17 great things to do in Essex in July

Tennessee Fields (formerly Dixie Fields) returns to Sandy Brook Field in July 2021

Tennessee Fields (formerly Dixie Fields) returns to Sandy Brook Field this July - Credit: Drew Burnett

The best things to do in Essex this July from music festivals to book festivals, as well as art exhibitions, theatre and even the Brentwood Proms!

1. Chelmsford Fake Festival at Central Park 
July 3

After skipping a year, the Chelmsford Fake Festival is back with an unmissable line-up of tribute bands. This one is so popular it tours the country, so do book soon! Highlights include Flash, a Queen tribute band, The Fillers (The Killers, geddit?!), the Really Hot Chilli Peppers (you got that one, right?) and Blondied (that would be Blondie). There's also a Bowie and a P!nk tribute, as well as a licensed bar inside the marquee, food traders outside and children's rides and entertainment. Tickets from £27.50.

2. EA Festival at Hedingham Castle
July 31-August 1

EA Festival seeks to invigorate the cultural scene in East Anglia by presenting exciting local luminaries alongside exceptional speakers and artists from the rest of the UK and beyond. It is hard to imagine a more idyllic setting for the festival than Hedingham Castle - the best-preserved Norman keep in the UK - yet despite the historical setting, this is one progressive event. Both in-person and livestream tickets will be available for all events and, should the need arise, in-person tickets will be converted to virtual ones. The festival features talks and panel discussions that interrogate the future of everything from meat-eating and sustainability to fashion, sex and the English language, featuring former Director of both the Royal Academy of Arts and National Gallery, Charles Saumarez Smith, music icon Evelyn Glennie, author Daisy Buchanan, model Arizona Muse and comedian Josh Berry. All-Access Day Passes are available for £95 and include parking.

EA Festival will be held in the stunning grounds of Hedingham Castle

EA Festival will be held in the stunning grounds of Hedingham Castle - Credit: Mark Draper

3. Essex Book Festival, various locations
June 6-August 29

Essex Book Festival 2021 is running as a hybrid festival with both in-person and digital events. The programme, themed Words Matter, will feature some 200 speakers taking part in 100 events at 40 venues across Essex, from Jaywick Martello Tower to Talliston House & Gardens and Canvey Heights. There will also be eight intriguing artist-led walks, taking the festival to the great outdoors with hosts including Tom King, James Canton and Gillian Darley. Called In My Steps: Radical Walks in Essex, the series will explore the likes of Canvey Island, Marks Hall Estate, St Peter on the Wall Church and The Witches Trail from Mistley to Manningtree, all interwoven with the history and politics of the county. Plus, there will be the first ever Essex Book Camp with family writing workshops, storytelling, dance, circus, live music and drop-in family yoga sessions.

READ MORE >>> Essex Book Festival gets the go ahead for 2021

4. Thaxted Festival at Thaxted Parish Church
July 1-4

Haven’t we all missed live music? Thaxted Festival is hosting a timeless musical experience that you may not want to miss. Performing at the beautiful parish church in Thaxted, expect to see leading artists such as Howard Shelley and members of the London Mozart Players performing Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, internationally-renowned vocal ensemble VOCES8, leading cellist Laura van der Heijden and one of jazz piano’s outstanding exponents, Darius Brubeck. 

5. Frinton Summer Theatre
Throughout July and August

Marking its 80th season, Frinton Summer Theatre is back in high style with six fantastic productions. There will be matinee and evenings of exceptional comedy, music, as well as some very special guest events throughout July and August. With the help of a grant from the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund the theatre is delighted that it can offer a season this summer, so don’t miss out, book up quick before it is too late! Tickets prices range from £17-£23. frintonsummertheatre.org

6. Tales from the Thames, various locations
June 26-July 10 

Tales from the Thames is a very exciting new play that will showcase live theatre like no other. Performing to parts of South Essex where it is rarely if ever, staged. Visiting 10 diverse, intimate community locations, including the village hall in West Tilbury, a historic pub on Canvey Island, a heritage barn in the Wat Tyler Country Park and a leisure centre in Pitsea. This Creative Estuary (transforming 60 miles of the Thames Estuary across Essex and Kent into a creative hub) is co-commissioned with the award-winning Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch.

7. Tennessee Fields, Chelmsford
July 9-11

After its award-winning debut year in 2019, Tennessee Fields (formerly Dixie Fields), is bringing back its true live country music festival with its southern style. It will take place over the weekend July 9-11, at Sandy Brook Field, Chelmsford. Boasting an all-star line-up that you do not want to miss, including Oregon native Jackson Michelson, Nashville duo, the Steel Blossoms, and the festival plans to announce a major US headliner very soon. Plus, a wide range of family entertainment, including an open-air cinema, country karaoke, a songwriter’s workshop, line dancing, a mobile recording studio and campfire acoustic sets.

Tennessee Fields (formerly Dixie Fields) returns to Sandy Brook Field in July 2021

Tennessee Fields (formerly Dixie Fields) returns to Sandy Brook Field this July - Credit: Drew Burnett

8. Chelmsford Festival of Arts & Culture
June 19-August 1

The city is hosting some very exciting events over the summer, including the Chelmsford Festival of Arts & Culture. Pulling out all the stops, this community-led festival will be celebrating the cities vibrant creativity from June 19-July 4. Fifteen days of fun and entertainment, including visual arts, comedy, literature, music, street theatre, literature and much more. The festival will end with a bang and host its Chelmsford Carnival on August 1 (the focus this year is green), where everyone is welcome to walk, dance, skip, twirl, hop, or whatever takes your fancy.

9. Ancient Essex at The Maeldune Heritage Centre, Maldon
July 7-27

From July 7-27, portrait painter and military artist, Hugh Beattie will be showcasing his solo exhibition, Ancient Essex at The Maeldune Heritage Centre in Maldon. This collection of 20 paintings view the county from its most long-lived historic angles. As Hugh says, ‘Glorifying the complex and emotive history of a county that can compete with the best of any in the kingdom. The overlooked beauty of Essex is so obvious to its inhabitants but often unknown by outsiders.’
2 Market Hill, Maldon CM9 4PZ; maelduneheritagecentre.org

10. Mercury Theatre’s Community Choir, Colchester
Thursdays from 1 July

Every Thursday in July, join Mercury Theatre’s Community Choir, which is led by a professional chorus leader. It’s part of Mercury’s Artist Development Programme and partnership with Essex Music Service, and it welcomes all adults of all ages. 7pm. Admission £32.
Mercury Theatre, Colchester CO1 1PT; mercurytheatre.co.uk

11. The Brentwood Proms
4 July

The Brentwood Imperial Youth Band welcome you to enjoy a spectacular open-air event featuring 140 + talented musicians. Here to spoil you with fabulous live entertainment held on the spacious lawn. From 4.30pm. Free admission (register for ticket).
Brentwood County High School CM14 4JF; eventbrite.co.uk/brentwood-proms

12. Octopus Ahoy!, various locations
From June 25

The Essex coast is set to be invaded by stunning sea creatures this summer as Octopus Ahoy! descends. The public art trail, a celebration of local art, history and community spirit across Tendring and wider Essex, marks 400 years (in 2020) since the historical voyage of the Mayflower ship to the new world, with Harwich’s own Christopher Jones at the helm, and 150 Years of Clacton on sea. The trail will feature 100 quirky octopus sculptures, including over 30 large, hand-decorated sculptures decorated by local professional artists. 

READ MORE >>> Essex set for octopus invasion with launch of new public art trail

Mik Richardson with his painted octopus sculpture

Mik Richardson with his painted octopus sculpture - Credit: Courtesy of KAT Marketing

13. NGS Open Gardens, various locations
Throughout summer

An amazing 98 Essex gardens are taking part in NGS Open Gardens this year. Regular gardens that open through the year include Barnards Farm in Brentwood and Feeringbury Manor, while new gardens include Grove Lodge in Saffron Walden, a walled garden planted for high biodiversity (open by arrangement).  

14. The Boys: Holocaust Survivors in the Epping Forest District 
Until September 4

This exhibition at Epping Forest District Museum charts the story of Holocaust survivors sent to Holmehurst Hostel in Loughton and the staff that supported them. Discover video testimonies from the survivors and objects from the Jewish Museum and Imperial War Museum. Admission: Free. 
Epping Forest District Museum EN9 1EL; eppingforestdc.gov.uk

15. Lyon Family Farmers Market, Benfleet
July 4
Get into the community spirit for a fun opportunity to meet the suppliers and other fantastic local and sustainable businesses Essex has to offer. Also, see the working farm and farm shop, tractors and livestock on display. 10am-4pm.
The Green Barn Farm Shop, North Benfleet Hall Fishery SS12 9JR; facebook.com/events/lyon-familys-farmers-market

16. Proms at the Vulcan, Southend
July 10

Following a hugely successful debut event in 2019, the Vulcan XL426 is back for an evening like no other. The Essex Concert Orchestra will be performing a beautiful selection of popular movie to classical music. From 5.30pm.
London Southend Airport SS2 6YF; avrovulcan.com

17. Day by Day, The Music of Doris Day, Witham
July 27

Join Sue and Jeff Short for an afternoon of nostalgia. This special matinee show brings you the story and songs of Doris Day, one of America’s most-loved stars. From her time singing with the big bands, through to her fabulous Hollywood career in films like On Moonlight Bay and Calamity Jane, to her prolific recordings including It's Magic, Secret Love and Que Sera Sera. 2pm. Admission £12.
Witham Public Hall, Collingwood Road CM8 2DY; withampublichall.co.uk



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