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WALK

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Walk 1, Tilbury Port: Infrastructure

Everything seems to go through Tilbury, it’s like a Panama Canal of waste; wood waste, metal waste, glass waste, biological waste, household waste and so on, a fifth of it belonging to Essex itself. Surrounding the Port are several industrial recycling sites, complete with their own loading bays and rail lines to transport waste as quickly as possible.

We begin the day with a tour of a European Metal Recycling facility (EMR) based here. This site is the end-point of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of metal scrapped across the south of England.

Richard Burkitt, site manager, takes us up one of the cranes to get a view of the port. Everywhere, there are ships being filled up with heaps of refuse. EMR’S own site is like a landscape of scrap-metal, all of it chopped and heaped in great rusty hillocks. A giant petal claw, operated from the crane, tears into the hills, ripping out clumps of metal and depositing them onto an enormous cargo ship that’s been patiently waiting in the dock adjacent. The whole operation feels more like a demolition than a transfer. Only 6-8 men, Richard tells us, are aboard these ships as they travel around the world. We look out into the Thames and then back to the Port – we see a housing development being constructed just metres from the Port’s boundaries and we wonder where their own rubbish goes.

In the afternoon, we visit Royal Victoria’s Seamans Rest, a small charity that runs an outbuilding for crewmen of the cargo ships. The men collapse on sofas there, play board games and watch TV. No alcohol is permitted. The RVSR is decorated with a mural of the London skyline and has its own UK souvenir shop. Crewman alighting from Cargo ships can bring home a souvenir from capital without having to visit. The RVSR provides them with a cosy homely space for crews. Their chaplains explain that the men he sees here are tough as you’ll get, conditioned by years at sea. They also work in a limbo zone, outside of UK labour law.

Blog: Eloise Hawser
Images: Frances Christie, Hayley Dixon, and Eloise Hawser

This event was presented as part of 800,000 tonnes: Waste Management and Recycling in Essex, a programme of displays, site tours, and discussions that took place to map waste in Essex past and present by artist Eloise Hawser, who wrote the above text. 800,000 tonnes was supported by a National Lottery Grant from Arts Council England.

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Radical Essex is a project re-examining the county in relation to radicalism in thought, lifestyle, politics and architecture. A programme of events will take place across Essex throughout 2016 and 2017, shedding light on the vibrant, pioneering thinking of the late 19th and 20th centuries. The project will celebrate the crucial role Essex has played in the history of British Modernism and its utopian ideologies under the themes ‘The Modernist County’ and ‘Arcadia for All’.

The Radical Essex site is designed by Fraser Muggeridge studio and Alex Rich, developed by Twelve.

Radical Essex is led by Focal Point Gallery in collaboration with Visit Essex and Firstsite. 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 maximise the impact culture has on local economies.

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If you are a business or arts organisation interested to be involved in the project or learn more information, please contact us here

We gratefully acknowledge the support of our project partners:

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