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Walking and Arts Festival to celebrate South West Essex area

16 Apr Walking and Arts Festival to celebrate South West Essex area

Tales of the Fanns Walking & Arts Festival
Saturday 22 May – Sunday 6th June

What stories lie waiting to be discovered in the landscape around us? Where are the special places that evoke memories and recall past histories? Who are the characters that have enlivened and shaped the land?

The Land of the Fanns Landscape Partnership Scheme offers answers to some of these questions with its Tales of the Fanns Walking & Arts Festival taking place in May and June.

The 185 square kilometres of the Land of the Fanns spans towns and countryside in south west Essex and east London’s urban fringes. Over two weeks between 22 May and 6th June, a series of free walks and activities will occur across the area to reveal unexpected and delightful treasures waiting to be discovered in the Land of the Fanns.

Walk routes will cover areas such as West Thurrock taking in the famous Graffiti Wall, Davy Down to Bulphan, and Little Belhus Country Park. There will be activities online to accompany the walks and if restrictions permit, there will be live activities for visitors to participate in at a number of sites. Venues for walks and activities include Thames Chase Forest Centre, Pages Wood, RSPB Rainham Marshes, Thorndon Country Park, Bedfords Park and Eastbrookend Country Park. The festival takes place over the Spring Bank Holiday and half term so is perfect for getting out to explore after a long winter spent largely indoors.

The walks will be led by experienced walkers who can share local knowledge and will be of differing lengths, difficulties and at different starting times to make them accessible to all. All walks will need to be booked via Eventbrite to ensure numbers are maintained at the level set by any restrictions in place at the time of the walks.

The Tales of the Fanns festival is the culmination of a community mapping project which began in 2019 with arts organisation Kinetika. The project aimed to record 100 stories from communities across the Land of the Fanns: 100 insights into the things that make a place meaningful to local people, that elevate a place from mundane to significant to a community, that create a connection to where people live.

Kinetika, working with local people during lockdown, created 100 silk flags to illustrate the 100 stories and these will play a key role in the Tales festival. Artist Jackie Creasey, and students from University Centre South Essex Stephanie Reeves, Marissa Hayward, Ami Nelson and Jacqueline Lewis-Conteh, have created costumes to bring to life some of the characters and wildlife found in the landscape. Fascinating short films about special areas in the Land of the Fanns have been produced by Rosa Productions and the local communities. These films are available on the Scheme’s YouTube channel giving a glimpse into some of the places to be discovered in the area: find out more about the ambitious plans at Little Belhus where a former landfill site is now being transformed into a thriving natural space or learn the story of William Langdon Woodward, whose statue once stood in Basildon’s town centre and will soon move to Langdon Hills.

All these elements will come together in the Tales of the Fanns festival to offer a new perspective on the area, demonstrate why the Landscape Partnership Scheme was originally initiated and to celebrate the uniqueness of the Land of the Fanns.
The Land of the Fanns lead partner is Thames Chase Trust. Mary Wright, Interim co-chair of the Trust said: “For those of us who live in this diverse, unique landscape of east London and south Essex, this opportunity to celebrate the many stories that have come from history and everyday lives of local people and communities, shows the rich heritage of the Land of the Fanns and Community Forest landscape that surrounds us. The festival with its individually designed flags will celebrate the pride and attachment of local people to an area that has, for many years, been overshadowed and undervalued.”
The Land of the Fanns is the unique £2.4 million Landscape Partnership Scheme, awarded £1.36 million by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The five-year Scheme brings together nine partner organisations with a commitment to work towards a shared goal of enabling local people to discover, restore and enjoy what’s special about the local landscape.
The other partners are: Forestry England, Thames Estuary Partnership, Thames21, Thurrock Council, Brentwood Borough Council, Essex County Council, London Boroughs of Havering. and Barking & Dagenham.
To find out more about the Tales of the Fanns festival, please go to