Jaywick Sands

Jaywick Sands is a small village on the Essex Coast known to outsiders as one of the most deprived areas in Britain. But residents say they wouldn’t live anywhere else.

And wherever you go in Jaywick there are people in their front gardens, talking to neighbours, gardening, sharing.. things, hanging out with pets. These pictures are of some of these people.

Jaywick is a pretty unlikely place to have gotten a little famous. It’s isolated, with the Sea to the South and farmland to the North. There’s one road in and one road out. But according to government statistics the village is, or recently was, “the most deprived area in the UK”. It has featured in Channel 5’s “Benefits Britain”. And most recently, in late 2018, provincial right wing American politician Nick Stella bizarrely used an old picture of Jaywick to illustrate how America would end up looking under his opponents, the Democrats.

Sounds pretty terrible. And there are definitely problems. The houses were not built for permanent habitation and are often, although not always, in a poor state of repair. The land was originally Salt Marsh and is only just above sea level. In 1953, 35 people drowned in what has become known as the North Sea Flood. (The current sea wall should stop any flood now.. as long as sea levels and climate do not change.) 

So it could be said to be surprising that people love living in Jaywick. People in Jaywick appreciate the quiet life and the fact that their kids can play on the street. That they can meet their neighbours outside their houses and help them get their kids ready for school. That the older residents help the newer to settle in. Everyone knows everyone else’s name and streets are closed for people’s birthday celebrations. And there is an amazing beach.

Local residents say they feel they are under siege from the local council who wish to develop the town into a fancy suburb of nearby Clacton, complete with marina and other such amenities. Some say that the thistles planted on the beach were put there to discourage locals using it. Others say that the recent refurbishment to council owned housing was undertaken in such a way that the buildings will deteriorate more quickly than they would before.

Mark (in bath-robe - it was early morning (he made me a cup of tea)) has lived in Jaywick for years. He told me, “nothing is thrown away, everything is recycled. Jaywick is a rural village, and life is blood, sweat, mud and sand. It’s an old way of living.”