Jo Coldwell

After a short stint at the BBC, Jo worked for independent dance label Pulse-8 Records for 10 years, before moving to Colchester and co-organising “Tea & Sympathy” themed events. In 2007 Jo set up the Appetite Book Club which has 100+ members meeting monthly. From 2016, Jo worked for, and now manages, award winning, independent bookshop Red Lion Books. According to Jo all problems can be solved through reading or being on a yoga mat.

Marc De’ath

Marc is Culture Services Manager at Chelmsford City Council, co-chair of SECEN, a network supporting the creative sector in the South East, cofounder of Colchester Makerspace, and one of the original founders of Creative Coop.  He believes in using art, design, culture and technology to make a positive impact in the world. He draws inspiration from our radical roots and heritage in innovation in Essex. He advocates for our communities to lead, own and drive social, cultural and environmental change.

Seona Ford

Seona Ford

Born in Essex of Scottish parents, Seona spent much of her career working in education in the county. Throughout her life she has worked to nurture and celebrate the people who write, publish and sell books. She belongs to several literary societies and has a great interest in family and local history.

Rob Jelly

A professional child and maker-upper of non-sense, Rob has loved stories for as long as he can remember (It just took him a while to find a love for reading them himself).

Every week, he champions Creatives across the East of England on BBC Upload, a platform for authors, playwrights, film-makers and more.

He always wears shorts and once stole a KitKat Chunky from Ted Danson. Maybe.

Sarah Moth

Sarah is Service Development Lead for Essex Libraries, responsible for the book and e-resources collection, reader development activities and working towards making Essex Libraries accessible, welcoming and safe spaces to all customers and potential customers. She’s been involved with the Festival for many years and is delighted to be an advisor to the board. Sarah is a lifelong reader and a passionate advocate for the power of reading and the importance of public libraries.

Paige Ockendon

Paige has supported creatives across all art forms, backgrounds and career levels since 2016 with Metal Southend. As a producer, artist and champion of South Essex creatives, she aims to connect people through socially engaged projects, shared experiences and joy. Having worked on every edition of Essex Writers House, a strand of the festival which debuted in 2018, she is chuffed to become an adviser to the board. Paige is also an Associate of The Other MA (TOMA) and is on the board of directors for TheBlokhouse artist studios.

Jules Pretty

Jules is Professor of Environment & Society at the University of Essex and Director of the Centre for Public and Policy Engagement. He is Chief Editor of the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. He received an OBE for services to sustainable agriculture, an honorary degree from Ohio State University, and the British Science Association Presidential Medal. He is the host of podcast Louder Than Words and film shorts series Brighter Futures.

Lu Williams

Lu (they/them) is a queer, neurodivergent, working class artist who creates cross-disciplinary artworks, social practice, sculpture, print, video, and events. In 2015, they founded Grrrl Zine Fair, a platform for self-publishing and DIY art, music and culture surrounding feminist publishing. In 2017, Lu founded Grrrl Zine Library, which now holds 600+ queer and feminist zines at The Old Waterworks in Southend-on-Sea.

Photo of Lu and Poly by Eliza Hatch