AS part of a new partnership with Essex Book Festival, Metal is transforming Chalkwell Hall into a pop-up Essex Writers House for the whole month of March.

The Southend branch of the national arts charity is to host a wide range of literary events and activities.

Metal says its 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.

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 wide and varied monthly programme

These are the events confirmed for the Writers House so far. Keep your eye on for updates:

Daily 10 Minute Read

1pm – every day from the Writers Café

Calling all budding, emerging and established writers…….

Every day that the Writers Café is open – at 1pm the Metal team will 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, they would love to hear from you.

Contact 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 Chris Gribble, Chief Executive, Writers Centre Norwich, Syd Moore, author and Essex Book Festival Writer in Residence 2018, among others still to be confirmed.

Tickets: FREE but booking essential as places limited

Friday 2 March


Damn Write

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***

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

Every Tuesday through March

1.30pm – 2.30pm

Little Busy Book Club

Like any other book club, except it’s for children aged three and four 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

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

Wednesday 7 March

3pm – 4pm

Southend in Fifty Buildings

Author, journalist and historian, Ian Yearsley takes you 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

Thursday 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. There will be 10 three minute open mic spots, followed by a guest speaker, Helen Linehan, co-writer of hilarious BBC Two hit comedy series, Motherland.

Tickets: FREE but booking essential

Friday 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)

Saturday 10 / Sunday 11 March

11am – 4pm

Open Weekend: Mothers Day

A weekend celebrating families and mothers throughout literature, with loads to engage and captivate all ages. Plus you can try out the NetPark digital stories, created with young people. More details are to follow.

Tickets: FREE – no need to book, just drop by.

Wednesday 14 March (or Sunday 25 March)

11am – 2.30pm (with half 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)

Thursday 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 Metal's 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 Metal will be suggesting the short, classic text The Machine Stops by E M Forster, to read before you arrive (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 – go along anyway - we’ll be performing a short extract that evening.

Tickets: FREE but booking essential

Friday 16 March

7.30pm (doors)

I Am Looking For Words

Sundown Arts presents a night celebrating performance poetry from all over the UK scene today, featuring local Southenders alongside established UK spoken word artists. Featuring Matt Abbott and more poets TBC. Hosted by Jo Overfield & Ray Morgan. @sundownarts -

Tickets: £5 (in advance); £6 on the door

Saturday 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)

Saturday 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

Thursday 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

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.

FREE – but booking essential

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)

Mercury Theatre (01206 573948 /

Thursday 29 March

7pm - late

TOMA Pub Quiz: The Painted Dada Word

The worlds of literature and contemporary art collide in this 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)

Writers Café

Thurs 1 – Thurs 29 March (closed Sunday 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 Coffee Bar with Book Swap / Book Shop / and pop up 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 10 Minute Read, please get in touch at

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 the Writers House Café all month. Metal 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

Thursday 1 – Thursday 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 the 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 the opening event on Thursday 1 March, all month Metal will 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. Metal would love to hear from you. Complete the questionnaire online at or visit the Writers Café to fill in a paper form.

Find out more at

For full details of this year’s Essex Book Festival got to