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Gallery: The Good Story Festival of Creativity remembers designer Mimi Watts, of Lavenham, who died in snowbaording accident in France

10:00 18 April 2014

A picture of Mimi Watts taken at Glastonbury, which was subsequently hung in the National Portrait Gallery

A picture of Mimi Watts taken at Glastonbury, which was subsequently hung in the National Portrait Gallery

Archant

It’s just over a year since 26-year-old Emily ‘Mimi’ Watts was fatally injured in a freak snowboarding accident in the French mountains where she had dreamed of making a life for herself.

Mimi WattsMimi Watts

After Mimi’s death, her family set up a charity to give other young, creative people with a great business idea the opportunities she didn’t have. Sheena Grant reports on an event to showcase the work it has done so far.

Mimi had just found a job in France for the ski season when tragedy struck. While snowboarding she fell head first in deep, powdery snow. It took paramedics 45 minutes to get her heart beating again.

As she lay in a coma in the days before her life support machine was switched off, her devoted family were forced to abandon any hope that she might survive. But they have ensured that her dreams live on.

Mimi, a talented designer, had been on the cusp of launching a range of snowboarding wear for women under the name, Good Story Clothing.

In the weeks after her death, her family set up a charity, Good Story, dedicated to helping other young entrepreneurs overcome some of the hurdles Mimi encountered with her own business ambitions. The idea for the charity came from her brother, Rory, as he kept vigil at her bedside.

“We wanted to give others the opportunities Mimi didn’t have,” says Rory, “guiding them through their first steps of running a business and helping with applications for funding, inspiring and supporting them to succeed.”

The charity has already raised £50,000 and supported more than 20 young businesses. And later this month, the Highwaymans Gallery at Risby, Bury St Edmunds, will host the first ever Good Story Festival of Creativity, showcasing those businesses and hopefully inspiring others to follow their dreams.

Some of Mimi’s T-shirt designs will also be on sale.

“If Mimi could see what we have done she would think it is amazing,” says her mother, Nicky McAllister, who lives in Lavenham and is a cousin of the actress Minnie Driver, who is patron of Good Story.

“Mimi had created the most amazing jackets, hoodies and T-shirts. She wanted to make slightly funky stuff you could go snowboarding in. But she was often overwhelmed by the complexity of turning her amazing designs into a profitable venture.

“Snowboarding was her love. She was looking for a way to draw the two things together. She was setting up her business and had just gone to Chamonix to work for the ski season when she died. She wanted to run her business from the mountains so she could live and work out there.

“We were sitting by her hospital bed and Rory said: ‘We have got to keep Mimi’s memory alive. Let’s fill the gap that she was struggling to find for herself’. This was December 2012 so the charity has been going just over a year. Sometimes I think we have bitten off more than we can chew but it’s very rewarding to meet the young business people, who are so lovely.

“Rory has done the website and creative side and helped by Nick, his and Mimi’s step brother. Malcolm, Mimi’s step father, has also been involved, and some of her friends.”

The Good Story Festival of Creativity is on April 26 and 27. There will be lectures, seminars and networking on the first day to help aspiring entrepreneurs launch their ideas. From 10-4 on the Sunday, the public can meet and buy from 20 local businesses which have received Good Story support. On sale will be vintage-inspired tiaras, juices and smoothies made from reclaimed fruit and veg, upcycled urban fashion, restored furniture - and Mimi’s designs.

Saturday’s speakers include Claire Johnsen from enterprise agency NWES and digital expert Ted Ridgway-Watt. Topics will include how to get noticed through social media, PR, and the essentials of starting up. The day finishes with a barbecue and live music.

Anyone aged 18-30 who would like to book at ticket, should email festival@goodstory.org.uk
For more info, visit www.goodstory.org.uk

Andy Beckwith

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