Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Estuary English

Good review of Rachel Lichtenstein's new book Estuary: Out from London to the Sea in the Guardian. Lichtenstein's journey takes her down the Thames Estuary from Tower Bridge to Clacton on the Essex side and out to Whitstable on the Kent side. There's plenty of Essex interest here — ghosts under Southend pier, Canvey Island, Joseph Conrad, Thames barges, fishermen, mudlarks, divers, sea forts, wind farms, sunken ships full of munitions, China and clay pipes and the author capsizing in a dingy and breaking her hand, Click on the link to read the full review.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

How many Essex girls does it take to saturate the media?

Something of an Essex Girl overload today. The Times has a full page feature ("The only way is out for Essex girl label") interviewing former Bloomberg workers Natasha Sawkins and Juliet Thomas, who started the petition on the Mother Hub website to have the words 'Essex girl' removed from the Oxford English Dictionary. They also have a hash tag campaign where successful women reclaim the phrase with #iamanessexgirl.

The Sun also covers the furore while the Evening Standard has a feature proclaiming "Essex girl campaigners win meeting with bosses of dictionary." The Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC interviewed several Essex women talking about the petition while tomorrow's Guardian has a Pass Notes on Essex Girls. Meanwhile the publishers of the Oxford Dictionary thank the campaigners for their interest but say they can't exclude offensive terms. And rather ironically, the well-intentoned petition seems to have bought the phrase Essex girl right back into the public consciousness…

Monday, 24 October 2016

Should Essex Girl be removed from the Dictionary?

Interesting piece in inews reporting that 3000 people have signed a petition to have the term 'Essex Girl' removed from the Oxford English Dictionary. The petition was set up by campaign group the Mother Hub and objects to the dictionary definition of an Essex Girl as: “A type of young woman, supposedly to be found in and around Essex, and variously characterised as unintelligent, promiscuous, and materialistic.” 

They have a point, but after Towie and 25 years of usage they may find it difficult to achieve their aim. And there's a similar case for removing the words Essex Man from the dictionary, who is described as: "A new type of Conservative voter typically (esp. contemptuously) characterised as a brash, self-made young businessman who benefited from the entrepreneurial wealth created by Thatcherite policies.”

As I mention in my book The Joy of Essex, in the first series of The Only Way Is Essex Sam Faiers and Amy Childs discuss the dictionary definition of Essex Girl over a large glass of Rose. Sam says that the word Essex Girl is “actually in the Dictionary.” Amy asks if it means “glamorous… what it right slags us off… shu’ up! You’re having me on! I thought it meant like classy…” Sam replies, “It’s like stilettoes and men.” Amy then comments: “The person that’s obviously done the Dictionary who is it? I’m being serious. Is he from Essex or is he from wherever, like the north or Manchester? If they were from Essex they wouldn’t write that.”

Amy is reputedly worth £5 million, which rather disproves the stereotype. Meanwhile the person that done the dictionary may be in for even more grief if the petition continues to grow.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

A Yorkshire Tragedy via Essex

I've always thought that Yorkshire and Essex have quite a lot in common. Both have very clear identities and pride themselves on telling it like it is and being slightly different to the rest of the country. So it's interesting that Wivenhoe-based author Anthony Clavane has just published A Yorkshire Tragedy, a book about the demise of several Yorksire sporting institutions since the 1980s. There's an Essex link too, for Clavane, a long-term Essex resident who is a sports writer for the Daily Mirror, has plenty of revelations about the impact Essex businessman Anton Johnson had on Rotherham. 

The Guardian review of A Yorkshire Tragedy comments: "A tender and often terrifying tour of some of Yorkshire's — and England's — most cherished sporting institutions and the communities that surround and succour them, and how their experience reflects the nation's swaying fortunes since the 1980s. A Yorkshire Tragedy is compelling, illuminating, very human and often quite moving." Well worth a read.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Fighting hate crime in Harlow

Following the death of Polish resident Arkadiusz Joswik after being attacked in Harlow — and another case of assault on Poles —  there's a good overview of the situation by Stephen Bush in the New Statesman. Credit to the town's MP Robert Halfon for talking a lot of sense. Halfon says:  “I genuinely believe that the vast majority of people voted [Leave] because they just believed we were better off out. They didn’t like the bureaucracy of the European Union. The only thing I would say is that the Brexit thing allowed a small minority of horrific people to come out of the sewers and exploit division and hatred.”

He also points out that the Poles embody the spirit of Harlow, as a place for people in search of a better life. “They are regenerating local areas. They are ‘doing the right thing’: they are working hard, educating people; they fill up the churches. For them to feel frightened is terrifying.” To read the full article click on the link.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Things can only get Bata

There's a very interesting piece in the Guardian celebrating the architecture of the 1930s Bata factory and its workers' village at East Tilbury. It's billed as a "modernist marvel on the marshes of Essex". Sadly the Bata factory closed in 2005 and is now looking very dilapidated. It's Essex Architecture Week from Sep 10-11 and tours will be offered around the Bata village. There's also the Estuary Festival from Sep 17 to Oct 2, celebrating the area from Tilbury to Canvey Island. The days when a company would build flats, a cinema, shops and a hotel for its workforce seem long gone, and even though Amazon is opening a new warehouse in Tilbury you can't imagine them doing the same as Bata. Click on the link to read the full article.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Canvey's promised land

It's not often you hear Dr Feelgood on Radio 4's religious programme Sunday. But the Thames Delta tones of Lee Brilleaux singing Going Back Home were used in Sunday's feature on a small number of Haredi Jews who are moving from Stamford Hill to the "promised land" of well-kosher Canvey Island. The orthodox Jewish families have been deterred by the high house prices of Stamford Hill and are now favouring the sea air and cheaper homes of Canvey. So blokes in tall black hats and soberly-dressed women can now be seen on the Island. Canvey has always been a bit different and so far it seems to be going well. The Oyster Fleet Hotel and Dr Feelgood manager Chris Fenwick was interviewed and recalled last year finding two Hasidic Jews standing down by the jetty immortalised by Dr Feelgood, asking his advice on moving to the area. "I can not see any problem at all, they are making the right steps to interact with the community and this is a piece if Canvey history," said Fenwick. "I say bring it on, it totally works!"