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Reaching the parts other festivals don’t reach – the Essex Book Festival is back!

27 February 2017

Essex libraries are hosting a month-long series of events for people of all ages as part of the Essex Book Festival.

Established by Essex County Council in 1999, the Essex Book Festival has gone from strength to strength and is now run by a charitable trust from the Centre for Creative Writing at the University of Essex in Colchester.

With over 90 events taking place across the county, bibliophiles, culture vultures and people who simply like a laugh will love the roster of brilliant minds and creative talent descending on libraries, theatres, hotels and lecture halls throughout March 2017.

Although some popular events are sold out - such as the one involving Waterstones Book of the Year 2016 winner Sarah Perry, from Chelmsford – there is still plenty on offer.

Cllr Anne Brown, the Cabinet Member responsible for Libraries, said: “We are proud to play such a key part in the success of the Essex Book Festival, which is why Essex’s libraries are hosting a record 25 events this year.

“From children’s storytelling, creative writing workshops with best-selling authors, poetry and history events, there is something for everyone at the county’s libraries.”

Festival Director Ros Green added: “Essex Book Festival is spreading its wings in 2017. With over 90 events taking place in 40 venues across Essex, we have worked really hard to ensure that there is something for everyone.

“Whether that's our Science, Radio and Invention Day in Chelmsford, our Golden Age of Crime Weekend in Southend, or our Meet the Neighbours Day in Harlow, the plan is very much to reach the parts other festivals don't reach.”

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What: Sarah Moss, author of The Tidal Zone. The book is about a rupture of ordinary life. In this exceptionally courageous novel, Sarah Moss goes where most of us wouldn’t dare to look, and the result is riveting – unbearably sad, but also miraculously funny and ultimately hopeful. The Tidal Zone explores parental love, fear, illness and recovery.

Where: Harwich Library, Upper Kingsway, Dovercourt, Harwich, CO12 3JT

When: March 2, 7pm

Tickets: £7 or £5 for under 27s at  or on 01206 573948

What: Three Essex poets, each closely involved with the Essex Poetry Festival, will be reading and discussing their work. Derek Adams, Rosie Sandler and Adrian Green represent the diversity of poetic responses to the Essex environment and will be reading from their own publications, as well as anthologies from the festival.

Where: Canvey Library, 2 High Street, Canvey Island, SS8 7RB

When: March 7, 7pm

Tickets: £7 or £5 for under 27s  book online or call 01206 573948

What: Jem Lester’s powerful, darkly-funny and heart-breaking debut novel Shtum is a poignant story of father and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships, as three generations of men in one family – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.

Where: Brentwood Library, New Road, Brentwood, CM14 4PB

When: March 8, 7pm

Tickets:  £7 or £5 for under 27s book online or call 01206 573948

What: A haunting novel about a blazing summer, smouldering secrets, and a mysterious past brought to light in a silent screen beauty’s last days. Essie Fox’s debut The Somnambulist was selected for the Channel 4 Book Club, and was shortlisted for New Writer of the Year in the 2012 National Book Awards.

Where: Billericay Library, High Street, Billericay, CM12 9AB

When: March 9, 7pm

Tickets: £7 or £5 for under 27s call 01206 573948 or
book online
What: Children’s storytelling. Join author James Nicol as he introduces you to The Apprentice Witch in his fully interactive talk ‘What Makes A Witch’. Fun and gory facts about real witches, a game to test your witchy book knowledge and some dressing up all combine for an hour of entertainment for all budding apprentices!

Where: Great Parndon Library, Parnall Road, Staple Tye, Harlow, CM18 7PP

When: March 11, 2pm

Tickets: Free event although booking is advised on 01279 435101 or book online

What: Putting Jazz Memories into Print. Join Ann Cotterrell from Northway Books as she shares insights and anecdotes to illustrate the joys and pitfalls of publishing. There will also be advice for authors, publishers and on self-publishing, such as design, the processes of production, distribution and new media. Accompanied by a display from the National Jazz Archive’s extensive collections, housed at Loughton Library.

Where: Loughton Library, Trap’s Hill, Loughton, IG10 1HG

When: March 11, 2:30pm

Tickets: £7 or £5 for under 27s call 01206 573948 or book online

What: Best-selling and award-winning novelist Jim Kelly is back, with the latest in his Shaw & Valentine Series. Set on the North Norfolk Coast, the detectives investigate an explosion on Hunstanton Beach. To find the answers, they must delve into the past, and a mystery that has remained unsolved for more than sixty years.

Where: Hockley Library, Southend Road, Hockley, SS5 4PZ

When: March 15, 2pm

Tickets: £7 or £5 for under 27s call 01206 573948 or book online

What: An average man is targeted by a serial killer in this high-concept, twisting, dangerous journey through a digital underworld, the first novel in the PENDULUM series from screenwriter and director Adam Hamdy. Goldsboro Book of the Month last November, the novel is now being developed by NBC as a TV series.

Where: South Woodham Ferrers Library, Trinity Square, South Woodham Ferrers, CM3 5JU

When: March 15, 7:30pm

Tickets: £7 or £5 for under 27s call 01206 573948 or book online

What: Essex Poison. Get ready for the fourth instalment of Ian Sansom’s The Country Guides, this time set in Essex, October 1937. Swanton Morley, the People’s Professor, sets off to Essex to continue his history of England, The County Guides. Morley is an honorary guest at the Colchester Oyster Festival. But when the mayor dies suddenly at the reception, suspicion falls on his fellow councillors. Is it a case of food poisoning, or could it be murder?

Where: Braintree Library, Fairfield Road, Braintree, CM7 3Y

When: March 16, 7:30pm

Tickets: £7 or £5 for under 27s call 01206 573948 or book online

What: Essex Authors’ Day. This exciting day of workshops, stalls and activities brings together Essex-based authors and readers. Listen to author readings, pick up top tips, take part in the writing challenge, meet other writers, or simply browse and buy books.

Where: Chelmsford Library, County Hall, Market Road, Chelmsford , CM1 1QH

When: March 18, 10am until 3pm

Tickets: Free event but booking essential

What: Author of the acclaimed children’s series, The Last Wild Trilogy, Piers Torday reflects on his father Paul Torday’s (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) final novel. Finished posthumously by Piers, Death of an Owl is an intriguing tale of British politics and revenge, described by Chris Bryant MP as a delightful gothic fantasy with an element of taut anger.

Where: Colchester Library, Trinity Square, Colchester, CO1 1JB

When: March 21, 7pm

Tickets £7 or £5 for under 27s on 01206 573948 or book online

What: Under the Tump: Sketches of Real Life on the Welsh Borders. Hay-on-Wye is famous as the Town of Books. But when writer and researcher Oliver Balch moved there, it was not just books he was keen to read, but the people too. After living in London and Buenos Aires, what will he make of this quirky town on the Welsh-English border? A captivating, personal picture of country life in the 21st century.

Where: Wivenhoe Library, 104/6 High Street, Wivenhoe, CO7 9AB

When: March 22, 7pm

Tickets: £7 or £5 for under 27s on 01206 573948 or book online

What: No 1 Sunday Times bestseller at her shocking, gripping best. Kimberley Chambers’ latest book Backstabber has a twist and a sting in its tail. When king of the underworld Vinny Butler goes into business with fellow crook Eddie Mitchell, it’s a match made in East End legend. But when things start to go awry, it’s clear someone is out for revenge.

Where: Basildon Library, The Basildon Centre, St Martins Square, Basildon, SS14 1EE

When: March 23, 7pm

Tickets: book online

What: Strange Labyrinth: Outlaws, Poets, Mystics, Murderers and a Coward in London’s Great Forest. Strange Labyrinth is a book about Epping Forest, a story of tangled pathways and surprising encounters, magic and madness, litter and loss. Ultimately it’s about getting lost, and finding oneself. This is a future cult classic in which nature writing meets punk history, academic troublemaking, psychogeography and memoir.

Where: Wickford Library, Market Road, Wickford, SS12 OAG

When: March 28, 7pm

Tickets: £7 or £5 for under 27s on 01206 573948 or book online

What: Get techy with Essex Libraries. Experience virtual reality with an HTC Vive immersive VR headset; programme tiny robots in an Ozobot workshop; develop your computer coding skills with Code Club, and find out about Chelmsford Library’s new Makerspace – a creative laboratory for all to enjoy.

Where: 10:30am to 12:30pm – Lord Ashcroft Building, Anglia Ruskin University 2:00 to 4:00pm – Chelmsford Library

Tickets: Free drop-in event, no booking required

What: Inconvenient People: Tales from the Victorian Lunacy Panics — Women in White, Eccentric Heirs, Troubled Vicars
The 19th century saw a series of scandals concerning sane individuals being locked away in lunatic asylums – the victims of unscrupulous persons, who wanted to be rid of a ‘difficult’ family member, spouse or friend. But who were the victims of this trade? And to what extent was it carried on? Sarah Wise examines a number of disputed lunacy cases – ranging from the 1820s to the 1890s – and reveals the surprisingly wide variety of people whose eccentricities landed them in a madhouse.

Where: Epping Library, St John’s Road, Epping, CM16 5DN

When: March 29, 2pm

Tickets: £7 or £5 for under 27s on 01206 573948 or book online

What: Plague Charmer. Ring the bells and lock up your homes, Karen Maitland, author of the bestselling Company of Liars, is back, and so is the plague. Join Karen as she discusses everything from pustules to dwarves, ghost ships to lost villages in her new chilling, atmospheric and dark medieval thriller.

Where: Saffron Walden Library, 2 King Street, Saffron Walden, CB10 1ES

When: March 29, 7pm

Tickets: £7 or £5 for under 27s on 01206 573948 or book online

What: Burned and Broken. Set in Southend, Mark Hardie’s gripping debut introduces a brilliant new detective duo to the world of crime fiction, weaving together two suspenseful stories that end in a breath-taking finale. Visually-impaired himself, Mark’s book is one of 1000s available free of charge from the RNIB Talking Books Library. Come along and chat to RNIB on the night to find out more.

Where: Rayleigh Library, 132-134 High Street, Rayleigh, SS6 7BX

When: March 30, 7:30pm

Tickets: £7 or £5 for under 27s on 01206 573948 or book online

What: Meet the Neighbours Day, five events throughout the day.

Family Fun, 11 to 4pm: A fabulous smorgasbord of family storytelling sessions and arts and crafts workshops will be on offer for all ages and backgrounds. Try your hand at Easter egg decorating, join in our rhyming storytelling sessions, or take your seat for a performance by the Polish Saturday School. There’ll be something for everyone.

Swallowing Mercury, 1pm to 2pm: Every so often you stumble across an original and utterly inspiring book. Internationally acclaimed Polish poet Wioletta Greg’s memoir Swallowing Mercury is one of those books. A profoundly moving account of growing up in communist Poland, Wioletta takes her readers on an unforgettable journey. One that Essex author Sarah Perry is eager to discuss with her in Harlow Library.

Silence, 1pm to 2pm: A work-in-progress by Essex-based playwright Nicola Werenowska, explores the effects of war and displacement through the lens of the UK post-war Polish community. Join the creative process as participants share family stories and memories in a short performance. Followed by a discussion about life in the UK.

Partners in Crime, 1:15pm to 2:15pm: Tajemnica Domu Helclów (The Mystery of Helcel House) is a deliciously camp pastiche of a period crime story published by Jacek Dehnel and Piotr Tarczynski under the name Maryla Szymiczkowa.

The adventurers of their main protagonist, Mrs Szczupaczynska, often referred to as the Miss Marple of Polish crime fiction, will be shared with leading UK ‘partners in crime fiction’ Nicci French.

Are My Roots Showing, 3:45 to 4:45pm: Magda, born in England to Polish parents, has recently broken up with her boyfriend Matt and needs a fresh start. Quitting her job, she sets off to Warsaw to teach English in a quest to explore her roots. Author Karola Gajda, who like her chief protagonist was also born in England to Polish parents, discusses her hugely entertaining debut novel with UK-based Polish crime-writer Aga Lesiewicz.

Where: Harlow Library

When: All day