Essex Book Festival returns for 2022 with spectacular literary line-up

Essex, 4 April 2022: Essex Book Festival is thrilled to announce its spectacular return this summer. With a nod to Shakespeare’s Greenwood Tree song in As You Like It, this year’s core festival theme is GREENWOOD WORDS, inspired by a celebration of nature, place and metamorphoses.

Spanning the whole of June, the festival will see 250 artists appear at 40 unusual and iconic venues across Essex, including a foot ferry, a Tudor Palace, a picturesque Pleasure Garden, a Napoleonic Fort and more… Boasting an eclectic mix of exciting events and celebrations, from orangutan nest-building to an outer space launch, this year’s festival is sure to push boundaries and blow minds.



Set to entertain, challenge and inspire, this year’s Essex Book Festival programme includes: a series of library author events tackling issues such as identity, leadership and the origins and legacy of our collective history; four intriguing artist-led walks In My Steps: Radical Walks in Essex; and author talks aplenty, featuring the likes of bestselling author Patrick Gale, crime fiction mastermind Mark Billingham, popular historian and novelist Tracy Borman, hit broadcaster turned-author Elodie Harper, debut writer and former headteacher Florence Olajide, Costa Award-winner Andrew Miller and many more.


Picking up on the festival’s theme, this year’s Greenwood Words Day: includes storytelling, hikes, music, and inventive eco-crafts across the Young Essex programme, with a chance to celebrate the Royal Jubilee. Join the festival at yachting hot spot Burnham-on-Crouch and open your heart to The Poetry Pharmacy for a soulful prescription of words led by poet and philosopher William Sieghart. Also in Burnham, on the sandy banks of the River Crouch, is the chance to witness the storytelling sensation and festival favorite, Glenys Newton, as she channels the mythological King Canute and his bid to hold back the tide. Meanwhile, this year’s family festivities will be found at Midsummer Madness Day expect magic and mayhem, all this and more as Essex also hosts a free Family Fun Day on 18th June at the Chelmsford Library, with complimentary rhyme-time entertainment and creative crafting galore.


The festival will open this year with a performance by award-winning poet and novelist Blake Morrison and ceilidh favorites The Hosepipe Band, based on Morrison’s collection of poems – Shingle Street – which centres on a series of poignant observations of the UK coastline, interwoven with an analysis on our lives and values. Join them at Harwich’s recently refurbished Electric Palace, one of the UK’s oldest cinemas, to kickstart the festival in a fanciful fashion!

This year’s Festival is an odyssey not to be missed, with events taking place in unique venues including: Harwich’s Foot and Bicycle Ferry; The Pleasure Gardens at Hylands House; the billowy banks of The River Crouch in Burnham-on-Crouch; Royal Opera House’s Production Park in Purfleet-on-Thames; Layer Marney Tower, one of Henry VIII’s favorite Tudor palaces; and Firstsite Gallery, Art Fund Museum of the Year  2021, as well as a host of library hot spots too – expect the unexpected!


Ros Green, Festival Director of Essex Book Festival, said: “After what has been an incredibly challenging last two years for everyone, we are truly thrilled to be announcing this year’s Essex Book Festival programme. Someone recently asked me if I could come up with one word to describe this year’s Essex Book Festival. Normally, I would really struggle for that. This year it was easy. “Fun”. We’re going to have loads of fun this June. While also hosting a variety of inspiring, challenging and thought-provoking author and artist events across Essex. I can’t wait.”


Tickets will be going on sale online from 4 April 2022.






Fiction fans will be spoilt for choice with the line-up of literary superstars, including Booker Prize nominee Patrick Gale, who will be discussing his poignant historical novel Mother’s Boy. Critically acclaimed novelist Elodie Harper will talk about her latest Roman tale The House with the Golden Door, dubbed by The Times as one of the best historical fiction novels of 2021. Sunday Times bestseller and co-founder of Mother Pukka Anna Whitehouse will be presenting her debut novel Underbelly, while Costa Award-winner Andrew Miller will be at Colchester Library sharing insights on his novel The Slowworm’s Song. Orange Prize-shortlisted Maggie Gee will appear at Brentwood Library to discuss her timely fable The Red Children, and Essex-based author Samuel Fisher is returning to his roots with author James Gurbutt as they dive into Fisher’s haunting novel Wivenhoe.

Spotlighting fresh new talent, Essex Book Festival welcomes Alex Hyde, whose debut Violets has made waves in the literary world, and Florence Olájídé who will present her moving memoir Coconut. Kent based writer Lulah Ellender will be sharing the stories behind her memoir Grounding with radio dramatist Robin Brooks, and artist Maggi Hambling is joined by historian James Cahill to reflect on their upcoming projects and introduce Cahill’s debut Tiepolo Blue.

Award-winning journalist and New Statesman Editor-in-Chief Jason Cowley will reflect on the importance of humanity in the age of globalization at his author event Who Are We Now? Stories of Modern England. BBC Radio 4’s longest standing Today programme presenter Justin Webb will head to Hylands House to dissect his candid and comical memoir The Gift of a Radio, while beloved Guardian columnist John Crace will visit Anglia Ruskin University to present his new book A Farewell to Calm: The New Normal Survival Guide. Ex-BBC News correspondent Nick Higham explores the innovation, legacy and scandals linked to London’s historic struggle for water in his fascinating non-fiction title The Mercenary River, and Adrian May and Phillip Terry draw on their latest books to describe the sources of creativity with their Tradition as Innovation event.

Crime aficionados will be treated to a killer line-up, with master of suspense Mark Billingham appearing at Billericay library to discuss his Sunday Times bestseller The Murder Book, crime queen Elly Griffiths will be at the Witham Library discussing her tantalizing thriller The Locked Room, the fourteenth instalment in her popular Ruth Galloway series, and Nicola Upson will be joining the festival to introduce her latest haunting mystery Dear Little Corpses. The popular Criminally Good Day event will return to the festival this year, with Fiona Cummins and Holly Seddon coming together to share their thoughts on writing dangerously dark fiction, while hot new crime writers J.A. Corrigan and Sarah Linley will appear in conversation to share more about their gripping new novels. Finally, award-winning author Dreda Say Micthell will be discussing her chilling thriller Say Her Name.

This year the festival hosts its first ever History Day at Layer Marney Tower, taking the Essex audience on a time-travelling journey that’s not to be missed. Leading historian Tracy Borman will be offering insight on the British Monarchy all the way back to 1066, aristocrat expert Julia Abel Smith will explore how Lady Augusta Murray has been portrayed through the years, and more Royal analysis comes courtesy of Sunday Times bestselling author Andrew Lownie as he examines the years following the scandalous exile of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Other exciting events include a special storytelling journey, from Felixstowe to Harwich via foot ferry, in celebration of Jules Petty’s latest book Sea Sagas of the North, and author talks with journalist and author Alex Preston and biographer Carole Angier.

Other authors taking to the stage include talks with nature-lovers Annemarie Bilclough and Kate Teltscher. More historical insight from Victoria Shepherd, Julia Jones and Lindsey Davis. Giving us a glimpse into life on the frontline A&E hero Gary Jones will discuss his book It’s Not All Blood and Guts. And taking us on a magical journey, Nicholas Jubber reveals the history behind fairytales and Edward Carey shares insights on Pinocchio, plagues and pencils at Cressing Temple Barnes.



Poets, musicians and performers pop up across the programme for all to enjoy, with an epic podcast recording from Rosie Wilby, Njambi McGrath and Syd Moore at The Breakup Monologues live event, in which they reflect on the hilarity of heartbreak. The festival also welcomes community theatre group Packing Shed Theatre Company to present their project Platinum Tales and local female-led theatre company Blown Fuse Theatre for a special performance of In Her Shoes, set to debunk the myths around Essex stereotypes. There’s also a hybrid event featuring harpist and poet duo Imaginary Landscapes with Chris Tutton and Anne Denholm, and for more wonderful words, William Sieghart joins the line-up for The Poetry Pharmacy event where he will be prescribing poems to encourage positivity and a lust for life.


The Young Essex programme returns this year with a series of special events including a chance to build an orangutan nest in the gardens at Hylands House with Dr Sarah Pye and her trusty puppet Pongo. The festival also offers a selection of free family events, with workshops including Sade Fadipe taking children on an alphabetical adventure, Emily Kenny highlighting the hallmarks of a hero, and storyteller Catherine Emmett providing the best tips for budding new writers with her Once Upon a Story session. There’s also the Family Fun Day hosted at Chelmsford Library, where you can join Sufiya Ahmed, Sade Fadipe and Josie Dom for workshops around female empowerment, nature and rhymes.

And, in a nod to this year’s Shakespearean theme, the festival’s Midsummer Madness Day hosted at the magnificent Cressing Temple Barns will be filled with myths, magic and more, with Angie Bailey discussing her children’s book Believe; an eco-friendly comedy magic show What! A Load of Rubbish being performed by Theatre Lark, author Emma Beswetherick hosting an interactive session around bugs and bees, and Ruth E Loten’s What Makes a Hero? workshop helping young people create their own hero.




Welcoming festival goers to the great outdoors is the Festival’s flagship series of artist-led walks, In My Steps: Radical Walks in Essex, with hosts this year including Emma Twine, Robert Hamberger, Peter Aylmer, Elsa James and Syd Moore. Join them as they explore The Bata Estate and Tilbury Marshes, retrace John Clare’s footsteps in Epping Forest, discover a selection of Harlow’s public sculptures along the River Stort, and follow the witch trail from Mistley to Manningtree. These ventures are interwoven with the history and politics of the county, and are sure to shine a new light on Essex, its stunning landscape and incredible past.


There will be workshops aplenty for all ages and stages with the Pop-Up Essex Writers House, a month-long programme returning this April for a fifth year, offering writing workshops and activities at Chalkwell Hall in Southend including a series of wonderful writers’ events such as All Stories, Party On: A Writers Shindig, Writing The Short Film, Character LAB for Families and Writers’ Hot Desks.

Other interactive highlights include Breathing, a workshop centred around Covid, Climate Change, Black Lives Matter and more, hosted by experts Jason Allen-Paisant, Tessa McWatt, Joanna Pocock and Zena Edwards. Visitors can also take part in a series of workshops at the magnificent Hylands House, including Writing for Radio Masterclass, hosted by seasoned radio dramatist Robin Brookes, Syd Moore’s Creative Writing: Getting Started, drawing you into a new world of adventure and stories, and Growing Your Voice Writing the Garden hosted by Lewes based author Lulah Ellender, providing a transporting sensory experience.


Forming part of the festival’s Criminally Good Day, workshops on offer include: Story is King with JA Corrigan; Crime Writing for Beginners with Alex Clare; industry expert Holly Seddon discussing the power of audio in her Creating a Bookish Podcast on a Shoestring Workshop; and activist and author Syd Moore diving into the depths of what makes a true fictional villain in her How to Build a Baddie talk.


Essex Book Festival is also hosting a series of Rewriting the Archive Workshops in partnership with museums and archives from Chelmsford to Southend. Workshop leaders include researcher and curator Elliot Gibbons, playwright Dr Poppy Corbett and historian Dr Herbert Eiden.




Arts Council England, University of Essex, Essex County Council, Chelmsford City Council, Thurrock Council, Essex Cultural Diversity Project, Explore Essex, BBC Essex, and Essex 2020.

To find out more about this year’s Essex Book Festival, visit essexbookfestival.org.uk



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