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Essex limbers up for a literary party

PUBLISHED: 13:28 03 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:28 03 March 2015




March sees the county welcome another host of literary big hitters from the book world arrive in Essex for the Essex Book Festival. Ros Green, the festival director, shares some of the highlights

Throughout the month of March, more than 100 writers, poets and artists will be descending on Essex — from Colchester to Chelmsford, and Braintree to Southend on Sea — mustering a fabulously inspiring and entertaining smorgasbord of literary delights.

Festival highlights include the hugely popular crime writer Sophie Hannah who will be reading from her new book The Monogram Murders at South Woodham Ferrers Library. Hannah’s ‘regeneration’ of Agatha Christie’s much-loved master sleuth Hercules Poirot is an absolute must for Christie aficionados.

The inimitable iconic comic poet Pam Ayres will be wooing audiences at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester, along with performance poets John Hegley and Luke Wright, both of whom will be appearing at Colchester Arts Centre.

Alan Johnson, former Home Secretary, Labour MP and the winner of The Orwell Prize for his moving memoir This Boy, will be reading from his sequel Please, Mister Postman in Harlow. Filmmaker and writer Katharine Norbury will also be talking about her new book/memoir The Fish Ladder at Belfairs Woodland Centre in Leigh on Sea: another poignant voyage of self-discovery that paints a powerful portrait of motherhood, in tandem with an evocative celebration of the extraordinary majesty of the natural world.

Meanwhile, best-selling debut author Jessie Burton (the winner of Waterstones Book of the Year 2014 for The Miniaturist), will be appearing at Anglia Ruskin University discussing the mysterious intricacies of life in 17th century Amsterdam, as seen through the eyes of her chief protagonist, 18-year-old Nella Oortman.

Other highlights include the award-winning writer and filmmaker Jon Ronson (of Men Who Stare At Goats fame) who will be simultaneously entertaining and challenging audience members with his one-man illustrated show An Evening of Public Shaming. Judy Finnigan (of Richard & Judy fame) will be interviewed by husband Richard, acclaimed football writer Matt Dickinson will be talking about his book Bobby Moore: The Man in Full and the fabulous Liz Trenow, best-selling author of The Poppy Factory, also appears at the Anglia Ruskin University on March 19.

The Festival’s theme for 2015 is METAMORPHOSIS. This marks the introduction of two new festival strands. One of these is the Human Rights strand, which will be launched by Shami Chakrabarti (director of Liberty and the new chancellor of the University of Essex) at The Forum in Southend on Sea. The other is a new Art strand, which will include a series of three events to be hosted by the Minories Galley in Colchester, one of which is art historian Anthony Bailey’s Rembrandt’s House.

It also marks the festival’s inaugural literary twinning with Poland. This will culminate in a fascinating panel event Literary Piers in which Wioletta Grzegorzewska, Julia Fiedorczuk and Justyna Czechowska will be discussing the theme of Home with Essex-based writer/artist author Rachel Lichtenstein 
in the Royal Pavilion at the end of Southend Pier.

But even all of this is just the tip of the iceberg. Other writers to watch out for are Kerry Hudson (Thirst), Colchester-born Robert Thorogood (A Meditation on Murder), Alix Christie (Gutenberg’s Apprentice), Kate Hamer (The Girl in the Red Coat), Ben Ferguson (The Spring of Kasper Meier), SJ Watson (Second Life), Sarah Perry (After Me Comes The Flood), Roma Tearne (The Last Pier), Nicci Gerrard (The Twilight Hour), Simon Toyne (Solomon Creed), Samantha Shannon (The Mime Order)… The list is endless, so let the party begin!

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