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Looking Back On The Literary Festival

Wow. What a month it's been. We kicked off on 4th February with a book launch and ended on 9th March with a fantastic celebration of the coast and there has been a whole collection of literary delights in between.

Back in 2022 when I first suggested starting a literary festival to Helena (okay, it was more of a complaint that we didn't have one and Frinton did...) it was nothing more than a vague notion of 'we should have one'. So, six months later when she rang me up and said, 'Are we going to do this festival then?' it was something of a shock to the system to find myself suddenly caught up in a whirlwind of preparation for our first attempt at bringing literature to the front of Brightlingsea's attention. Teaming up with Winterfest meant there was always someone with more experience of such matters, who we could turn to for advice. This year, with the benefit of last year's (very) steep learning curve, we planned the event with more of a team. Consequently, it was even bigger!

Even before the festival officially began, we had an art and literary display at the library, showcasing the writing and artwork that made up 'Fifty Two', the second book published to celebrate our Lido's 90th birthday.

We began with the launch of my book 'The Mermaid' - I blogged about it here and here and was heartened by the number of people who actually read the posts - perhaps there would be a few people at the launch after all! (This is my biggest concern with every event...) The people who came were incredibly supportive and said lots of nice things about my books and the readings from the BrightWords members who have books coming out in the next twelve months were fantastic. We couldn't have asked for a better opening event.

This was followed by a number of workshops for adults and children, all of which were well attended (some attendees were new, some had attended last year's festival).

One children's workshop focused on the inspiration behind illustrations and allowed participants to do some painting of their own.

Another encouraged children to think of all the things they wanted to see in a story and then illustrate it, while the story was (very quickly) written. Every idea made it into the story (I'm not sure where else you would find a Lancaster bomber, a cat flying a plane and a frog, all in the same plot), which mentioned every child by name.

When it was the adults' turn, at one workshop, they were given advice about how to improve their writing and how to use writing as a means of helping their mental wellbeing. At the other, they were taught how to build up from an idea to create a longer piece of writing, using art, music and emotion as tools for inspiration. At all four workshops, everyone seemed to have a good time, producing some beautiful pieces of work and developing their skills.

At 'Meet The Authors', writers from across Essex came together to talk about their books and their writing and the audience was treated to readings from these books as well as being given an insight into what had inspired them. One of the things we were very clear about from the very early stages of discussing the Literary Festival, was that we wanted to give a platform to local authors and we were delighted that so many authors took up our invitation to participate in the event.

Our final event was 'Poetry, Prose and Prosecco', our first ever ticketed event. What a finale that turned out to be! There were extracts from novels, poems, true stories and a range of fantastic songs, some old and some written especially for the event. Thames Estuary Lobster Hatchery were superb hosts and the atmosphere was fantastic. We certainly went out with a bang!

So now, it's time to reflect for a while and have a little break (although many of us are already deep into novels and short story/poetry collections which are due to be published soon), before we start thinking ahead to next year's festival. What thrills me more than anything else, is that from my throwaway comment/moan, we have now added another festival to our wonderful little town's diary and we've already had inquiries from authors wanting to get involved next year!

If you would like to get involved, or suggest workshops etc, please contact us on

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