Bedford artist shines the spotlight on England’s faded seaside towns

Emma Richardson
Emma Richardson

The murkier underbelly of English seaside towns has been uncovered in a project by a student from Bedford.

Emma Richardson has spent time visiting coastal communities which have seen better days and produced a selection of art pieces which reflect what she found.

The Fine Art Master’s student’s work, who studies at the University of Northampton and which is titled Wonderland, concentrates on Jaywick, the Essex seaside town which was branded the most deprived area in England by the Government in both 2010 and 2015.

But as part of her research, Emma also visited Blackpool, Great Yarmouth, Southend and Clacton as part of what she dubbed her ‘anti-grand tour’.

The results include a striking large-scale painting of two children tussling outside a pre-fabricated seaside home, an interactive face-in-the-hole painting, a light sculpture made from a discarded National Lottery sign and a helium balloon.

Emma said: “Wonderland seeks to portray the dystopian reality set against the utopian dream of what Jaywick aspired to be in its heyday during the early 20th century. Originally designed as part of the Plotlands development, Jaywick, has in recent years also become known as benefits-by-the-sea. Its decline can be traced back from when its East End occupants settled there permanently after World War II and being seemingly ignored by government. It is perhaps pertinent that Jaywick residents voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU following the referendum in 2016.

“It is apparent from my travels that there is this feeling of darkness and decay in many seaside resorts like Jaywick. This is reflected in the counter-culture as well as various signs and signifiers such as the tacky, gaudy atmosphere of the arcades and amusements. They are a distraction from the grimness that lies underneath. Everything bright and welcoming tends to be concentrated on the strip of sandy beaches, but beyond that there is often degeneration visible in the poor quality housing, lack of jobs and local amenities.”

Emma is now looking for galleries in coastal areas to display her Wonderland project.