AS EVER, there's a strong line-up of comedy nights coming up around the county in the coming weeks and months. Whether it be touring acts or club nights, expect to see a wealth of stand-up talent in Essex soon -here's just a quick taster of what's coming up.
Having left his TV Burp behind, Harry Hill is back touring for the first time in many years with new show Sausage Time coming to the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, on February 21. Expect good natured lunacy of the very highest order with special appearances from Stouffer the Cat and a debut solo stand-up show from Harry's son, Gary. Oh, and look out for a giant sausage, off course.
Jack Dee is back on the circuit again too and after the resounding success of his shows last autumn, he's coming back to the Cliffs Pavilion on March 10.
One of the country's top comedians, Jack will be back on stage agonizing over the slightest of annoyances and misdemeanors in his customary grumpy style.
There's plenty of other comedy talent on the road in the first few months of the year, including Marcus Brigstocke coming to Chelmsford's Civic Theatre on March 9, Rich Hall coming to the Palace Theatre, Southend on March 6 and to the Civic Theatre, Chelmsford on May 20, and Essex man Russell Kane returning to his roots with shows at the Colchester Arts Centre on February 1 and 2, the Palace Theatre, Southend on March 9 and Chelmsford's Civic Theatre on April 19.
Global comedy star Jimeoin calls into the Palace Theatre, Southend, on February 7 and to Colchester Arts Centre on February 20 while Fast Show star Simon Day brings his Comedy and Error show to Colchester Arts Centre on February 27.
Other comedy highlights include Sean Lock's latest show at Colchester Arts Centre on March 17, a venue which will also see visits from John Shuttleworth on March 19, Lee Hurst on April 13, and a four night run of comedy at the end of April which includes Tony Law on April 23, Richard Herring on April 24, Mitch Benn on April 25 and local lad Terry Alderton on April 26.
A mix of old and new is in store on the music front in Essex in the first half of the year, with a range of interesting acts visiting the county – as well as the usual gigs by bands who call the county their home.
Rising star Jake Bugg is making waves with his "acoustic with attitude" songs about his working class upbringing in Nottingham. With plenty of radio airplay and support slots with Stone Roses and Noel Gallagher, his material treads a path somewhere between Oasis and Arctic Monkeys. He comes to the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, on March 26 – a great chance to catch him on the up and up.
Flamboyant folk troubadour King Charles made it big last year with chart success and he's heading to Colchester Arts Centre on April 2. Expect one hell of a show but book up soon as this date is likely to sell out.
Paloma Faith is one of the most interesting and talented pop stars to have emerged in recent years and the colourful singer comes to the Cliffs Pavilion on February 8, as part of her Fall To Grace tour.
No-one does anthemic rock better than Simple Minds and the band that become worldwide stars with hits like Don't You (Forget About Me), Waterfront and Promised You A Miracle, are taking a break from playing huge arenas for a tour of more intimate venues, including Southend's Cliffs Pavilion on April 17, as part of their Celebrate Greatest Hits tour.
One of Essex's finest bands, Dr Feelgood, hit the road again this spring and you can catch the band that influenced the punk movement at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, on March 29, Chelmsford's Civic Theatre on May 2 and then at a special Lee Brilleaux memorial gig on Canvey Island on May 20.
Essex ska fans are in for a treat in 2013 with classic acts coming to the county in the coming months.
The Specials' original rudeboy Neville Staple comes to hooga, Chelmsford on February 16 while former Two Tone labelmates The Beat, come to the Colchester Arts Centre on May 18 recalling the glory days of their hits like Mirror In The Bathroom and Too Nice To Talk To.
Another great Two Tone band, The Selecter are touring too, and they come to Colchester Arts on March 28, fronted by Pauline Black, one of the iconic figures of the British ska movement.
Romford girl Pauline Black will also be returning to her home county for the Essex Book Festival which, as ever, has a great array of visiting authors and events.
Pauline will be talking about her autobiography, Black By Design: A 2-Tone Memoir, at Grays Library on March 6 at 7.30pm.
The festival is packed with great events, with big names like Gavin Esler, Sandi Toksvig, Michael Rosen and Jack Straw visiting various venues in Essex alongside workshops and events aimed at getting people involved in books, reading and writing.
Before that, there's a brand new film festival for Essex. Horror-On-Sea comes from the people behind the Southend Film Festival and is a long weekend packed with horror shorts, features and workshops held at the iconic Park Inn Palace overlooking Southend sea front from January 18-20.
For ale lovers, there'll be plenty of dark brews on offer at the winter beer festivals taking place in the coming weeks.
CAMRA's Colchester Winter Beer Festival is at its traditional home of the arts centre from January 23-26 and will feature an impressive range of ales, ciders and perries and is open from noon to 11pm each day.
The Chelmsford Winter Beer Festival has a new venue for 2013 as it moves to King Edward VI Grammar School (KEGS) for its four day event from February 20-23. There's the promise of 200 real ales plus more than 50 ciders and perries as well as a wide selection of beers from around the world to help you stave off the cold.
Finally, Chappel Winter Beer Festival takes place from March 1-2 with 60 or more ales available as well as ciders and perries to tickle your taste buds. Daytime sessions are open but the evening sessions must be pre-booked at www.chapelbeerfestival.org.uk/ winter
Chelmsford Civic Theatres
Tel: 01245 606505;
Colchester Arts Centre
Tel: 01206 500900
Cliffs Pavilion and Palace Theatre, Southend
Tel: 01702 351135
Essex Book Festival
Tel: 01206 573948
Colchester Winter Beer Festival
Chelmsford Winter Beer Festival