POP-UP Essex Writers House 2018

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POP-UP Essex Writers House

1 – 29 March 2018

As part of an exciting new partnership with Essex Book Festival, Metal is transforming Chalkwell Hall into a pop-up Essex Writers House for the whole month of March 2018 to host a wide range of literary events and activities. Our aim is to provide development opportunities for writers working in all genres, whilst engaging with audiences of all ages.

The month will include talks and practical seminars by invited authors, poets, non-fiction writers, playwrights and screen writers. There will be ‘open mic’ opportunities for new writers to read and perform short works. Six guest writers-in-residence will stay across the month to develop new work and there will be a number of ‘hot desks’ with stunning Estuary views that can be booked by writers to work at (first come, first served – 2 days max).

The ground floor of the Grade II listed Hall will become a Writers Café, where people can eat, read, swap books, have a coffee and write in the inspiring grounds of Chalkwell Park. In the evenings the café will become a bar and play host to our programme of readings, events, Book Club gatherings – and even a literary pub quiz.

As part of the month, Metal will be hosting a week long, residential Culture LAB for Essex-based writers, working in any genre (fiction / non-fiction / poetry / playwright / screenwriter / graphic novels etc) which will take place from Monday 19 – Friday 23 March 2018. The LAB is designed to provide a peer-to-peer environment for intensive development of participants writing practice. This amazing opportunity includes talks and workshops with acclaimed international writers, Paavo Matsin (Estonia) and Agnieszka Studinska (Poland); one-to-one advice and tutorials; support from the Metal creative team; time and space to write and develop specific aspects of a current project – or create a new piece of writing; discussion and exchange of ideas and practice; the opportunity to meet the Essex Book Festival team and create links for the future; as well as a public reading.

Criteria and details of How To Apply for the Culture LAB  –  The deadline for submissions is Friday 16 February 2018. 






Having hosted artists of all disciplines in residence at Chalkwell Hall for the last ten years, we know our bedrooms with stunning Thames Estuary views are an inspiring and productive place to stay and create work.  During March, the Essex Writers House will play host to six writers from various parts of the UK and overseas.

  1. Paavo Matsin – award winning Estonian author Paavo Matsin, Winner of European Union Prize for Literature 2016 for Gogol’s Disco.
  2. Agnieszka Studzinska – Polish Poet whose debut collection Snow Calling was shortlisted for London Festival New Poetry Award 2010.
  3. Benedict Newbery – poet and journalist,  widely published in literary journals including Ambit, Magma, Acumen, Other PoetryProle, Borderlines, South Bank Poetry –  and The Morning Star.
  4. Veronique Chance – works within a multi-disciplinary art practice that is mainly photography and video-based but also has strong links to performance.
  5. Mark Grist – award-winning poet, teacher and battle rapper based in the UK. His first collection of poetry, ‘Rogue Teacher’ is out with Burning Eye Books and is currently recording a new Radio series about hip-hop called ‘Mark Can’t Rap’.
  6. Keely Mills – poet, writer, producer and placemaker.  She was  Peterborough Poet Laureate in 2009 and has performed at multiple venues across the UK including Edinburgh Festival, the Houses of Parliament, Grow Heathrow and here in Southend at Village Green.
  7. Clare Currie – Poet Laureate for the city of Peterborough, Clare is a regular contributor to the spoken word/poetry scene as well as working with schools and in adult education.  She also works in theatre with Eastern Angles and Jumped Up Theatre, in collaboration with Battersea Arts.


Hot Desks

Thurs 1 – Thurs 29 March (not Sun 18 March)

Two ‘Hot Desks for Hire’ with spectacular views of the Thames Estuary are available to writers, FREE OF CHARGE, to book by the day (9am – 9pm) for the duration of the Pop Up Essex Writers House. Named after two great Essex writers George Warwick Deeping (b. 1877 – d.1950) and Margaret Cavendish (b.1623 – d.1673) and with inspiring Thames Estuary Views, access to a kitchen, and a lively café space downstairs for breaks, what more is needed for a space away from domestic distractions.  Bookings are limited to two days, per person.

To Book our Deeping Desk

To Book our Cavendish Desk

Please note – we are restricting bookings to a maximum of two days per writer, to ensure that the opportunity is afforded to as many writers as possible.



Writers Café

Thurs 1 – Thurs 29 March (closed Sun 18 March)

11am – 4pm (daily)

From Voltaire to Hemingway and Sue Townsend to JK Rowling writers have a long tradition of people watching, writing and observing life from cafés and bars. Come and enjoy a cuppa in our Pop Up Writers Cafe with Book Swap / Book Shop / Open Mic readings / and events throughout the month. If you are a writer (first time or already published) and would like an opportunity to read at our daily 1pm Open Mic: 10 Minute Read, please get in touch at chalkwell@metalculture.com

Ragadawn by Caroline Bergvall, with singer Peyee Chen in a unique composition by Gavin Bryars and a site-specific sound design by Sam Grant.


Open Mic: Daily 10 Minute Read

1pm – every day from our Writers Café

Calling all budding, emerging and established writers…….

Every day that our Writers Café is open – at 1pm we’ll be handing over the stage and a mic to writers and spoken word performers who would like the opportunity to share new work. Wherever you are in your writing journey – at the very beginning or with 10 bestsellers to your name, we’d love to hear from you. Contact chalkwell@metalculture.com to book your slot – or turn up and chalk up your name against a date.


Thursday 1 March


What Writers Want

A Long Table discussion for writers at all stages of their career (from aspiring to published many times). Guest speakers include Dean Atta, poet and Artistic Director, New Writing South; Chris Gribble, Chief Executive, Writers Centre Norwich and Syd Moore, author and Essex Book Festival Writer in Residence 2018.

Tickets:           FREE but booking essential as places limited

Box Office:    Book Tickets here


Friday 2 March



Old Trunk Theatre present their popular and often raucous regular night celebrating new writing by Essex writers. Expect up to ten new pieces written to the evenings set theme of Feminist as F***

A new date will be announced soon.

Tickets:           £5 (all proceeds go to Old Trunk)

Box Office:    Book Tickets here


Wed 7 March

3pm – 4pm

Southend in Fifty Buildings

Author, journalist and historian, Ian Yearsley takes us on a whistlestop architectural tour of the Borough via his book Southend in Fifty Buildings. Just one of 17 published works on local history, fiction and poetry, all Ian’s books are about, or inspired by, the county of Essex.

Tickets:            FREE but booking essential

Box Office:      Book Tickets here


Thurs 8 March


Future Park – International Women’s Day Special

Metal’s regular social for artists working in all disciplines goes fully female for an evening celebration of creativity and expression. 10 x 3 min open mic spots, followed by our guest speaker, the brilliant Helen Linehan, co-writer of hilarious BBC Two hit comedy series, Motherland.

Tickets:           FREE but booking essential

Box Office:    Book Tickets here


Fri 9 March

1.30pm – 3.30pm

How to Get Published

Join Kathryn Taussig of Bookouture, specialist in digital publishing and Therese Coen from Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency for two hours of invaluable insight into how to get closer to that coveted publishing deal.

Tickets:            FREE but booking essential (places limited)

Box Office:      Book Tickets here


Sat 10 / Sun 11 March

Open Weekend: Give Mothers a Break Special

In partnership with Pop Up Projects, the Essex Writers House brings you a weekend celebrating literature for children and young people, including:-

  • Readings and workshops with celebrated children’s authors and illustrators
  • Slam poetry workshop and performance for ages 13 – 17 years
  • NetPark – guided digital story walk through Chalkwell Park
  • 1pm daily Open Mic Readings
  • Prosecco Cream Tea (Sunday only)

Sat 10 March


Travel Through Time – with Alex Milway

Travel through time with Pigsticks and Harold! Experience the wonder of Dinopigs and Viking Hamsters with brilliant author and illustrator, Alex Milway, as he draws and reads from his latest books.

FREE – no need to book

Sat 10 March


A Paperdragon Tale – with Margaret Bateston-Hill

Come and hear from Margaret Bateson-Hill as she shares her Paperdragon Tale: Lao Lao of Dragon Mountain, a story inspired by scissors. Make papercuts of your own and Watch out for the dragon!  Margaret Bateson-Hill is a ​prize-winning author, teller of tales, cutter of paper and singer of songs.

FREE – no need to book

Papercut Dragon

Sat 10 March

2pm – 9pm

Slam Poetry and Performance Masterclass

Join recently published (by Otter-Barry Books) Pop Up Projects Rising Stars, Abi Cook and Ruth Awolola as they write, perform and challenge misconceptions about poetry. Learn some helpful writing techniques, produce some amazing poetry and then perform it that very evening to a live audience. This masterclass is about developing your own unique style, both in your writing and performance. Aimed at young writers with a guide age of 13 – 17 years, the format of the afternoon will be as follows:-

  • 2pm – 4pm:                Part 1: writing
  • 4.15pm – 5pm:            Part 2: performance
  • 5pm- 6pm:                 Shared dinner (included in fee)
  • 6pm:                            Doors for performance
  • 6.30pm – 8.30pm:       Performance – with breaks
  • 9pm:                            Finish

Ruth Awolola is a student, youth worker and poet currently based in York. Born in 1998, she has been writing since 2015 and in that year she was a winner of SLAMbassadors. Watch Ruth in action on The Poetry Society’s YouTube channel. @r_awolola

Abigail Cook is a performance poet from London. Born in 1997, she is a 2015 SLAMbassadors winner and has performed at the Southbank Centre. She is the recipient of a scholarship at Guildhall School of Music and Drama where she studies Performance and Creative Enterprise with a speciality in Spoken Word. Listen to Abigail on Soundcloud. @AbigailThePoet

Tickets:           £6 (including dinner for all participants) – limited places

Box Office:      Book Tickets here



Sat 10 March

1pm till 2pm & 2.30pm till 3.30pm

CAKE WORK – a guided digital story

A guided digital adventure story and walk through Chalkwell Park to discover the escapades of Madam Pinkie Pie and her Cupcake Empire. Have you ever been for a walk in a park and wondered if everything is quite what it seems? Come along and find out why Madam Pinkie Pie ended up in the peacock’s cage, learn the secrets of the Cupcake Compendium of Milton Hourglass and search the park for the cupcake thieves!

The story, Cake Work is one of 5 GPS-activated story apps that are part of NetPark. Cake Work was created by writer Jeremy Hardingham, illustrator Zoe Barker and artist Elsa James, working with the year 6 students of Milton Hall School.

Each chapter is located in a different part of Chalkwell Park and written in response to the actual park landscape, encouraging imagination and exploration of a familiar park in a completely new way.

Suitable for ages 8-15yrs. Children under 8 can attend but must be accompanied by an adult.

iPads and headphones are available to hire free of charge (ID required).

Tickets:            FREE but booking essential (limited places

Box Office:      Book Tickets here

Note: Please arrive 10 minutes before the start of the session.




Little Busy Book Club

Every Tuesday (Tues 6 / Tues 13 / Tues 20 / Tues 27 March)

1.30pm – 2.30pm

Little Busy Book Club

Like any other book club, except it’s for children aged 3 And 4 years old (and their grown- ups). Join Jacqson Diego Story Emporium to read and share books and explore the stories and characters in fun ways. There will be a new book to explore each week and lots of games and activities to play and do.

Tickets:            FREE but booking essential

Box Office:      Book Tickets here

Note: Each week the books we explore will be on sale at a subsidised price of £5 for anyone who would like continue exploring at home.



Wed 14 March (or Sun 25 March)

11am – 2.30pm (with ½ hour lunch break)

Historical Fiction Workshop

Ever dreamed of writing a story set in the past?  Got a family tale that you’d love to tell?  Fascinated by the World Wars, the Vikings and Tudors or the bits in between?  Sam Lierens (aka Lizzie Page), author of ‘The War Nurses’ trilogy, (Bookouture, 2018) will take you through the practicalities of getting started, the pleasures – and the pitfalls – and routes to publication. Bring pen and paper, no experience necessary.

N.B. There are two opportunities to take part in this unique opportunity to benefit up close from the experience of a successful, published author – Wed 14 March – or if weekdays are difficult, Sun 25 March.

Tickets:           £10 (limited places)

Box Office:     Book Tickets here


Thurs 15 March

7.30pm (reading starts at 8pm)

The Big Book Club Get Together

Did you know – Essex has more Book Clubs than any other county in the UK? Come to our mass gathering of Essex book lovers. Meet other Book Clubs, find out how to start your own, recruit new members. The evening will be mostly social, but we’ll be suggesting the short, classic text The Machine Stops by E M Forster, to read before you come (if you haven’t read it already). Written in 1909 this remarkable predicts social media and the internet almost 90 years before they become a reality and seems more relevant than ever to current debates about Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. No need to worry if you haven’t got time to read it – come along anyway – we’ll be performing a short extract that evening……

Tickets:            FREE but booking essential

Box Office:     Book Tickets here


Fri 16 March

7.30pm (doors)

I Am Looking For Words  

Sundown Arts presents a night celebrating spoken word and performance poetry from all over the UK scene today, with local Southenders alongside established UK spoken word artists.
Spoken word from Matt Abbott, Molly Naylor, Rachel Pantechnicon and Simon Blackman. Spoken word-themed DJ sets from Michael Webster of Asylums/BAIT and Ship Full of Bombs DJs Junkshop Jukebox and Library of Aethers.

Hosted by Jo Overfield and Ray Morgan

Tickets:                £5 (in advance);  £6 on the door (all proceeds go to Sundown Arts)

Box Office:         Book Tickets here



Sat 17 March 

10am – 5pm (lunch included in ticket price)

Situated Practice: a one day creative writing course relating to place

Writing to evoke an unmistakable sense of place, paying attention to people, atmosphere, soundscape and landscape. With the celebrated author Lee Rourke (short-story collection Everyday, the novel The Canal (winner of the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2010) and the poetry collection Varroa Destructor. His latest novel Vulgar Things is published in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and the US by 4th Estate, Harper Collins. His debut novel The Canal is being adapted to film by Storyhouse Productions, summer 2018).

Tickets:             £25   (limited places)

Box Office:      Book Tickets here



Sat 17 March 


Exotic England: The Making of a Curious Nation

Yasmin Alibhai- Brown

England may be a small country on a small island, but its inhabitants have always had a boundless curiosity about the world beyond their shoreline, eagerly roaming the globe enticed by the diversity and richness of other civilizations. Join Yasmin as she traces this golden thread of otherness through five centuries of English history to reveal how it has shaped the buildings, flavoured the food, powered the economy, and created a truly diverse society.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a leading commentator on race, multiculturalism and human rights, writing for the i newspaper, International Business Times and the New European. She appears regularly on TV and radio and has won many journalism awards, including the Orwell Prize in 2002, EMMA in 2014 and Columnist of the year, 2016.

Tickets:           £6.50

Box Office:     Book Tickets here

“[Exotic England] reads like Alibhai-Brown’s love letter to a partner of more than 40 years, whose faults she knows intimately, yet whom she adores nonetheless… [She] brings a terrific sense of purpose to the book… You can almost hear her talking you through her discoveries” – Maya Jasanoff, Guardian Review


Wed 21 March


Essex Writing: Is there such a thing?

Tim Burrows

Essex is a place where writers seem to come from elsewhere for inspiration, or if native, leave and even disown as “dull suburbanity”. But then again, Wilko Johnson’s lyrics and Sarah Perry’s prose perhaps do articulate a strangeness, confusion, aggression and romanticism that is particular to Essex. Join writer and journalist, Tim Burrows as he ponders the question and reads from some of the great classic and contemporary ‘Essex’ literature.

Tim Burrows writes for The Guardian, Vice, the Quietus and Somesuch Stories. A recurring subject in his work is Essex. His short story Broadgate, set between the county’s marshland and the City of London, is included in the anthology An Unreliable Guide to London, published by Influx Press.

Tickets:            £5

Box Office:     Book Tickets here


Thurs 22 March


Essex Writers

Hear from ten writers based in Essex who have spent the week at our Pop Up Writers House for an intensive week-long LAB looking at the evocation of place in writing – with a reading from each.

Tickets:           FREE – but booking essential

Box Office:    Book Tickets here



Friday 23 March

3pm – 4.30pm

Being a Writer – Travis Elborough and Helen Gordon

The anthology Being A Writer is an inspiring assemblage of wit, wisdom and hard-won practical advice from some of the world’s greatest authors musing on the art of writing and how they came to define themselves as writers.  Join its editors, the authors Helen Gordon and Travis Elborough, as they present an entertaining survey of the pleasures and pitfalls of the writing life from the time of Samuel Johnson and Grub Street to the age of silicon roundabout and Lorrie Moore.

Tickets:           FREE – but booking essential

Box Office:    Book Tickets here


syd and cathi 1

Friday 23 March


Spooked! – Spiritualists, Spies and Scandals

Syd Moore and Cathi Unsworth

Discuss the occult and secret service networks in operation during World War II, the mysteries that surrounded these clandestine operations and the links between clairvoyants, magicians, witchcraft and spies.

Tickets:             £7 / £5 (27yrs and under)

Box Office:      Mercury Theatre (01206 573948 / essexbookfestival.org.uk)


Wed 28 March

11am – 2.30pm (with ½ hour lunch break)

Writing the Short Film 

The short film is often overlooked as a story telling medium, but it can be a great calling card for the new writer or those coming from other writing disciplines. This half day course run by Maria Solecki is designed to equip those new to writing short films. You’ll leave with an understanding of: the role of the short film; the role of the screenwriter; what makes a great short; and mistakes to avoid. We’ll explore why less is most definitely more- and why short form story telling can be just as powerful as other forms.

Maria Solecki holds an MA in Screenwriting (Fiction) from the Northern Film School. Her short film Moja Kochanna Anna (My Love Anna) screened at several festivals and won Audience Award at Hyde Park Picture house in 2010. Since then she has run www.thescriptpod.com

Tickets:           £10  (limited places)

Box Office:      Book Tickets here


daryl easlea

Wed 28 March 


Gabriel: The Second Coming

To celebrate the new updated paperback version of Without Frontiers: The Life and Music of Peter Gabriel, its author Daryl Easlea is in conversation with the legendary Richard MacPhail, author of My Book of Genesis. Gabriel songs will then be played acoustically by Angel Melodyhorn followed by dancing until 11pm with records of a prog-psych-beaty nature played by Middle (P)Age Spread

Tickets:           £3 advance / £4 door

Box Office:      Book Tickets here



Toma Pub Quiz

Thurs 29 March

7pm – late

TOMA Pub Quiz: The Painted Dada Word

The worlds of literature and contemporary art collide in our final Essex Writers House event as artists from the Metal alternative art MA programme, TOMA, host a Dada themed pub quiz evening featuring live art and music performances, ‘curated’ snacks and a silent auction of artworks alongside quiz questions on literature, music, art and everything in between.  Get your team together and sign up for a fun night. DJs until close.

Tickets:            £6 (per person) for quiz entry + FREE Dada themed cocktail (all proceeds go to fund TOMA exhibitions)

Box Office:     Book Tickets here


Estuary Tilbury-8011 photog Jon Webber

Book Shop

Thurs 1 – Thurs 29 March (closed Sunday 18 March)

11am – 4pm (daily)

New and second hand literary classics of all genres available to browse and buy with The Book Shop Experience who will be in residence at our Writers House Café all month. We will also be hosting an Essex Book Festival Reference Library that will have all the books featured as part of festival programme in one place.


Book Swap

Thurs 1 – Thurs 29 March (closed Sunday 18 March)

11am – 4pm (daily)

Fancy renewing your reading pile – while giving a new lease of life to the books you’ve already read that have been sitting on your shelves gathering dust. Visit our Book Swap to exchange your old titles for ‘new to you’ books that others have enjoyed and want to share.


What Writers Want – Questionnaire

Following our opening event on Thursday 1 March – all month we’ll be collecting ideas and feedback from writers about what how they could be better supported in Essex – and if a permanent Essex Writers House could work? We’d love to hear from you. Complete the questionnaire online here – or visit our Writers Café to fill in a paper form.


More details on events and activities to follow soon.  In the meantime, if you are a writer with an idea – or a desire to share your work on a public platform – please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you – chalkwell@metalculture.com







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