Including artworks and archival material from Access Credit Card, Alan Kane, Alan Sorrell, Anarchist Broadsheet (SLAB), Basildon New Town, Bata Shoe Factory, Caspar Heinemann, Christian Nyampeta, Colin Ward, Dan Mitchell, Dunton Plotlands, Eduardo Paolozzi, Emily James, Essex Wildlife Trust, Gloria Jackson, Hadleigh Farm Colony, Hannah Black, Henri Chopin, Jeremy Deller, Ken Warpole, Lina Lapelyte, Leo Tolstoy, Margaret Thatcher, Metal Colony, Nigel Henderson, New Crimes, Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie, Osea Colony, Othona Community, Purleigh Colony, Roderic Barrett, Silver End, Simon Periton, Southend Libertarian, Spiralseed, The Brotherhood Church, The Hammer Prints, The Peculiar People Colony and many more.
From pioneering industrial worker estates created for East Tilbury and Silver End, to alternative ideological communities such as The Peculiar People and Tolstoyan naturist colonies, Essex was a county where utopias were imagined, traditional ways of living were challenged and revolutionary politics, art, architecture and literature were born. The Gallery’s main exhibition space
will feature an extensive archival display speculating on alternative living experiments from the late 1800’s to the 1980’s, alongside visual art, architecture, design and literature that relate to these counter-cultural histories. In Gallery two, artist Christian Nyampeta’s installation gives framework to an evolving radical library and dynamic programme of performances, permaculture experiments, readings and public discussions, which extend, question and re-examine modes of non-conformity within a wider cultural and political context.
The exhibition culminates with a shift from socialist focused agricultural developments to the growth of the financial sector in the East End of London and Britain's first credit card company establishing itself in Southend-on-Sea. This shifting landscape is explored through the inclusion of Cedric Price’s 1972 model of an unrealised proposal for a lightweight pneumatic roof over the pedestrian shopping area of the towns High Street.
‘The Peculiar People’ marks the beginning ‘Radical Essex’, a project aiming to re-examine the history
of the county in relation to radicalism in thought, lifestyle, politics and architecture, though a series of exhibitions, commissions, events and festivals. Programming under the themes ‘The Modernist County’ and ‘Arcadia for All’, the project will assess the crucial role the county has played in the history of British Modernism, and the utopian ideologies in unique living practices and innovative thinking in the late 19th and 20th centuries. ‘Radical Essex’ is a project led by Focal Point Gallery in partnership with Visit Essex and Firstsite, taking place throughout Essex in 2016 to17. Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England it forms part of the country wide Cultural Destinations programme, a partnership with VisitEngland, supporting arts organisations to work with the tourism sector to deliver projects that to maximise the impact culture has on local economies.
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