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Book Festival highlights importance of Essex libraries
Book club members read at the Essex Book Festival launch
Book club members read at the Essex Book Festival launch at Chelmsford library

Library services are "the hub of the community" according to the Chairman of Essex County Council.

Speaking in Chelmsford Library at the launch of the Essex Book Festival, Cllr Bonnie Hart, said libraries provided a "marvellous service."

The festival is one of the biggest events of its kind.

This year's line-up includes poet, Sir Andrew Motion, authors Penelope Lively and Margaret Drabble and former labour spin doctor, Alistair Campbell.

Speaking live on BBC Essex on World Book Day, Cllr Hart said the event was immensely important and something Essex should be proud of.

Essex has 500 reading groups, the biggest number in the country, Chelmsford Library is regularly in the top five busiest libraries in the UK and Southend Libraries lend more books per head of population than any other library service.

The Essex Book Festival has events in venues including churches, schools and libraries.

Southend Libraries are also running a festival with author and reader events during March.

Best-selling novelist, Barbara Erksine, is a patron of the Essex Book Festival

She told the Dave Monk Programme she was inspired by the Essex landscape, especially the "mists which roll up the river", and her historical novels come from her own interest in the past.

BBC Essex's Dave Monk talks to Francis Ween, Barbara Eskine and Cllr Bonnie Hart
Dave Monk talks to Francis Wheen, Barbara Erskine and Cllr Bonnie Hart

Authors appearing in Essex include the award winning children's and adult writer, Penelope Lively.

"I keep thinking that if I wasn't here as an author, I'd be here as a punter. I'm as much a reader as a writer," she said.

In a ringing endorsement of the services offered by libraries and the Essex Book Festival, Cllr Hart said: "My heart says go to the books.

"Look at them, enjoy this festival, because it's a wonderful event and Essex is so proud to put it on, it's a wonderful county and it does everything right.

"Us Essex girls are very proud of it," she added.

Local authors, reading groups, publishers and schoolchildren joined around 200 people at Chelmsford Library for the official launch of the event which continues throughout March.

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