Essex Neck

As part of the Sluice Expo, Vernacular, The Modern Language experiment presents: Essex Neck

I am from Essex; a curious place composed of complex relationships to land, body, action, screen, and politics.

The comedian Russell Kane has made his entire career out of speaking about Essex, how he felt about living with it and growing up inside of it. In one memorable set Kane speaks very warmly about the walking phenomenon of the “Essex Neck”, which is a predominately male and startling affliction, best described as a violent movement of the neck that thrusts the body forward, first the torso then the legs, arms flaying to the side. The neck thus resets and repeats propelling the body with surprising speed and force into and about the roads, houses, shops, and pubs of Essex. This incredible description, whilst expertly exaggerated for comic affect, reveals a fundamental Essexness; that Essex has always forged its own path and walked a different walk.

Perhaps that is why the opening chapter of Tim Burrows book ‘The Invention of Essex - The making of an English country” reveals a wondrous and expertly researched plethora of writings and “reviews” on the people of Essex, from as far back as 1700, that reveals opinions and comments that are not all that agreeable. ‘Poor, poorly educated, backward and clinging to superstition.” (Burrows 2023). This is sadly not at all dissimilar to those emanating from the tv and press of the last 20 years, where the ideology of Essex man, Essex boy and Essex girl have grown worldwide.

But then to be different is to be an invite for looks and comments.

Let’s consider the location of Essex: east of London predominately flat and governed by and created from the Thames estuary and its brackish waterways. Essex comprises of swathes of richly biodiverse marshland, beautiful, wondrous expanses, ex-industrial spaces, now reclaimed by nature: however, often still viewed by outsiders as a wasteland, only fit for rubbish dumps, car breakers, and military testing.

My question then is, how can this attack on Essex be made sense of and who are the agitators?

Are the Essexian’s to blame? Well according to Kane perhaps, with their odd expressive ways. Is it perhaps the land? It's flat, muddy water filled earth, dominating how its people are perceived. Or are the outsiders to blame, who look down upon, ridicule, and demonise all that they don’t understand.

Each of the artists in this show reveals an Essexness within their work, that is to say, they repel and reveal uncomfortable alternatives via focusing on the unknown, hidden, imagined, grotesque, overt, and renewed spaces. Forging forward via myths, superstition, strange acts, and otherness.


Collectif_fact, Annelore Schneider and Claude Piguet
Demi Spriggs
Keh Ng
Liane Lang
Matthew Stock
Richard Ducker and Ian Thompson
Sarah Sparkes
Tina Hage

A Publication to accompany this exhbition will be available for free featuring the voices of the artists. More information to follow.

Sluice Expo Vernacular
The Minories
74 High Street

14 June 2024 10:00–16:00
15 June 2024 10:00–16:00
16 June 2024 10:00–16:00

Sluice Colchester





Coming soon.