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A month to remember at Firstsite

PUBLISHED: 11:46 06 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:46 06 March 2017




Colchester’s Firstsite gallery has not been without its critics, but this month is an excellent time to drop by and soak up some Essex culture, explains Janice Walker


The Firstsite gallery moved to its current location in 2011 and has become an integral part of the oldest recorded town’s cultural scene. Designed by the Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, the building is a masterpiece in itself.

Built on Scheduled Ancient Monument land, with a ‘no dig’ restriction to protect the archaeological artefacts languishing beneath, the gallery floats on an enormous concrete ‘raft’ and every inch of the TECU Gold (a malleable copper-aluminium alloy) cladding was painstakingly applied by hand.


When you have finished admiring the structure and the wonders of engineering that contributed to its construction, step inside to discover the myriad of cultural delights available.

Firstsite presents exhibitions from both local and internationally-renowned artists, it runs events, activities and learning workshops, and also shows a wide range of films, as well as live opera and ballet screenings.


The gallery’s calendar for March 2017 has something for everyone; with a variety of films and screenings including La Traviata and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars; a major solo exhibition of paintings by Chinese artist Zhang Enli, including an ambitious new work which the artist will paint across the entire length and height of the gallery’s curved walls; the 2nd Annual African Families in the UK (AFiUK) Women’s Conference and a number of events which are part of the prestigious Essex Book Festival’s Colchester Place Weekend.

The Essex Book Festival was founded by Essex County Council in 1999, becoming an independent charity run by a board of voluntary trustees in 2011. The festival invites local and international writers to take part in its activities, and 2017 is no exception. There are more than 90 events taking place across the county and Colchester, including Firstsite, is hosting a liberal share of them.


Over the weekend of March 4 and 5, literature lovers can join members of the University of Essex’s Creative Writing team as they share some golden nuggets from their current works, young readers can listen to children’s author Kes Gray giving entertaining talks on board the EES for Schools’ bookbus, and young people can take part in a creative workshop with Monika-Akila Richards, doodle with the Sumi Ink Club or create stories with author DJ Catrell and illustrator Doug Smith.

As the name Colchester Place Weekend suggests, location and geography will play significant roles in many of the events taking place in the town.

The Essex Book Festival’s writer-in-residence is Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent, a Gothic tale of love, belief, science and religion, and she will be sharing the stage with Essex-based Polish poet Wioletta Greg and poet Philip Terry for a discussion about the significance of place in their work.

Writer and activist Lucy Popescu will be joined by AL Kennedy and Roma Tearne to explore the challenges faced by asylum seekers and talk about the collection of works entitled A Country of Refuge, which Lucy compiled and edited.

Whether you are an avid reader, a budding novelist, a novice poet, a published author, or a curious bystander, the array of events at Firstsite during the weekend of March 4 and 5 is sure to include something to spark your creativity or enhance your love of literature.

Find out more

For details of what’s on at Firstsite, clck here and for more information about the Essex Book Festival, visit


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