Ian Hurd, a lecturer at South Essex College, has been working tirelessly on his Masters Degree and to round it all off his project, centred on Southend High Street and its history, came to fruition during December.
Months of preparation had been in the making, interviewing the public at various Southend High Street locations; the building of graphic timeline’s showing the retail occupants of the many units occupying the length of the street through the decades. Finally an amazing scale model of the High Street was built.
To assist the timelines, historic directories were searched, the Essex Records Office and Southend Council (as well of course this website Southend Timeline) assisted where it could with many of the entries, but there would always appear a blank that really needed to rely on the memories of the public who shopped or maybe worked in the many businesses. Not only would Southend's community young and old be providing an essential element to this art project, but they would remember essential information to fill the gaps.
To illustrate the project further a magnificent scale model of the High Street was embarked upon with the assistance of professional model makers Taylor and Harlow based in Park Street Westcliff-on-Sea. The model itself is 1:200 scale, crafted by hard and softwood, stands 14ft long and is made from accurate town master plans. A fully installed audio system provides an insight to the history of the High Street, from interviews with residents of the town which helps to illustrate the model further.
Although originally hampered by the early December snow the exhibition at The Minories in Colchester finally took off. On show was the culmination of some tremendous work which captured the essence of the High Street in a visual, audible and model sense. Framed on the walls unique images of timeline's capturing the inhabitants of this famous Essex shopping street. Then looking towards the main feast, stretched out, the centre-piece the wooden model (14ft) the whole High Street from The Victoria's to The Royals shopping centre's. An amazing and pleasing piece of work.
Along the sides of the model headphones are spaced out allowing visitors to listen to the publics conversations and comments which would reflect the decades in an amazing 'candid' commentary; some remembering more recent times, others going as far back as Garon’s, Keddies, and Dixon’s all famous retailers for people of certain ages.
The exhibits in The Minories Art Gallery are on show right now at the end of Colchester High Street, taking pride of place at the front of the gallery. So next time you are taking in the history of the England's oldest city take the opportunity to have a glance at a model of one of Essex's famous town's High Street.
Ian's project, further, will help enhance Southend's Hands on History project (in collaboration with the BBC) so, if Colchester is a drive too far, watch this space as these amazing exhibits will make the trip to Southend High Street; to appear in a prime location after Christmas.