A programme of art, architecture and infrastructure to mark the centenary of the UK’s biggest council housing estate

Focal Point Gallery


Estate-wide and Essex

Barking and Dagenham Council are partnering with Focal Point Gallery through their Radical ESSEX programme to deliver a series of events beginning in late 2021 which explore the unique history and impact of socialist working estates across the county, their relationship to industry, and their international significance. Launching in the autumn, a series of collaborative talks, gatherings, site visits and walking tours (Public Health permitting) will commence in Barking and Dagenham, and continue along a trajectory to Southend-on-Sea. The programme will draw on the vernacular architecture of the Becontree Estate, as well as the Crittall and Bata factories and their respective model towns in Essex (among other sites), to consider these within the social and cultural histories of the past century – both in the UK and beyond our borders internationally.

This ongoing collaborative programme will coincide London Borough of Barking and Dagenham’s participation in Open House London, and with an exhibition at Focal Point Gallery by acclaimed Shanghai based artist Cui Jie whose painted landscapes and interiors reference distinctive and relevant models within China’s own architecture.

Based in Southend-on-Sea on the Thames Estuary, Focal Point Gallery supports the production and presentation of new and recent contemporary art that challenges us to think and feel differently about locality, our sense of self and the importance of communities. The project Radical ESSEX, is a programme of commissions and conversations seeking to re-examine the county in relation to radicalism in thought, lifestyle, politics and architecture. The project sheds light on the vibrant, pioneering thinking of the twentieth century and celebrates the crucial role Essex has played in the history of British Modernism.