What’s on in Essex: July 2021
Oh joy, July’s here and we are so ready for it! From fresh new festivals and sizzlin’ theatre shows to outrageous comedy and al fresco cinema, here’s the lowdown on what’s going on this month…
ART, TRAILS & EXHIBITIONS
Eager for a spot of culture? (Of course you are — you’re a Muddy reader!) Well, you’ll be pleased to hear we have plenty to keep you entertained this July. To start, there’s a rather charming special exhibition running at the Munnings Art Museum, Dedham, until November: Yours with Love, AJ. If you need a quick hit of context, Alfred Munnings (whose house is now the museum) was an early 20th century painter and former President of the Royal Academy. In the 1920s, he was frequently away from home for work, and wrote many letters back to his new wife — these are now on display alongside the paintings he was working on as he wrote to her. For us nosy parkers, it’s a sweet opportunity to read the private (and romantic – sigh) correspondence between distanced man and wife.
I’m sure you must’ve Hare-d all about it, but if you’re looking for something more little ’un friendly, Hares About Town is a fun art trail for all the family that’s hopping its way across Southend on Sea from now until 12 Sept. The whole town – from the seafront through to Priory Park – will be filled with giant Hare sculptures, each one individually designed by local artists. Grab the kids and hop on over there!
Or, if you want something modern day, Firstsite Gallery in Colchester is showing the introspective Michael Landy’s Welcome to Essex until 5 Sept. This invites visitors to explore, celebrate and question the recent history of Essex and its contemporary portrayal in popular culture. We say: justice for the Essex Girl!
Then, from 3-18 July, don’t miss the Brentwood Art Trail across, er, Brentwood – a great opportunity to enjoy the artwork of talented local artists. You can go on guided tours of the different venues, drop in for create sessions, and sign up for artist workshops, all for free. Download their brochure for the full list of what’s on and where.
Over at Colchester Castle Museum, there’s a brand-new exhibition on Decoding The Roman Dead running from 24 July – 6 Jan 2022. Making the most of cutting-edge research from the University of Reading, this exhibition gives visitors a chance to uncover stories about the people who lived and died in Colchester almost 2,000 years ago, and what the Roman era was like for Essex.
FAIRS & FESTIVALS
More culture, Madam? The Essex Book Festival 2021, one of the oldest and leading festivals of its kind in East Anglia, continues until 29 August. With over 200 speakers taking part in 100 events across 40 Essex venues, there really is something for everyone. We can’t wait to hear Monique Roffey talk about her latest novel The Mermaid of the Black Conch, which was winner of the Costa Book of the Year Award 2020.
Then, on 10 July don’t miss Langham Handmade Fair in Colchester. The event celebrates creative, artisan local makers, and this year will be boasting just under 30 makers, creators, knitters and stitchers. It’s free to enter, with plenty of free parking, and comes with obligatory homemade cake stalls for a spot of guilt-free munching – you’re supporting local, after all.
Over on the Hylands Estate, Chelmsford, there’s a Farmers & Craft Market on Sun 18 July, packed with local producers harking their tempting wares. We can’t get enough of the almond croissants (see note above re supporting local) from the Brown Bread bakery stall — worth getting up early for!
At the end of the month, from 31 July – 1 August, it’s all eyes on East Anglia with the amazing new EA Festival at Hedingham Castle, Halstead. A brand-new culture fest, this highbrow weekender will bring together world-class leaders in performing arts, literature, poetry, moving images, and the visual arts. Many of the performers and speakers hail from Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, so it’s right up Muddy’s street. Don’t miss national treasure, Susie Dent (of Countdown‘s Dictionary Corner) or John Lloyd, creator of Blackadder, Spitting Image and QI. See the full line-up here.
CINEMA & PERFORMANCES, INDOORS AND OUT
Now for something really good to watch. Theatre fans will want to catch the recording of The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s heart-stoppingly beautiful Romeo and Juliet, starring Lily James and Richard Madden, on show at Firstsite Gallery, 7 July, £10. Pack those hankies…
If June took the rain with it, now’s the perfect time for al fresco cinema on a charming rural fruit farm, just a hop across the border in Graveley, Herts. Film on the Farm will be playing movie classics, like the The Greatest Showman (10 July) on their big screen. Forgot your popcorn? Quench your thirst and tingle your taste buds from the farm’s local food and beverage trucks, The Victoria Pub Hitchin & Bun Lovin’ Criminals, topped off with a spot of late-night strawberry picking for pudding. Kids incapable of sitting still for 90 mins? Get them busy on the new crazy golf course and tractor trailer rides, leaving you and your other half to enjoy a summer’s night at the movies in peace. Bliss.
Over at Hedingham Castle, Halstead, there’s an outdoor theatre performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, performed by The Pantaloons, on 13 July. Expect music and mayhem, poetry and puppetry in the Bard’s brilliant tale of shipwrecks, sorcerers and rather silly servants. The only food available is popcorn and candy (fine by this Muddy girl), but you’re welcome to bring your own picnic and a bottle (or three).
For something a little lighter, head for Comedy @ The Cornmill, Waltham Abbey, on 31 July. Improvised comedy five-some NOISE NEXT DOOR, as seen on Britain’s Got Talent, will be delivering a family-friendly performance in the afternoon and an evening show for adults.
Then, on 31 July and 1 August, Jimmy Carr will be performing his set Terribly Funny at Cliffs Pavilion, Southend-on-Sea. Belly laughs guaranteed.
FOOD & DRINK
Hungry? Enjoy a gorgeous evening of Italian food and music at the Audley End Miniature Railway Alfresco Dining Experience, 2-3 July, £56 per person. Locally produced sparkling wine, a scenic train ride, a three-course meal of pasta handmade by a Roman chef… yes puh-lease.
Or, go for something a little bit different with a full-blown Moulin Rouge Brunch at Coco, Southend-on-Sea, 10 July. Expect glitz, glamour and (bien sûr!) a lot of risqué live action, all over platters of food. Not feeling frisky? How about some outrageous Scandi pop instead: there’s a Mamma Mia Brunch on 17 July.
KIDS & FAMILY
Kids will love the Summer Festival at Audley End Miniature Railway, 17 July to 5 September, a veritable explosion of family fun and activities. Fairies, elves, live shows, a games corner… it’s all happening! Be sure to grab some delicious Dragon and Unicorn Ice Cream from their ice-cream hut, to really crown the day well-spent.
Then, from 19 July – 5 September Barleylands in Billericay is holding its adorable Barleylands Farm-lympics. The animals are limbering up now for the big event, so get ready for cuteness overload once the games begin.
Finally, from 26 July – 3 September, it’s time for “Glastonbury for Kids”, better known as the unmissable Kidsfest at Lee Valley Animal Adventure Park, Waltham Abbey. Live music, glitter stations, dinosaurs, bouncy castles — even a foam party! Grab those tickets now, or disappoint the little ones forever…