• ‘The Peculiar People’
  • 16 April to 2 July 2016
  • Focal Point Gallery, Southend
  • tea towel

Including artworks and archival material from Access Credit Card, Alan Kane, Jeremy Deller, Dan Mitchell and Simon Periton, Alan Sorrell, Alfred Hitchcock, Ashingdon Colony, Basildon New Town, Bata International, Caspar Heinemann, Cedric Price, Christian Nyampeta, Colin Ward, Dial House Farm, Dunton Plotlands, Eduardo Paolozzi, Essex Wildlife Trust, Gloria Jackson, Graham Burnett, Great Bardfield Artists, Hadleigh Farm Colony, Hammer Prints Ltd., Hannah Black, Henri Chopin, Ken Worpole, Laindon Labour Colony, Lina Lapelyte, Margaret Thatcher, Mayland Colony, Milly Thompson, Nigel Henderson, Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie, Osea Temperance Society, Othona Community, Purleigh Colony, Roderic Barrett, Ronald Reagan, Silver End Woman’s Institute, Silver End, Southend Libertarian and Anarchist Broadsheet (SLAB), Spiralseed, The Peculiar People, Wickford Colony and many more.


Focal Point Gallery is pleased to present ‘The Peculiar People’, an exhibition and event series that examines and traces a history of radical, ideological and sociopolitical communal living experiments throughout the 20th Century Essex, extending to the present day and beyond.

From pioneering industrial worker estates created for East Tilbury and Silver End, to alternative ideological communities such as The Peculiar People and Tolstoyan inspired anarcho-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 features an extensive archival display speculating on alternative living experiments from the early 1900’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 provides a 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.

Talks and Events:

16 April 2016, 7:00 pm
The exhibition will open with artist Lina Lapelyte’s (LH), Ladies, 2015, a performance-concert featuring four women from the Lietuva ensemble.

28 April 2016, 7:00 pm
Artist and writer Caspar Heinemann (UK) will read from their ever-evolving, pastoral poem Good Health & Safety 2015 – ongoing.

12 May 2016, 7:00 pm
Ken Worpole (UK) writes on architecture, landscape, planning, design, and social history. In this talk, Worpole provides an overview of the nonconformist impulse in the Essex landscape (and its forms of settlement), and asks how this impulse fares today.

Date TBC
Artist Christian Nyampeta (RW/NL) will address and extend his research into idiorrhythmy, a formational concept for regional utopian imaginaries drawn from early monasticism, proposed through Roland Barthes’ How To Live Together.

Radical Essex:

‘The Peculiar People’ marks the beginning of ‘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.