Radical Essex project defies the county’s TOWIE-tarnished cultural reputation

15 April 2016

Radical Essex: Bata Rubber Factory, East Tilbury. Photo by Catherine-Hyland. Courtesy Focal Point Gallery.

The Radical Essex project launches next week, hoping to shed light on the English county’s cultural history and shake off the less refined reputation it has gained from programmes like The Only Way is Essex.

Led by Focal Point Gallery in Southend-on-Sea, in partnership with VisitEngland and supported by £300,000 of funding from the Arts Council England , the year-long project starting 19 April will feature a programme of exhibitions and events. One of these will be Architecture Weekend, a show that explores Essex as “the cradle of modernist architecture in Great Britain,” including the UK’s first ever modernist building in Braintree.

Kicking off the project will be The Peculiar People exhibition, revealing Essex as a place where utopias were imagined. The show examines the alternative communities which have grown there since the 19th Century, for example the Tolstoy-inspired naturist colonies, and Dial House, where the anarchist punk band Crass still live.

Focal Point Gallery’s second space will house an installation by artist Christian Nyampeta , which will give a framework to an evolving “radical library” and series of performances, readings and discussions.


Focal Point Gallery: Exhibition Invitation. Courtesy Fraser Muggeridge Studio.


Radical Essex website: Identity by Fraser Muggeridge studio. Website by Fraser Muggeridge studio, Alex Rich and Twelve.


William Booth: In Darkest England and the Way Out, 1890. Courtesy The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre.

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Jenny Brewer

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