We don’t know about you but we had a fabulous opening weekend.

It was a joy to listen to Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee talk about her memoir An Uneasy Inheritance at Anglia Ruskin University – don’t forget to book your tickets for Robin Ince’s event at ARU on Thursday 15th June – followed by a fascinating programme of events at Harwich including the inspirational Lady Unchained and broadcasting legend James Naughtie.

We’re now limbering up for next weekend’s events including Tim Burrows talking about his new book The Invention of Essex at Hedingham Castle on Saturday 10th June (our partnership event with EA Festival). Then The History Books at Layer Marney Tower, which opens with historian Leo McKinstry talking about Cinderella Boys, the remarkable story of the unsung RAF wing who rescued Britain from Hitler’s U-Boats and made Allied victory possible.

Then it will be time for us to shake the cobwebs off the walking boots and join artist/writer Lora Aziz for our Radical Pilgrimage along The Saffron Trail from Southend to Saffron – you might want to join us for that.

BBC Essex’s Rob Jelly turns Storyteller for a day

We are absolutely delighted to be welcoming BBC Essex presenter Rob Jelly to our Midsummer Madness Day, which is taking place at Cressing Temple Barns on Sunday 25th June. This time not as a radio presenter but as one of our Storytelling Armchairs ‘storytellers’. Anyone who knows Rob, will know that he is a natural performer, which means that our younger audiences are in for a treat.

A quick word of advice though: if you are planning to come on the day and have yet to book tickets for individual workshops and events, we suggest you get cracking with that. Several have already sold out, with others heading that way. You definitely don’t want to miss out on an afternoon with playwright/poet/children’s author John Agard in the Wheat Barn.

Dear Reader, the man I love is trying to kill me.

Photo of author Freya Berry alongside image of The Birdcage Library book cover

One book on the cusp of release and is already causing a publishing stir is Freya Berry’s The Birdcage Library: a mesmerising Gothic tale of buried secrets and dark obsession with shades of Daphne du Maurier set on a Scottish Island that will keep you under its spell until the final page.

Set in 1932, the novel’s chief protagonist Emily Blackwood, adventuress and plant hunter, travels north for a curious new commission. A gentleman has written to request she catalogue his vast collection of taxidermied creatures before sale. On arrival, Emily finds a ruined castle, its owner haunted by a woman who vanished five decades before. And when she discovers the ripped pages of a diary, crammed into the walls, she realises dark secrets lie here, waiting to entrap her too… Freya will be talking at Grays Library on 27th June. We suggest you join her.