf Germany earlier this year!
As part of the celebrations, we presented Wali with a special Level Best cake to mark the occasion, before listening to Wali share about his experience.
He said: “I always say life is full of tests. Never, ever surrender to your problems. If you fall, get up and try again. Try and try until you achieve. A disability is just something, it won’t stop you from achieving.”
Our café is a hot spot
Our new Colchester city centre location has not only attracted new creatives and artists, but our seasonal produce and homemade lunches have been more popular than we could have anticipated, and Christmas time has been no different! Our Tripadvisor page has skyrocketed thanks to five-star reviews, and we’ve climbed the rankings over 150 places in the last three months alone for the ‘best restaurants in Colchester’.
Press! Press! Read-All-About-it!
Level Best has been making news! Notable pieces of recent press coverage include a front-page article in the Essex County Standard, and a double-page spread in the Colchester Gazette featuring photos from our summer launch party. Our wildflower project, aiming to encourage biodiversity in Colchester’s Castle Park, in partnership with Park Rangers kicked into full bloom this summer and appeared in the Gazette and online. To find out more about our garden and outdoor projects, visit our About Us page.
Our art activities featured in the media too, including our inclusive art exhibition showcasing pieces from artists with additional needs from Project 49 in Southend, The Jigsaw Centre, and Level Best and our first guest exhibitor, local artist, Peter Porteous-Butler.
A visit from our MP
In May we had a visit from Colchester MP, Will Quince!
Will was given a wonderful Level Best greeting before we took him on a tour of our new building. A huge thank you to Will for visiting – we thoroughly enjoyed showing him around and introducing him to our trainees, staff and customers.
Commenting on his visit Will said: “It was great to meet Alison and the trainees to learn about the fantastic opportunities they create for those with disabilities. The building has been truly transformed from a former butcher’s house and will be a real asset to the local communities in the city centre.”
Our Level Best elves have been busy preparing for Christmas
We’ve jarred countless batches of pickled onions and baked more mince pies than we can count, but we’ve loved every second of it. Our produce has sold especially well this year, with our jams and chutneys remaining a staple favourite amongst our customers.
We took our art on tour
Our trainees have been getting in the Christmas spirit this year. Our dynamic duo Sophie and Shelby set up their own arts stall in the cafe selling decorations and arts and crafts, including Christmas tree decorations and reindeer dust.
In December we opened our doors on a Saturday to host our Level Best Christmas Market, which was a huge success, featuring local vendors selling unique gifts and arts and crafts.
Clare Sams brings attention to the number of fabrics and clothes wasted in landfills with her insightful exhibition, ‘Self/Contained’ which opened alongside our Christmas Market. Clare’s work is available to see in our gallery throughout December, and features works made from 100% recycled materials. Read more on Clare’s work here.
Level Best Donations
We have received some generous donations from local grant-giving boards and charities in the area this year.
Anglia Community Trust (ACT) gifted us with overwhelming support this year. From sponsored re-useable coffee cups for the café to funding for a compost toilet on the allotment and art workshops with creatives at Colchester Makerspace in the new year, we couldn’t be more grateful to have the support of our local community and friends, especially people who share the same passion and love for what we do.
Following the launch of our new building, Colchester BID granted us funding to install our very own branded shop signage which we hope to see installed in the year new.
After he visited the café, MP Will Quince donated £200 from his community account as part of his community fund donations initiative.
These generous donations enable us to do so much more, thank you.
Our biggest Christmas ever
We got out and about in our local business community to spread some Christmas cheer by dropping off ‘Help Yourself’ Christmas hampers to Colchester Council and both of Colchester’s business enterprise centres.
And of course, what’s Christmas without a festive party?! We opened our doors to trainees, parents, carers and some very special friends to celebrate the end of what has been a fantastic year. We laughed, ate, and danced to some of the best Christmas anthems, and a few classic party tunes too (Whigfield’s Saturday Night is Alison’s favourite).
Our friends from Firstsite have been popping in to join in with our art workshops, where we’ve been working on a hugely exciting project for January which we can’t wait to share with you all.
Wishing you all a very Merry Level Best Christmas and a Happy New Year! We will be closed from 22 December, reopening on 3rd January when we hope to see you.