With a stellar line up of authors and artists due to descend on Essex this June - including award-winning novelist Sarah Perry, Absolutely Fabulous star Helen Lederer, ex-Labour minister-turned-writer Alan Johnson, and acclaimed crime-writer Vaseem Khan - the challenge will be fitting it all in the diary.

The Festival kicks off on June 1 with an eclectic array of author events, discussions, workshops at the University of Essex under the banner of THIS LAND: its theme for 2024.

Always keen to push the boundaries and bolster new conversations and friendships, festival director Ros Green, explains what’s in store at Wivenhoe Park, the University’s main campus and Essex Book Festival’s HQ.

'2024 is a big year for both the University of Essex, which is celebrating its 60th Birthday, and Essex Book Festival, which turns 25 this year. We couldn’t let those momentous milestones pass without marking them in some way.

Great British Life: Beach of Dreams, Walney IslandBeach of Dreams, Walney Island (Image: Courtesy of Essex Book Festival)

'Hence our Festival Launch: a one-day extravaganza, which offers a rich and varied mix of local, national and international flavours, and which will set the stage for the rest of the month’s activities.

'First up is our Radical Procession from Colchester City Centre to the Campus. Part of our ongoing series of Radical Walks in Essex, the Procession has been inspired by the soon-to-be launched interactive Walk with Words trail: two exciting new pathways onto campus from St Botolph’s Station and Greenstead Community Centre respectively.

'We will be gathering at old port church St Leonard-at-the-Hythe whose Medieval door still bears the holes made by troops to put muskets through during the English Civil War. Before processing onto campus bearing 500 silk flags, the astonishingly beautiful creation of Thurrock-based community arts organisation Kinetika as part of its Beach of Dreams Project: a programme of community participation events celebrating the natural environment along the East Coast from Lowestoft to Tilbury Docks.

Great British Life: Sarah Perry Sarah Perry (Image: Sophie Davidson)

On arrival, we will be met by Sarah Perry, who is doubling up on the day as Essex Book Festival Patron and University of Essex Chancellor, along with other local dignitaries. The flag bearers, meanwhile, will encircle the beautiful lake immortalised by painter John Constable in 1816 in his painting Wivenhoe Park, which now hangs in the National Gallery in Washington DC.'

Other events on offer on the day include a series of writing, calligraphy, book-binding, printing workshops for all ages. One of these is an ink-making workshop where participants will help create a limited 25th Edition of festival ink using a traditional Medieval recipe and made out of hundreds of oak galls that have been gathered from twenty-five destinations across Essex, from Harwich to Harlow, Epping to Southend, Canvey to Colchester.

Ros Green continues, 'We wanted to make something really special to mark our 25th Edition. There is something magical about creating our own ink. Alchemical.

'We’re going to use the ink to create our first Festival Charter: a ‘statement of intent’ if you like as we look towards the next twenty-five years. Essex Book Festival is all about community. People coming together to share their love of books, their stories; to make new friends and have new conversations.

Great British Life: Helen Lederer Helen Lederer (Image: Courtesy of Essex Book Festival)

'Throughout June we will be inviting people to take part in a countywide conversation about who and what we should be. Our vision for 2049.'

Running alongside this there is a fascinating programme of INCUBATOR events taking place in The Lakeside Theatre.

One not to miss is Woman Life Freedom: an event based around a new anthology Woman, Life Freedom: Voices and Arts from the Women’s Protests in Iran edited by Malu Halasa, Jordanian Filipina American writer and editor based in London.

The anthology captures in artwork and first-person accounts the historic horrifying moment of Jina Mahas Amini’s death in police custody in Tehran in 2022 for opposing the mandatory hijab. It vividly documents the women who took to the streets of Tehran, uncovered their hair, burnt their headscarves and chanted ‘Woman Life Freedom’ in mass demonstrations, and the explosion of creative resistance that followed as art and photography shared online went viral and people around the world saw what was really going on in Iran.

Other events include Tasting Menu, an Open Mic Session led by Colchester-based poet/writer Holly Pester whose darkly comic debut novel The Lodgers is receiving rave reviews. Plus a Game Changer Workshop where participants aged 11-14years will learn how to transform classic video games into arcade quests for environmental action and to raise climate awareness.

Great British Life: Woman, Life, Freedom: Voices and Arts from the Women’s Protests in Iran edited by Malu HalasaWoman, Life, Freedom: Voices and Arts from the Women’s Protests in Iran edited by Malu Halasa (Image: Courtesy of Essex Book Festival)

If that isn’t enough, the day concludes with Sarah Perry in conversation with Peter Donaldson, Chair of Essex Book Festival, talking about Sarah’s stunning new novel, The Enlightenment: a story of love and astronomy told over the course of twenty years through the lives of two improbable best friends.

Anyone who enjoyed The Essex Serpent is in for a real treat. We recommend getting in quick to nab your tickets for this event.

For more information or to book tickets go to essexbookfestival.org.uk

If you would like to take part in the Radical Procession email hello@essexbookfestival.org.uk