LOVERS of literature are gearing up for feast of cultural events as the 2013 Essex Book Festival starts this week.

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Now in its 12th year, the festival, which runs from March 1 to March 31, will be offering Essex audiences a diverse and fascinating selection of new writers, experienced authors, experts and household names.

Sandi Toksvig, Gavin Esler, Jack Straw and Michael Rosen are some of the familiar names in the Festival line-up for 2013.

Radio 4 regular Sandi Toksvig’s new book, Valentine Grey, is the moving story of a young woman struggling against the rigid rules of Victorian society. Ms Toksvig will be appearing at the Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall, University of Essex on Thursday. March 7, while Michael Rosen is set to perform some of his favourite poems at the Cramphorn Theatre in Chelmsford on March 24.

The chairman of the Essex Book Festival, Seona Ford, said the festival will appeal to all ages and interests.

She said: “The breadth and diversity of 2013’s Essex Book Festival is amazing. With events encompassing workshops in bookbinding and short story writing, a special theatre tie-in with East 15, and great writers from a broad range of backgrounds, the Essex Book Festival has something for everyone.

“Whether you’re an avid reader, nature lover, budding writer, child or cook, 2013 looks set to be the best festival yet.”

Other highlights include a reading by Patricia Rennoldson Smith, author of The 1953 Essex Flood Disaster – The People’s Story, which is being held at the Jaywick Martello Tower on Saturday, March 16.

An event called Speed Dating for Writers is also expected to generate a lot of interest when it takes place on Thursday, March 14 at Colchester Library. The event will bring together authors, publishers, booksellers and journalists to offer advice for budding writers.

The festival kicks off on Friday, March 1 with a launch at Chelmsford Library from 9am until noon. BBC Essex’s Dave Monk will be broadcasting live from the library to celebrate the beginning of the 2013 festival while a number of authors will be on hand to talk about their works.

In addition, story teller Vayu Naidu will remind listeners of the joy of being told a story as she spins her tales and staff from Mercury Theatre will be manning a mobile box office at the library so tickets can be purchased at the launch for many of the events during the festival.

Friends of the Essex Book Festival will be on hand to show book-lovers how they can get more from the festival, while members of Essex Record Office will be demonstrating bookbinding.

The University of Essex, one of the major supporters of the festival, will also be attending the launch and answering any questions about its festival events. See the full programme at www.essex.ac.uk/news/event

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