For Essex Book Festival 2018 we invited Ruth Raymer to be writer-in-residence at Jaywick Martello Tower. In this entry Ruth talks broadly about her experience, recounting her week at the tower, time spent talking with Jaywick residents and visitors, writing, and walking in and around the area.
Jaywick Martello Tower – Writer’s Residency Report
The residency took place between Monday 26 March and Saturday 31 March 2018. The time was spent thus:
Monday am – Orientation and settling in
Monday pm – Meeting the community, walking around the various projects.
Tuesday am – Writing workshop. Writing letters home from Weeley Camp in the 1800s. Participants produced letters and other research (6 participants)
Tuesday pm – Writing in the tower
Wednesday am – Writing in the tower / research interviews
Thursday am – Visit to Jaywick Library Knit and Natter Group (24 participants)
Thursday pm – Writing in the tower
Friday am – Writing in the tower /storytelling to visitors (6 visitors)
Friday pm – Walking the shoreline
Saturday – Storytelling in the tower to a wide cross-section of locals and visitors, many of whom were visiting the tower for the first time. (circa 120 visitors)
Jaywick as a wider community has welcomed me to this place and showed me its heart. In this community, if there is a disused space, someone will find a use for it. An example is the place where derelict bungalows have been removed and in the empty space has sprung up a garden complete with benches and bird feeders. Work was all done by the community, for the community. I have seen a community garden where volunteers grow food for themselves and for the community. I have been welcomed by the ladies of the Jaywick Knit and Natter group where other visitors included the ‘Fruit and Veg people’, who sell bags of fresh produce at cost price. The Knitting group supports itself and the library with weekly jumble sales and auctions.
Jaywick is very far from the place portrayed in the media, both national and local. I have found a tightknit community intent on supporting itself and everyone in it. There are large numbers of creative people in the area who are striving to improve the appearance of their environment and the quality of their lives. Children play on the streets in a manner reminiscent of the freedoms experienced by most children in the UK in the mid-twentieth century. Whilst there are obvious signs of deprivation and dereliction in the area, these are outshone by the attitudes in the community. In a village conceptualised in the inter-war years, it is the indomitable spirit of those times which lives on in the people and the fabric of Jaywick. There is an ethos of caring and sharing that is rarely seen in these times of commercialisation and litigation, that many other places could do well to learn from.
There is a second community in Jaywick – those who spend large parts of the year in static caravan homes. Instead of remaining on the edge of life here, they are welcomed and are also engaged with the activities in the tower and in the village, though perhaps not quite to the degree as those living in the village. They contribute to exhibitions in the tower and to the various workshops and groups.
The remit of the residency was to in some way re-map the tower – its environment, history and place in the community. I have found that there is a great fondness in the community for this ancient monument that stands on their edge-lands, as it has for more than 200 years. If anything, so much more could be done, with the right support financially, to make more use of this fantastic resource. Kerith Ririe has a vision to create much more here and I look forward to returning to take part in more events at the Martello Tower in the months and years to come.
Writer-in-residence at Jaywick Martello Tower
Essex Book Festival 2018