New book dedicated to Essex hits the shelves  

Essex Belongs To Us front and back cover

By William Mailes

A book based upon tales, places and attractions from around Essex has been released during this month’s Essex Book festival. 

The Essex Book Festival attracts thousands of people from across the county and beyond over the month of March, and aims to unite the county through a love of reading and story-telling.

The festival is a celebration of authors and their publications, and is funded by the National Lottery, as well as the Arts Council, and is designed to recognise the hard work that authors put in for their work, as well as showcase what they have published.  

One new book that has become available for purchase during the Essex Book Festival is “Essex Belongs to Us”, a collection of stories and anecdotes from people who are from Essex, about Essex.  

Malcolm Burgess ran the Essex Book Festival for six years, and saw it become the biggest writing and reading festival in the Eastern region.  

He was one of the lead authors of the book; and he spoke of his inspiration to create the collection at a reading of the book in Chelmsford library.  

Malcolm said: “Essex has always been an interesting subject, it’s controversial, when you talk about Essex, immediately it gets a reaction.  

“For writers it is a very deep subject, somewhere that you live, where you were born, and where some will die.  

“It draws out complex feelings, and I think that was clear to see here.”   

Malcolm was also delighted with the quality of the collection.  

“We were quite surprised with the energy of the writing.   

“Writing about your childhood is a very potent subject, it’s very powerful.  

“When it came to childhood writing in particular, there was some very rich stuff.  

“We were just so surprised at how varied and interesting the writing really was”  

Malcolm, and his wife, Heather Reyes, run book publishing business, Oxygen Books, together. Heather was instrumental in the organisation of the Essex Belongs to Us reading.   

She said: “It was very fun, and the audience was really responsive.  

“Because we’ve done quite a few similar readings in the past, with this one we could just relax and enjoy this one more.  

“You could feel the audience was really with us, and we loved what we were reading out and that makes all the difference.”

Maggie Freeman had her poem, Country Bus, included in the collection. It is about day-dreaming and people watching as she travelled on her usual bus journey through Essex. She spoke about her experience of having her poem read out.  

“It was really lovely actually, it was read so beautifully.  

“Having it read with different voices really brought it to life so I was really pleased.”

Below, two authors from Essex, Heather Reyes and Alison Woollard, explain why they love the Essex Book Festival, and why Essex means so much to them.

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