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Jaywick Escapes - Preview

Jaywick Escapes

Preview by Jack Foley

JAYWICK Escapes is a candid portrait of life in the enigmatic seaside town of Jaywick – the unknown, decaying ‘edgeland’ of Essex – just a 90-minute drive from London’s Olympic Park yet as far from its ambition and dreams as it could possibly be.

Officially now England’s most deprived place, Jaywick is the last refuge for many for whom life hasn’t quite worked out – a bargain sea view where you can vanish, at least for a while. Jaywick Escapes sensitively follows a handful of newcomers to the town, revealing their humanity and rejecting more familiar stereotypical portrayals of Britain’s underclass.

Pope & Guthrie started working in Jaywick in 2009, as part of a creative consultancy to identify ways to improve the public spaces in and around this unique town.

Drawing on their wide experience of producing collaborative projects within challenging contexts, they engaged local people, gaining the confidence of both the young and old. The result of these relationships is the Jaywick Escapes film, shot across a period of 18 months in 2010/11.

Pope says: “Many of the people we met claimed to love living in Jaywick despite the obvious problems. We spent months meeting local people and trying to find out about their real experiences of living there, good and bad. We also fell for the charms of the place and through making the film came to understand its powerful attraction to newcomers.

“Over time though we began to question how much of a real choice some people have who move here. Many made that ‘choice’ after something had gone awry in their lives elsewhere – only to find life could be just as hard beside the sea.”

Guthrie continues: “What we haven’t done is made a film which attempts to solve the myriad problems of Jaywick. All we can do is reveal the humanity behind lives so often neglected in the media and hope that others see the value of them, and can help.”

At the film’s heart is Nick (40) a reformed East End wide boy who – recently widowed and free from years of addiction, moves to Jaywick to start a new life. Before long, his demons catch up with him and he struggles to stay afloat.

John and Sara are a chaotic young couple whose lives lurch from thrills to lows. Eventually we discover the formative hardships of their lives, which – set against their sporadic efforts to take control – typify the cycle of misfortune that plagues so many in the town. Mac (14) is the philosophical local paper-boy, an orphan who invites us to consider the fate of the young growing up in this troubled place.

Intimate scenes of the lives lived in Jaywick’s seaside shacks are contrasted with exquisitely shot footage of the townscape, an homage to British DIY ingenuity despite its decay. Moments of humour are revealed in scenes of Barry, a laconic psychic whose ghost-hunts reveal little apart from his blind optimism; and of Jaywick’s colourful annual summer fair – where absolutely anything goes.

As this film winds in its taut narrative strands, what becomes apparent is that this once beloved resort of London’s Eastenders is now a truly broken society, with Rachman-esque rental and benefit squalor courtesy of an ineffectual and disinterested State – whose only regular presence in the town are the cursory sweeps of the local Police force.

Genteel pensioners are cheek-by-jowl with skittish and volatile youths; those who came for tranquillity, struggle alongside those who can no longer afford or survive the urban spaces they’ve left.

Throughout this, Jaywick and its skies and seas have a mesmerising effect that makes it impossible not to warm to the place, whilst profoundly pitying its situation and that of its residents. Here holidays from the past collide with the present.

Jaywick Escapes premiered at Sheffield Doc Fest, and also featured at London East End Film Festival in 2013.

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Win Jaywick Escapes on DVD

To celebrate the release of Jaywick Escapes on DVD on Monday, December 16, 2013, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 3 copies. Simply answer the following question…

Q. In which English county is Jaywick located?

Simply send the answer to Jaywick Escapes competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Certificate: 15
Running time: 84mins
UK DVD Release: December 16, 2013