AT 16 years old, the Essex Book Festival proves itself to be all grown up in 2014 with a wicked sense of humour and a penchant for crime as it brings together a highly entertaining mix of authors from Joanna Trollope to Terry Waite, Simon Brett to Rageh Omaar , Henry Blofeld to Joanne M Harris and many more besides.
Familiar names once again visit Essex to bring readers great insights into their work and lives. Bestselling author Joanna Trollope launches the Festival on 3 March by introducing her new novel Balancing Act. BBC Essex presenter Dave Monk will be in conversation with Joanna at the University of Essex in Colchester. Internationally renowned novelist Joanne M. Harris talks about her new epic fantasy The Little Book Of Loki at South Woodham Ferrers (19 March). That marvellous master storyteller Gervase Phinn joins the Festival on 6 March with the third in his Barton-in-the-Dale stories and national treasure Henry ‘Blowers’ Blofeld will regale audiences with his life in and out of cricket on 13 March at Layer Marney Tower. Terry Waite recalls his time travelling the world with the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie on 27 March in Chelmsford.
Essex is a hotly political county. Expect some serious debate at the frankly titled The Blunders of Our Government event when Professor Anthony King from the University of Essex exposes the costly mistakes made in Westminster. Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox’s first book raises questions about the challenges and changes that threaten world stability. Join him for a thought-provoking discussion on 12 March in Chelmsford. Rageh Omaar has had unique insights into the developing world and shares his experiences at Chelmsford Library on 14 March. Conservative stalwart Ann Widdecombe reveals her life before politics and Strictly as she discusses her autobiography. After House of Cards, Michael Dobbs combines politics with crime in his new novel The King is Dead. Meet him at Maldon Library on 18 March.
From politics to crime: Essex writer Mike Ripley discusses his connection to Margery Allingham and his new book Mr Campion’s Farewell at Great Baddow Library. Prolific crime author Simon Brett is also appearing in the Festival. Expect laughs aplenty. Barbara Nadel and Anya Lipska share their inspirations for their crime fiction and wannabe crime writers can get top tips from experts Claire McGowan and Julia Crouch in the workshop How to Plot the Perfect Murder.
History ripples through the Festival with tales of Spare Brides from World War I to Jo Baker’s book Longbourn telling of life below stairs for the servants in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. University of Essex Professor Philip Terry talks about his new novel which retells the story of the Norman Conquest through the eyes of the English nuns who embroidered the Bayeux Tapestry. World War I is of course at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts in 2014 and two events recall its horror: The War Behind the Wire and It’ll Be Over By Christmas.
Once again as well as offering mainstream authors the Essex Book Festival excels at finding the quirky, the unusual, distinctive and the new. Acclaimed historical novelists, Essie Fox and Wendy Wallace’s discussion on Victorian history will be available as a podcast. John Bradshaw, the world expert on animal behaviour familiar to many from BBC 2’s The Secret Life of Cats, discusses his work in Cat Sense. Essex authors Syd Moore and Daryl Easlea present a selection of banned books and the bizarre and controversial reasons behind their censure on 20 March in Southend. Evie Wyld, one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 2013, will talk about her novel All The Birds, Singing at West Mersea on 26 March.
Younger readers have a wonderful range of events to choose from during the Festival. Beast Quest fans can take part in interactive puzzles and tournaments, budding editors can have a go at editing with Miles Kelly Publishing and those who like mischief can choose whether Dennis the Menace or Horrid Henry should be crowned King of the Bad Boys.
With a Writers’ Day, a Book Art Workshop and a Book Art Fair, whether you’re an avid reader, a collector of books or a would-be novelist, the Essex Book Festival 2014 is ready to entertain and inspire you. With events happening from Great Dunmow to Loughton, West Mersea to Hadleigh in fantastic venues like the Thameside Nature Park at Mucking and the atmospheric Railway Hotel in Southend, the Festival has something to entice, surprise, tempt, enthral, inform and even delight almost everyone. And if that’s not enough there’s Martin Newell and Dr Who on offer too.
The Essex Book Festival is delighted to be working with the University of Essex and Just Imagine Story Centre again in 2014. Working in partnership with them enables the Festival to reflect a greater diversity of authors and events, enriching the Festival and drawing in new audiences.
Ticket prices have been frozen from 2013 and new for 2014 is a multi-buy offer: buy tickets for five events and get the cheapest one free (Mercury box office events only). The Essex Book Festival brochure, detailing all the events in the Festival will be available from libraries across the county from mid-December. The Essex Book Festival Box Offices will open for bookings on Monday 6 January 2014. For more information about the Essex Book Festival please go to www.essexbookfestival.org.uk. You know you want to.