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Incoming: the hottest Essex events lined up for summer

Right now, the idea of gathering at a festival or buzzy cultural event seems like a distant dream, but once restrictions are lifted and sunnier climes return, there’s plenty to look forward to across the county this year.

From long-awaited exhibition openings to the most exciting music and literary fests, here are the cultural highlights to pop in your diary, pronto.

Let’s Rock Essex

Let's Rock Essex

OK, so it’s not exactly the glory days of V Fest, but with a stellar line-up planned for 11 September (yes, we’re looking at you, Adam Ant, Heather Small, Toyah and Jason Donovan), Let’s Rock Essex is set to do exactly that: rock the region. Taking place at Kings Farm in Margaretting Road, Chelmsford, all your favourite acts from yesteryear will be hitting the stage to take you back – and whether you want to hit the Club Tropicana VIP package or mosh it out at the front in your flares, this is set to be the music event of the summer. Tickets cost from £30 each; kids under 12 go free.

Essex Book Festival

One of the highlights of the county’s cultural calendar since 1999, the Essex Book Festival will be returning this March, hosting more than 60 events either digitally or (restrictions permitting) in venues across the county, including theatres, libraries, schools, universities, cafes and art galleries. Join local writers, authors and poets, as well as international best-sellers (hello, Gail Honeyman of ‘Eleanor Elephant is Completely Fine’ fame) as they share their literary pearls of wisdom and new work.

Leigh Art Trail

Leigh Art Trail
Local photographer Mark Taylor’s capture, which was previously exhibited at the Leigh Art Trail. Visit

Founded in 1997 by a community of local artists, this culture fix continues to draw creatives from across county to visit Old Leigh’s studios, galleries and independent craft stores to chat with sculptors, painters and photographers. Day trippers love walking this historic fishing hub’s salted cobbles, then watching the town’s talent unfold – and, although a date for the festival is still to be announced, organisers are hopeful it will go ahead in June. We’re keeping everything crossed for this one.

Writtle Jazz Festival

Organised by Essex sax legend Zak Barrett this boutique jazz jam is rumoured to be returning to Writtle’s charming village green on Sunday 8 August – and although the line up is yet to be announced, we know it’ll be immense. In previous years, early bird tickets for inside the tent have started at £7.50; this year, tickets go on sale from 1 April, so get the date in your diary now and load up on Miles Davis while you wait.

West Mersea Regatta

West Mersea Regatta

Stormy seas may have rocked the boat(s) last year, but Mersea’s annual regatta is back with a bang this summer and set to take place on 28 August. Cue live music, rowing races, wild swimming, waterside stalls laden with fresh seafood, plus plenty of good cheer right before the main event: a traditional sail-off down the River Blackwater. Trust us, when the sun’s shining and the white wine’s a-flowing, there’s nowhere better to be. 

Colchester Food & Drink Festival

Now in its 17th year, this annual gem is set within Colchester’s beautiful Castle Park and offers up local and international bites for foodies across the region. Think independent pale ales, ciders and wine, fresh oysters from along the Essex coast, plus a plethora of exciting new plates, cheeses and Prosecco tasting bar to tempt your tastebuds. Running from 26-27 June, the event costs £5 to attend (under 14s go free) and dogs are welcome. Just make sure you arrive with an empty stomach…

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