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It’s September! So what’s on in Essex this month?

It's back to school for the kiddos, but the fun never stops for us grown-ups. Don't miss the brand-new festivals, outdoor art installations, music events, and more on in Essex this month.

ART: Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2021, Firstsite, Colchester,
25 Sept to 28 Nov

Want to be the first to see up and coming artists – and for free? The futuristic Firstsite, and Muddy Award 2021 finalist, is the first gallery to exhibit Bloomberg New Contemporaries (that’s right, even before the capital gets a look in), showcasing installations, sculptures, films, moving image and video games by 75 new and exciting artists.

EXHIBITIONS: Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered, Epping FD Museum, Epping, 25 Sept to 24 Dec

Too early to think about Christmas? As if! I’m already blowing the dust off my Cluedo set in readiness for the boardgame fiesta to come. If you’re a fellow fan of all things boardgamey, get yourself over to this free interactive exhibition, on loan from the V&A’s Museum of Childhood. Alongside family favourites such as Trivial Pursuit, and traditional games like chess, the exhibition will look at beautifully designed games from the 18th and 19th centuries. With hands-on activities and the chance to become part of one big interactive game, come and get your game face on.

GARDENS: Beth Chatto’s Plants & Gardens, Colchester, 29 Sept

With winding paths galore to explore, the 7.5 acres of Beth Chatto’s beautiful gardens make for a blissful day out, especially at this time of year, with the wildest autumnal colours doing their thing. Bought in 1960 as desolate wasteland, the land was transformed into five garden rooms with distinct planting schemes. Fun for the kids, plus inspiration for your patch at home for you. Make sure you book first.

Oops, the events below have now been and gone, but keep checking,
as we’ll be updating throughout the rest of the month

FAMILY FUN: Circus Cortex, Heybridge, Maldon 23-27 Sept

Roll up, roll up… Circus Cortex is coming to Essex with their spanking-new production GLORY. This is a circus with a difference, where traditional big top acts meet art and skills that originated on the streets. We’re not sure what to expect either, but pretty darn sure it’s going to be an exciting crowd pleaser for the whole family. And if you really love it, you can catch it again in Saffron Walden from 30 Sept.

COMEDY: Simon Amstell Spirit Hole, Mercury Theatre, 23 Sept

With his first stand-up tour since the release of internationally acclaimed feature film, Benjamin and Netflix Special Set Free, Simon Amstell brings Spirit Hole to Muddy Award winner 2021, Mercury Theatre. An exploration of love, sex, shame and, er, mushrooms, expect an evening of unprecedented joy and some right good belly laughs.

MUSIC: Ibiza Orchestra Live, Castle Park, Colchester, 25 Sept

The sunny Balearic beats are coming to Essex, courtesy of the thumpingly-awesome Ibiza Orchestra Live. Relive those wild clubbing days (or create some new ones – never too late) with dancefloor-filling iconic Ibiza anthems, from Daft Punk to Fat Boy Slim, all performed by the full live 26-piece orchestra. Glow stick at the ready – who’s with me?!

ART TRAIL: Farewell to Hares about Town, Southend-on-Sea, 24–26 Sept

Well, the hares couldn’t stay forever… but before they hop off to greener pastures, check out all 30 hares and 57 leverets altogether in a final special exhibition. As well as those long-eared sculptures, you can expect children’s rides, craft stalls, street food, a bar, and much more. All proceeds from the event will go towards Havens Hospices. Talking of which, Muddy Awards photographer, Florence Geary, will be having a stall at the exhibition, where you can treat yourself to her beautiful photography prints, with 20% of each sale going to the Hospice.

COMEDY: The Garden Gatherings, Leigh-on-Sea, 3-5 Sept

Who’s up for a brand-spanking-new, three-day festival of comedy festival? Ooh, me, me! Taking place in the Leigh Library Gardens, The Garden Gatherings will kick off with an evening of rib-tickling open-air comedy (hullo Jayde Adams, Carl Donnelly, and the like), followed by an afternoon of music curated by Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. (that’s a stage name — could you guess?) that will culminate in the live debut of GCWCF’s new project. Both these events are ticketed, but the third day is a cheeky extra freebie, available for all: a full day of live music, children’s entertainment, theatre, storytelling, craft beer, street food and more. See ya there.

FAMILY FUN: Safari Trail, Brentwood, Shenfield and Ingatestone, until 3 Sept

The dream trip to Kenya may be put off for another year, but you can still wonder among the wildlife right here in Essex (erm, sort of). On this Safari Trail and you’ll find a dozen wild animals hanging around in Brentwood, Shenfield and Ingatestone… But first, download the booklet, which includes a map of the beasties’ locations. Once your intrepid rangers have located all 12 of them, submit your entry, and you could scoop a wild prize, such as trip to Colchester Zoo and vouchers to spend locally.

WEDDING EVENT: Inspiration Open Day, Wivenhoe House, Colchester, 4 Sept

Ding dong! Is that a ring on your finger? You’ll be wanting a serious dose of wedding inspo then, so head on over to the free wedding open day at Muddy Awards Wedding Venue winner Wivenhoe House. I’ll be awaiting my save the date…

MARKETS: Pop-up and vegan markets, Crown Street, Brentwood, 4 & 5 Sept.

Anyone fancy a nosy around some independent market stalls? Thought you might: how about a visit to the exciting new markets taking place in and around charming Crown Street, which is hosting a Pop-Up Marketplace (4 Sept) and a Vegan Market (5 Sept).

PETS: Woof Fest, Parlour Café, Creeksea Place Barns, 9 Sept

Time to show Fido you love him: Parlour Café’s Woof Fest boasts pet ‘paw’-traits, a doggy talent show (waggiest tail, anyone?), stalls to sniff through, and much more family fun on top. The clincher? The event’s being held in aid of the charities Spirit of the Dog and The Dengie Lost Dog Search and Rescue Team, complete with charity raffle.

ART TRAIL: Hares about Town, Southend-on-Sea, until 12 Sept

Grab your little folks and hop on over to check out Hares about Town, which will see the whole of Southend-on-Sea – from seafront to Priory Park – filled with 30 giant hares. Each of these big-eared beauties has been individually designed by a local artist and sponsored by a business, with the money raised going towards Havens Hospices. As well as the big hares, there are over 50 leverets (baby hares to you and me), all created by local schools and groups across the borough.

MUSIC: Abba Tribute Night, Orsett Hall, Southend-on-Sea, 17 Sept

Dig out those flares, slap on some sparkle, and settle in for a sleeve-shaking good time at this unapologetically kitsch Abba Tribute Night. You know you love it really, and you’ll love it even more for the included three course meal and half bottle of Prosecco each…

WEDDING EVENT: It’s a Total Shed Show!, Creeksea Place Farm, 19 Sept

Expect gowns, canapés, makeup trials, gin sampling (ooh, go on then), decor previews, and much, much more… Frankly, it’s tempting to have a mosey on down even without a wedding in the future, if only for the cake tasting.

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