On the Essex coast a couple of miles from Clacton-on-Sea, Jaywick’s once idyllic holiday chalets are in a state of dilapidation and decay. In 2013, the poverty-stricken town, which has been labelled ‘Misery-by-Sea’, was identified as the most deprived place in the UK.
This is also a time of change for Jaywick. A huge redevelopment of the town was announced recently and in October it was part of the constituency that elected UKIP its first MP. Is this forgotten pocket of society finally being heard or is Jaywick simply an easy target for campaigners and politicians alike?
Dan Murphy remembers Jaywick as the seaside resort he used to visit with his gran in the summer holidays. He is interested in the dissonance between his memory and the reality for those living there today but also in the enduring community spirit and local pride that defies the extreme adversity of the town.
Dan is also interested in the diversity of this community and the tension between residents who have called Jaywick home since the War, those who have moved there after falling on tough times elsewhere and those who have become trapped in the town as the value of their homes has gone into freefall.
The reality of places like Jaywick is almost too extraordinary for fiction and Dan believes that a verbatim approach will best serve the subject matter and themes of his play.
The play will be verbatim at its purest and the process will be mentored by Alecky Blythe (London Road, Little Revolution). Dan will spend time in Jaywick, conducting interviews, following leads and capturing perspectives from local residents, business owners, politicians, social services and developers. Dan will transcribe and edit this source material, allowing the themes and narratives of the play to emerge, suggesting new directions and further interviews as the process continues.
It is also hoped that this approach will engage the local community in a way that encourages them to become an audience for the piece and there is an ambition that the show – which is intended to be produced for touring – will play in local venues such as the West Cliff Theatre in Clacton-on-Sea or in a found space in Jaywick itself.