Visitors to Garon Park for this year’s Essex AutoGroup Southend Cricket Festival (Wednesday 30th July to Sunday 3rd August) will see a number of changes from last year and more developments are planned over the next couple of years. The aim is not only to improve spectator comfort and facilities for first class cricket but also to develop the ground as a Centre of Cricketing Excellence for the whole of South Essex. 

Thanks to generous financial support from the Norman Garon Trust and the Essex & Southend Sports Trust (EASST) permanent security fencing has now been installed to separate the cricket facility from the rest of the park and boundary fences have been built behind the boundary rope. Outdoor nets are currently being built adjacent to the pavilion and are expected to be open for the 2008 Festival and be available for local school and community use thereafter. County cricket has been played in Southend for over a hundred years so the building of proper practice nets is long overdue! 

Essex CCC has also improved the kitchens and the inside of the Pavilion for use at the various second X1, academy and inter-county age group matches for boys and girls that are now a regular part of the Garon Park cricketing programme. 

Planning permission has also been obtained for an electronic scoreboard to be attached to a store-house for grounds man's equipment at the golf driving range end of the ground. The planners have also agreed to an imaginative scheme to use infill from nearby developments to construct a mezzanine viewing level half way between ground level and the top of the bowl. This will allow spectators to have an elevated view nearer to the boundary edge. Installation of this level will allow distribution of water and electricity to more points round the ground and we then intend to plant more trees and hedges. Hopefully these changes will be ready for the 2009 season. 

Funds from the public appeal organised by EASST are still being used to finance the cost of a full time grounds man who lives adjacent to Garon Park. The square has been extended and turned and the quality of the outfield is amazing compared with the problems local club cricketers found in fielding there just a few years ago.  

But extra funds are desperately needed to keep the project moving. We need more Garon Park patrons prepared to donate £25 a month or £300 a year to EASST under the gift aid scheme. One off donations of any amount would be very welcome. EASST continues to match all public donations pound for pound so with tax relief a single donation of £50 would add £128 to available funds. Donations should be made out to EASST and may be sent to the club office at the Ford County Ground. Patron forms are available from the club office or contact Perry Norton (01245 254000) or Joe Sims (Trustee) for more information.