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First ever literature festival of the sea comes to Southend

  • Date: 12 July 2011
  • Area: National, South East
old poster print of ship with Southend printed below it

Night Scene off Pierhead. Credit: National Railway Museum/SSPL

Southend-based arts organisation Metal is calling all lovers of tales of the sea to visit its new event, Shorelines; the country's first ever maritime-inspired literature festival.

Held at Chalkwell Park, in Southend, overlooking the Thames Estuary, this unique festival will happen over three days from 15 to 17 July, featuring writing talent from across the globe.

The festival is funded with support from Arts Council England and Southend Borough Council. It aims to provoke discussion, excite the adventurous spirit and help visitors to discover new and classic texts about the sea.

Working with nationally acclaimed writers, Lemn Sissay and Rachel Lichtenstein, Metal has created a festival that celebrates some of the great writing across the ages that has taken its inspiration from the world's oceans.

Audiences to the festival will be spoilt for choice with some of the most exciting contemporary writers in attendance reading their own and others' work. They include Sri Lankan-born artist and writer Roma Tearne, the Nordic prize-winning author from Iceland Sjon and the American artist Thomas Joshua Copper. There will also be an open-air production of The Tempest, a reading by Chinese poet Yang Lian, as well as appearances from cult British authors Iain Sinclair, Jay Griffiths and Robert Macfarlane.

Visitors can also watch a very special production of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and an award-winning adaptation of Hemingway's world-renowned novella The Old Man and the Sea by Magpie Blue Productions.

Helen Lax, Regional Director at Arts Council England, said: 'Shorelines is an inspiring new literature festival bringing internationally-acclaimed artists to Southend in a unique three-day tribute to the sea. Southend's position at the gateway between the Thames and the sea provides a great location to explore tales from the sea and our rich maritime history.  This is a great opportunity for people to experience some of the most exciting and thought-provoking writing of our time, and for emerging writers and companies to find new audiences for their work.'

The festival offers a wide range of family activities and workshops, all free, and many of the speaker events are also free.

Visitors to the town should keep their eyes peeled for the 100 free sea-themed books that will be left lying in and around the public spaces of Southend as part of the Bookcrossing event during the festival. And writer and journalist Tom King has recommended three local sea walks for festival-goers during their stay in Southend, so there will be something for everyone.

Metal has also launched a schools poetry competition for budding young writers, who were asked to submit an entry to be part of the festival earlier this month.

The main venues for Shorelines are Metal's Chalkwell Hall headquarters and a 'pop-up' venue - Solomon Monks Pump House - in Chalkwell Park complete with a festival bar and cafe.

Day passes to all events cost £15.  A weekend pass for access to events from Friday evening to Sunday evening cost £28. 

For more information and tickets visit Metal's website where a full programme can be downloaded.  You can also contact or telephone Metal on 01702 470700.