An often maligned county, Essex’s recent history has been the subject of stereotypes, neatly surmised by Spitting Image’s anthem, Essex is Crap.
Radical ESSEX seeks to tell another story, exploring the less well known innovations and creativity of the county, examining living practices from Christian communities, retreats for Tolstoyan princes and the first practices of naturism in England, to radical University development, and social working estates in East Tilbury and Silver End.
Essex was significant in the Plotlands movement, seeing individual land ownership develop into controlled New Towns, and can claim to be the birthplace of British Modernism with 1917 designs for cottages on the outskirts of Braintree. With a rich cultural history including musicians Depeche Mode, Alison Moyet and Dr. Feelgood, and a home for artists Henri Chopin and Grayson Perry, this book demonstrates Essex as a hotbed of radical activity, open to all possibilities.
Radical ESSEX accompanies an ongoing project led by Focal Point Gallery in collaboration with Colchester Council, Essex County Council, Firstsite, Southend Borough Council, Visit Essex and University of Essex. The event programme re-examines the county in relation to radicalism in thought, lifestyle, politics and architecture, shedding light on the vibrant, pioneering thinking of the late 19th and 20th centuries, celebrating the crucial role Essex has played in the history of British Modernism and its utopian ideologies. More information can be found at www.radicalessex.uk
The programme is funded by Arts Council England and Visit Engalnd’s Cultural Destinations programme. This publication receives additional support from Essex Heritage Trust.
All images courtesy of Focal Point Gallery and Catherine Hyland.