What’s on in Essex this August?
The social calendar’s full and celebrating summer! From sunset theatre and street festivals to chilled vibes in the vines, here’s what’s on locally this month.
LIVE COMEDY: Grayson Perry, A Show For Normal People, Mercury Theatre, Colchester, 28 Aug
Despite being an award-winning artist, Bafta-toting TV presenter and best-selling author, Grayson Perry is a normal person – and just like other normal people, he’s marginally aware that we’re all going to die. Cue an enlightening and eye-watering evening with the home-grown Perry (born in Chelmsford) in which this kind of existentialism descends from worthiness to outright silliness. You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway, and hankering after a pair of pink psychedelic mittens.
FAMILY FUN: Essex Book Camp, Cressing Temple Barns, Nr Braintree, 29–30 Aug
Prize your nippers away from their screens and head on over to Cressing Temple Barns this Bank Holiday, where they’ll be celebrating the end of this year’s Essex Book Festival. With a huge range of events for all ages, from a storytelling yurt and woodland crafts to meditation walks and drop-in family yoga sessions, there’s something for everyone (yep, even that stroppy teen).
Exhibition: Blackwater Art Exhibition, The Canary Shed, Creeksea, 21 Aug to 5 Sept
Want to see some fantastic art and maybe pick up some tips while you’re there? Then pop down to the Canary Shed – part of our latest Little Black Book, Creeksea Place Barns – where they’ll be hosting the Blackwater Art Exhibition. This is a free event to attend with donations being taken, in support of Artability (a friendly provisioning centre for adults with a learning disability). There’ll be over 100 pieces of artwork being showcased, including photos, paintings and ceramic sculptures. There’ll also be arty workshops for littlies and grown-up wannabe artists – just make sure you pre book first.
FOOD & WINE: Summer Sessions, Tuffon Hall Vineyard, 27–28 Aug
DJs, jazz and wine in the vines… sounds good, doesn’t it? This gorgeous vineyard is hosting its shiny-new Summer Sessions, with two different events on consecutive days. Friday 27th sees a chilled house and soul DJ set from Fox and Braces (pictured), while the Saturday is pure jazz, baby, thanks to Jazz Inc. Can’t decide which day to go to? Then go for a two-day pass and enjoy a couple of days of music, wine (first glass free), and delicious food amongst the backdrop of a beautiful English vineyard. Don’t forget to add child tickets – no wine for them, natch, but they’ll probably (you’d hope) enjoy the free face painting more anyway.
FAMILY FUN: Knights of Middle England Joust, Hedingham Castle, 29–30 Aug
How about some good ol’ medieval fun (without the burning of witches and beheading of wives, of course)? The Castle grounds will be filled with medieval mayhem as the Knights of Middle England square up in front of the ancient Keep to see who’s got the biggest lance. With everything from falconry and jesters to musicians and archery, there really is something for everyone (yep, even that stroppy teen).
AFTERNOON TEA MJ Soul Bank Holiday Afternoon Tea, Wivenhoe House, Colchester, 30 Aug
Mmm, now what could be better than hanging out with your friends in the gorgeous surroundings of Wivenhoe House (one of our brilliant Little Black Books) whilst listening to 70s and 80s tunes from the ultra-chilled MJ Soul? How about enjoying the hotel’s decadent afternoon tea of sandwiches, freshly baked scones and beautifully presented cakes and pastries. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? See you there.
CHARITY EVENT: The Essex Coastal Challenge, Wildlife Trust Essex, until 31 Aug
Struggling with getting the kids off their screens or getting your zip up on your new cool-girl flares (guilty)? Then grab the nippers, put down that all-butter croissant and sign yourselves up for this virtual fundraising event. Celebrating Essex’s stunning 350-mile coastline and all the wildlife that call it home, you’ll receive a Challenge Pack (with a medal and everything). You then take your pick from a menu of running and cycling challenges from 5k through to 350 miles – or design your own challenge, like paddle boating, skating, space hopping (my preferred mode of transport). Little folk off the sofa, seeing the beauty that our county has to offer, getting rid of your muffin top, and all for a good cause. Result.
FAMILY FUN: Safari Trail, Brentwood, Shenfield and Ingatestone, until 3 September
The dream safari trip to Kenya may be put off for another year, but you can still wonder among the wildlife right here in Essex. No really. Well, kinda. Just sign up for this Safari Trail and you’ll find a dozen wild animals hanging around bold as brass 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 a trip to Colchester Zoo and vouchers to spend locally.
ART TRAIL: Hares about Town, Southend on Sea, until 12 Sept
You want more animal trails? Then grab your little folk and hop on over to Southend on Sea where the whole town – from the seafront through to Priory Park – will be filled with 30 giant Hare sculptures. Each of these big-eared beauties has been individually designed by local artists 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. It’s a real community effort, so go check them out!
Gosh darn it! The events below have now been and gone, but don’t fret – we’ll be adding to the What’s On… all month, so keep checking in
OUTDOORS THEATRE: Alice in Wonderland, Hedingham Castle, 4 Aug
This is the kind of thing summer evenings are made for – a magical trip down the rabbit hole into a strange world of caterpillars, cards, tea parties and cute critters getting their, er, heads chopped off. This performance – complete with toe-tapping songs and inventive staging – is held in the castle’s gorgeous grounds, so bring a blanket and a bottle of something chilled, snuggle up with your littlies, and let Alice whisk you away.
THEATRE: Robin Hood, The Museum of Power, Maldon, 5 August
One for the whole family, ’cause who doesn’t love a kind-hearted fella in green tights and a jaunty cap? Full of thigh-slapping action, memorable characters, general silliness and all the more charming for it, this British classic of good against baddies (boo, hiss) will give everyone a good dose of fun and escapism.
FESTIVAL: The Meadow Croft Food Fest Festival, Wickford 7–8 Aug
Bring a big ol’ shopping bag and get yourself over to The Meadow Croft Food and Drink Festival for some mighty fine artisan fayre and tipples, including gin and prosecco, mainly from lovely local suppliers and traders. There’ll also be live music and a chance to kick back, relax and enjoy yourself among the straw bales.
KIDS OUTSIDE CINEMA: Back to the Future, Film on the Farm, 7 Aug
After a hard day’s picking your body weight in berries at this lovely fruit farm, just a hop across the border in Graveley, Herts, surely you deserve to settle down for a sunset movie? Course you do! So treat yourself and the kiddy pickers to 80s classics, Back to the Future, on the big screen. Complete the evening with a whopping box of popcorn and a little dwinkie poo from the farm’s local food and beverage trucks, The Victoria Pub Hitchin & Bun Lovin’ Criminals.
OUTDOORS CINEMA: Dirty Dancing and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Hedingham Castle, 14 & 15 August
Depending on which one of these classics you favour, get your bezzies together for an evening of Dirty Dancing with Patrick (14th) or your other half aka ‘very naughty boy’ for Monty Phyton (15th). Either way, you’ll get to enjoy the movie under the stars, with hot food, snacks and drinks all on hand, though you can always bring your own picnic (including a bottle of something delish, of course).
LITTLIES OUTDOORS THEATRE: The Wind in the Willows, Hedingham Castle, 18 Aug
One for the nippers and grand folk alike, join Mole, Ratty, Toad and Badger on a wild adventure filled with motorcar madness, wicked weasels, exciting escapes and plenty of messing about in boats. The Pantaloons Theatre Company put their own anarchic spin Kenneth on Grahame’s classic countryside caper, resulting in frantically feral fun for the whole family.
FAYRE: Classic & Vintage Car Show, Hedingham Castle, 22 Aug
I get that we have to use clean energy and that Tesla’s are well worth their squillion-pound price tag when compared to saving the planet et al. I get it, really I do. But when I stroke the curves of a 1970s Porsche or hear the purr of a petrol-guzzling jag, I go weak at the knees. Safe to say then, you’ll usually see me drooling away at this vintage car show. But even for those who couldn’t give two toots about a Karmen Ghia’s white leather upholstery (heathen), it’s still a great day out, with artisan stalls a plenty. Just don’t arrive in a Tesla.
FOOD FESTIVAL: Smoke & Fire, Colchester Castle Park, 20–22 Aug
Love a barbi but can’t be faffed? Then head on over for the three-day Smoke & Fire Festival in Colchester Castle Park, a food event with the art of cooking over fire at its heart (did the name give it away?). Pick up hot tips with demonstrations from famous fire cooks and pit masters, and check out the latest must-have bbq kit. There’ll also be live music, loads of kiddy fun and the very first British Open BBQ Championships, which brings me on to…
Sausage Man Brings The Brats To British Open BBQ Championships
That’s right, peeps – The Sausage Man will be bringing the Bratwurst for the Sausage Round of British Open BBQ Champs. A dozen contestants will be going head-to-head, attempting to eat two 50cm-long (that’s a whole metre) Bratwursts in the quickest time possible! The fastest sausage scoffer on the day will be crowned The Sausage Man Speed Eating Champion of 2021, receiving an exclusive trophy to prove their prowess. See you there!
THEATRE: Baskerville, Mercury Theatre, Colchester, until 22 Aug
Can’t get your tweens into theatre? Here, try this – a madcap adventure for the world-famous detective. Written by Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor), this fast-paced comedy (with 40 characters and just five actors, it’s got to be speedy) sees our intrepid duo try to crack their most notorious case with the help of a tangled web of clues and essential daft accents.
BOOK FESTIVAL: Criminally Good Day, Chelmsford Theatres, Chelmsford, 22 Aug
What’s crime, intrigue and Suede’s bass player Mat Osman got in common? Well, the bassist turned author is going to be opening the pages of his intoxicating debut novel, The Ruins, as part of Essex Book Festival’s first Criminally Good Day. Osman will be joined by a team of Golden Age of Crime experts, if you fancy honing your crime-writing skills or just want Osman to sign your autograph book. (What do you mean, you don’t have one? Tut.).