A good time doesn’t have to cost the earth. We offer a wide range of events, workshops and activities which are free to attend. Come and join in the fun this June.

Conversations – Something different

Radical Essex Procession
Beach of Dreams Flag Procession

Essex Book Festival is teaming up with internationally acclaimed arts organisation, Kinetika, for its Radical Essex Procession replete with 500 hand-dyed silk flags from St Leonard-at-the-Hythe Church to University of Essex.

Don’t Starve the Arts – Feed Them

A much-needed Long Table conversation about the Arts as part of our Incubator programme. Don’t Starve the Arts – Feed Them will be debated by authors, artists, poets, performers, actors, and students. All welcome to join in. Talking is the only course! Leading the debate will be artistic director, Mad,Who? Marina Cusí, and academic/principle investigator of The Hungry Human, Dr Jordan Savage.

Stand Up For Diversity
Stand Up For Diversity shutterstock_1384812491

An evening of three-minute mini-talks and short soap-box shout-outs that put a spotlight on diversity, writing, words and storytelling. Hosted in partnership with Essex Cultural Diversity Project, for this event we are teaming up with Metal and Essex Writers House in Southend-on-Sea, bringing together people who want to champion and celebrate diversity in the arts and in our communities, share the work they do with others, and collectively celebrate strong diverse voices. All welcome.

unJudge Someone – Human Library
Human Library

Welcome to the Human Library. Just like in a real library, a visitor to the Human Library can borrow a book from a range of titles. The difference is that books are PEOPLE, and reading is a CONVERSATION. Books in our Human Library come from all walks of life, and each has a different story to tell. Come along, connect with people you wouldn’t normally meet, and celebrate positive differences in our community. In partnership with Essex Cultural Diversity Project.


Thurrock Local Authors Fair

Discover the rich wealth of local authors in Thurrock at this new annual opportunity to chat and talk to local writers. Discuss writing, enjoy the mini writers slam as you hear short extracts and browse their books to buy and take home.


Hands-on Workshops

The Launch Pad workshops
Oak Galls

A series of free drop-in workshops for ages 7+. Learn how to make traditional ink out of ink gall gathered from 25 destinations across Essex, explore the art of calligraphy, try your hand at a range of traditional printing and basic book-making techniques and help us craft a People’s Festival Charter fit for the next 25 years.

How We Live In Essex: Poetry Workshop with Lelia Ferro

Explore your relationship to Essex and the seasons through poetry, with exhibition poet Lelia Ferro.

How We Live In Essex: Sea, Sky and Landscape Photography Workshop

Learn photography techniques using the beautiful views from Jaywick Martello Tower with the exhibition professional photographer. If you don’t have a camera, just bring your mobile phone!

How We Live In Essex: Textiles Workshop

Explore netting and knotting using sustainable plant fibres with exhibition textiles artist Clare Sams.

How We Live In Essex: Poetry Performance Workshop

Learn to lift the words off the page and sharpen your performance techniques in this fun and friendly workshop, hosted by theatre director Sofia Bagge and a professional actor. Why not bring along a poem of your own to the workshop and perform it shortly after at the spoken word evening!

The Satellite Re-Wilding Workshop with Lily Hunter Green

Viewing Google Earth satellite images of Essex, participants will then design their own healthy satellite landscape: including all of the essentials to attract wildlife and the creation of biodiverse and pollinator friendly ecosystems (water sources, woodlands/trees for shelter, wildflower strips around fields, healthy soil mounds for animals to inhabit etc). The workshop will then involve the group collaborating on a large-scale 3D and textural satellite image: a ‘patchwork’ made out of redundant carpet tiles and other recycled found materials.

Midsummer Madness
Mud Kitchen Midsummer Madness

Pack your picnic and make a beeline for what promises to be a magical day at Cressing Temple Barns. Free parking, free entry and lots of free drop-in activities including storytelling, Little Earthlings Mud Cafe, ink-making, cork-printing, DIY notebooks, fairy headbands, willow-weaving, leaf-printing, letterpress printing, pop-up library and The Poetry Shed. All welcome, just come along, no need to book.


For Writers

Beach of Dreams 25 Launch and Creative Writing Workshop
Beach of Dreams and James Canton

Come along and meet the Kinetika team, our flag-makers/bearers, and find out how you and/or an organisation you belong to, can get involved in the epic new nationwide Beach of Dreams 25 project. Then, take part in a special Beach of Dreams creative writing workshop led by Dr James Canton, and the Wild Writing team based in the Centre for Creative Writing at the University of Essex.

Writers Hot Desks (Essex Writers House)
Writers Desk

Book a free desk in our Attic Studio at Essex Writers House and take some time to focus on your work. Whether you’re on the east or west side of the building, you are guaranteed a changing view across the Estuary, along with some space to think.

Open Advice Sessions (Essex Writers House)

These free sessions are available for Essex writers of all genres and experience levels. Book an hour-long slot, with a panel of the Metal team and our associate writers, to discuss your writing practice, talk through ideas, find signposting to references and opportunities or simply get feedback on your works in progress.

Extracts (Essex Writers House)

An evening to write, read and share at Essex Writers House. Keen to share your own written work with an audience? EXTRACTS invites you to find kinship and confidence through writing and creative community.

Writing Buddy Meet Up
Writing Buddy Meet Up image

Whether you’re a published author, or a budding writer looking to kickstart your new hobby, come and join international bestselling author Lizzie Chantree & award-winning author Chris Penhall for a morning of writing in this FREE writing buddy session at Fête Grays Yard, Chelmsford! The aim of the session is to bring together likeminded people to write, support and share creative ideas in a welcoming and relaxed environment. The event will consist of two 30 minute writing sprints with a break to buy a coffee or cake in between.


For families and young people

Meet the Author – Emily Kenny
Emily Kenny Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks

Calling all Middle Grade book lovers! Join this Q&A session with Emily Kenny, author of The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks. Bookish and animal-loving autistic tween Alice Tonks takes us on a magical adventure in a story about finding your voice, friendship and unlikely heroes.

Aloo o!
Aloo o storytelling drums and Mancala

Immerse yourself in the mesmerising music, colours and stories of amazing Africa. Storytelling galore with a Yoruba themed story in song by Sade Fadipe and SP K-Mushambi’s Zimbabwean heritage story, Tarirai’s Choice. Feel the rhythm with Margaret Omoniyi in a drumming workshop including a telling of an Asante tale from Ghana. Plus crafts and Mancala workshop.

Asha + The Troll with Matipo Arts

Back in the olden times, when children could do as they pleased, there was a house, on the edge of the forest… Asha + The Troll is a theatre performance for 5-8 year olds in which storytellers unfold a world of forests, friendship, puppetry, percussion, and… trolls! Follow Asha as she meets an unlikely friend and learns to love their differences.

Goldilocks, Let’s All Dance Ballet Company
Goldilocks Let's All Dance

Join Goldilocks, the girl with the lovely locks and her jar of magical honey, as she befriends a family of bears and teaches everyone the value of sharing. But watch out for Selfish Sid who, on hearing that the honey is magical, hatches a nasty plan to steal it from Goldilocks. With a 1940’s vibe, a variety of dance styles and plenty of bowls of delicious porridge, this ballet is just right! A fabulously fun show for everyone ages 1 – 101.

Much Ado About Numbers
Elizabethan card players. Photo of Rob Eastaway and Much Ado About Numbers book cover

What’s the connection between Shakespeare and Numbers? A lot, as it turns out! In this fun, interactive talk Rob Eastaway explores the surprising and entertaining ways that maths and numbers crop up in Shakespeare’s plays. Find out how Tudors multiplied, why Shakespeare never ended a line with the word orange, and why dice-playing was a serious hazard for the unwary. With historical asides about games, optics, astronomy, music and magic, you might never think about maths or Shakespeare the same way again. Suitable for age 10 – adult.


Watch Live Online

Sarah Perry: Enlightenment
Sarah Perry and book cover for Enlightenment

Multi award-winning and bestselling author, Festival Patron and University of Essex Chancellor, Sarah Perry, will be launching this year’s festival with a talk on her highly anticipated new novel, Enlightenment. This very special opening event celebrates both the launch of the 25th edition of Essex Book Festival and the 60th anniversary of University of Essex. Sarah will be in conversation with Peter Donaldson, Chair of Essex Book Festival. Watch live online via YouTube.

Helen MacDonald and Sin Blaché, Prophet
Helen MacDonald, Sin Blaché and Prophet book cover

Award-winning poet and naturalist, Helen Macdonald (H is for Hawk) has collaborated with musician and writer Sin Blaché to write this dazzling, breath-taking and genre-blending science fiction thriller. This is Prophet. It knows when you were happiest. It gives life to your fondest memories and uses them to destroy you… Watch live online via Zoom.


Open Mic

The Tasting Menu: Poetry Open Mic returns!

Please join us for two hours of poetry from across our community. Come and hear headline poets from the University of Essex, student voices, and share and explore all things Essex poetry in this diverse and inclusive event. If you’re not sure what to bring, the writing prompt for this event is, “Full Hearts”. All are welcome to perform – arrive early to assure a place!

How We Live In Essex: Exhibition Finale – Spoken Word Evening

Come and celebrate an evening of spoken word at the Jaywick Martello Tower by reading a poem of your own, or simply enjoying an evening of poetry . No need to book, just turn up and give your name!



Charters and Radicals
University of Essex Charter

Charters and Radicals: Material from the University of Essex Archive presents a unique blend of Essex’s historical roots and its student activism from the past 60 years. From charters that trace the region’s heritage to student protests and social movements, this exhibition explores continuity and change in Essex’s identity. Explore this evolution through the lens of its charters and the voices of its passionate student radicals, revealing a tapestry of history, activism, and the enduring quest for social justice.

All Change Exhibition, Harlow College Photography Students

This year, Harlow College are once again proud to be part of the Essex Book Festival. Their graduating Year 2 Extended Diploma in Photography students have created their own books in response to the theme of ‘All Change’. The students chose the theme to express their sincere concerns for their environment and ideas for a better future, but also the desire to see change that is collective. As Tolstoy once said: ‘Everyone thinks of changing the world, but nobody thinks of changing themselves’. The time is upon us to ‘All Change’. Their work will be exhibited at Harlow Library.

Restless Brilliance: The Story of J.A. Baker and The Peregrine
JA Baker photo

The Peregrine by J.A. Baker was first published in 1967. The book was an immediate success. Reviews called it a masterpiece of nature writing and it won several awards. Since then, Baker’s unique poetic writing has continued to inspire a new generation of nature writers and naturalists, and The Peregrine was recently voted one of the UK’s top 10 favourite nature books. But despite all this success, very little was known about Baker himself. The exhibition explores J.A. Baker’s life, his love of nature and writing, through the archive of his work held by the Albert Sloman Library, University of Essex. It is the first time that this archive has been on public display.



How We Live In Essex: Live Poetry Performance

Lelia Ferro’s poetry performed by professional actors at the atmospheric Martello Tower. Witness the poetry coming to life in a unique collaboration between Lelia Ferro, theatre director Sofia Bagge and fantastic actors.