IT is hard to decide whether it would be sheer audacity or huge optimism to start a charity with a bank balance of just over £13.

That is exactly what Annie Mawson did.

And this year the Sunbeam Trust runs from its own £2.7 million National Sunbeams Music Centre and Annie gets to add an MBE to the end of her name – a recognition for the amazing work she has done.

Annie was a trained special needs teacher and a freelance musician, specialising in the Celtic harp.

Through her work she came to realise how valuable a tool music could be, not just to the elderly suffering from conditions such as dementia, but also to young children.

She decided she needed to do something about it and from the small acorn of an idea, a mighty oak has grown, offering children all over Cumbria the chance to discover the joy of music.

Annie is clear that this is a charity 'in Cumbria and for Cumbrians'.

“Over 2,000 Cumbrian disadvantaged or special needs children and adults have benefitted from specialist Community Music Therapy workshops throughout the county, from Warcop to St Bees, from Carlisle to Barrow, Ulverston to Cleator Moor."

She said the most important investment has been the annual tangible increase in the quality of life of the Sunbeams beneficiaries – changed by the power of music.

In an atmosphere where “no note is a wrong note”, special needs and disadvantaged people of all ages get to express themselves through the beauty of music.

The trust has eight specialist musicians who are matched to the groups with which they work.

The Sunbeam Trust, established in Penrith, is now celebrating 31 years – 31 years since, with a bank account of £13.42 but millions of pounds of hope and optimism, Annie Mawson set out to change lives.

As chief executive of a thriving charity which is changing so many lives, she can now sit back and realise: “I’ve done it!”