A charity based in Watford that uses the power of music to enhance the lives of learning disabled people has been awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS).
The volunteers at Hertfordshire-based charity Electric Umbrella (EU) have been honoured with what is the equivalent of an MBE for a volunteer group.
It is the most prestigious prize a local charity can receive in the UK and Electric Umbrella is one of 244 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the award this year.
Electric Umbrella CEO Mel Boda said: “Electric Umbrella is honoured to have received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
“We are supported by so many amazing volunteers across an array of roles, both musical and non-musical, and this award recognises their contribution.
“From people flipping burgers at our festivals, making props for our shows and selling merchandise at our events to our trustees, musicians that guest on EUTV, form our house band at gigs and festivals and contribute to songwriting and recording on our albums.
“And, of course, not forgetting those volunteers that support our members at sessions and work on the production team of our online programme – which is led by learning disabled people.
“It’s striking that while these volunteers have so much to give Electric Umbrella; there is a real exchange as they go away with just as much as they brought.
“Our pro musician volunteers, in particular, click with our amazing members on a different level as they both realise the rockstars they truly are.”
Since it began in 2013, EU has engaged over 300 volunteers in its programmes – which range from online sessions to live performances involving its learning disabled members.
The charity recently set up a store in the Marlowes Shopping Centre in Hemel Hempstead. The Electric Umbrella Emporium, as it’s known, is a showcase of everything Electric Umbrella does. It gives the public the opportunity to buy re-loved instruments, and members the chance to fix, re-imagine and service donated musical instruments, learning new skills.
The store was set up after the success of EU’s 1000 Instruments campaign, which saw the public respond overwhelmingly in donating swathes of musical instruments gathering dust at home.
Other key activities EU delivers includes The Big Yellow Choir, Electric Umbrella TV face-to-face sessions, choirs, workshops in schools and music releases.
The charity relies on 220 hours of volunteer support per week to operate its programmes.
One of Electric Umbrella’s most famous supporters is musician Tony Hadley.
Tony has appeared in music released by the charity and has been a guest on two EUTV shows on their YouTube channel – performing and engaging with members live.
Commenting on the award win, Tony said: “I’ve seen first hand the incredible work Electric Umbrella do for people in the learning disabled community and the difference they make.
“This award, on the year of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, feels extra special and is testament to all involved at EU, the hard-working staff, the super members and, of course, the selfless volunteers.
“Having worked closely with the charity and performed live with members, I’m always blown away by their energy and enthusiasm for music.
“The power of music is electrifying and the people at EU embody that in every way.”
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by local volunteer groups that benefits their communities.
It was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on June 2nd, the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation
Electric Umbrella will receive the award crystal and certificate from Robert Voss, Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire later this year.
In addition, two representatives from EU will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2023, along with other recipients of this year’s award.
Electric Umbrella winning the QAVS coincides with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the charity plan to use the next month to celebrate.
Their ‘Jubilee June’ activity will include a series of street performances from EU members together with pro musicians that have previously appeared on EUTV as guests.
EU will also mark the occasion with a Big Yellow Choir concert, the release of five street pianos across Watford and Hemel Hempstead and a gig at The Horns Pub in Watford.