Jennifer Meredith explores the Essex Book Festival – the UK’s only month-long, county-wide convention of its kind

As C. S. Lewis once said, ‘You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me’. I feel the same way; not just about the tea (you can’t beat a good brew), but when I find a book that satisfies my hunger for otherworldliness, its conclusion becomes a saddening inevitability. To the non-emotionally attached, a simple remedy may be to distract oneself with another book, but with the wealth of literature available at the click of a button on our e-readers, it’s incredibly easy to become lost in a sea of bestsellers.

If this sounds like a regular occurrence in your day to day, perhaps it’s time to make the Essex Book Festival an annual event in your calendar. With over 100 writers, poets, artists, filmmakers and musicians presenting at this month-long occasion, inspiration can be found by even the most picky of readers.


(Above: author Glenys Newton)

Taking place at over 30 venues across Essex, including lecture halls, galleries and libraries, this year’s festival will feature speakers such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin author Louis de Berniéres and former politician Vince Cable, both of whom will be presenting at the University of Essex. Launching the festival on 29th February is Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry; the Chelmsford-born artist will present a highly anticipated talk at Anglia Ruskin’s Chelmsford Campus. Each speaker will deliver a unique perspective on the world of literature – perfect for those on the search for a new read.

Last year’s line-up saw controversial Suffolk artist Maggi Hambling lead a series of talks on art, Shami Chakrabarti spearheading discussions on human rights, and Richard Madeley interviewing wife and presenting partner, Judy Finnigan, on her second book, I Do Not Sleep.

A first for the festival, the Golden Age of Crime Weekend is set to be a gripping event with celebrated crime writers taking the reigns in
a series of discussions, film screenings and workshops at Southend-on-Sea’s Park Inn Palace Hotel. This marks the 50th anniversary of Essex-based crime writer Margery Allingham’s death; originally from London, Allingham moved to Colchester with her family where she created iconic gentleman detective character Albert Campion.


(Above: Vince Cable)

A second weekend, titled ‘Talking Home’, will feature more riveting talks and activities exploring what the word ‘home’ means to people, especially those who have nowhere to call home. This will take place at Firstsite contemporary art gallery in Colchester’s cultural quarter, where visitors are just a walk away from The Minories, the Natural History Museum and Colchester Castle.

To find out more about the event and book tickets, visit