New Canvey Island exhibition marks 70 years since tragic floods

A fascinating, free exhibition and film screening will open later this month to mark the 70th anniversary of the tragic floods in Canvey Island.

The Thames21 Building Resilience in Communities (BRIC) project has teamed up with professional photographer Jack Delmonte to use the creativity of photography and the power of images to deepen understanding of flooding and enrich community networks.

‘Below the Wrack Line’ shines the spotlight on what has been described as “the worst peacetime disaster that the UK has known”.

The 1953 flood was caused by a storm surge and led to the deaths of 58 people, with 13,000 being evacuated from their homes after flood water inundated the island in the middle of the night on 31 January.

Canvey Island flood, 2014. Photo courtesy of Essex County Council

‘Below the Wrack Line’ will open at Canvey Island’s War Memorial Hall on Saturday 28 January, when visitors can explore the experience of Canvey Island as a wetland environment from the perspective of three residents: Lesley, Beverly and Liam.

Between them, they have produced more than 360 photographs through a series of community participation workshops held at the Yellow Door youth hub.

This unique exhibition will feature 20 that have been selected and curated by the group to best represent life ‘below the wrack line.’

The ‘wrack line’ is the line of debris left on the beach by high tide. The wrack is usually made up of eel grass, kelp, crustacean shells, feathers, bits of plastic, and all kinds of litter.

Canvey Island sits below high tide sea level – below the wrack line – which makes it vulnerable to flooding but also produces a unique and intriguing environment.

Visitors to the exhibition will also be able to watch an award-winning film about Canvey Island, titled ‘Until the Tide Creeps In’, and hear survivors of the 1953 flood share their experiences.

Kate Monson, Canvey Island BRIC Engagement Coordinator at Thames21, said: “We very much hope as many people as possible will take the opportunity to visit our public exhibition, and share their stories and memories of the Canvey Island flood.

“We will host a drinks reception from 6.30 pm, with the film screening starting at 7.30pm. The photographs will also be on display in the Knightswick Shopping Centre on Canvey Island on Wednesday and Thursday, 1 and 2 February from 10am to 4pm.”

If you wish to attend the exhibition, please contact Thames21 Canvey Island Officer Lucy Jackson on 07908410844 or via email at lucy.jackson@thames21.org.uk

Feature picture by Beverly Pyle.

About Jack Delmonte

Jack Delmonte lives in a seaside town on the Thames Estuary in Essex, England. He says: “In summer the lingering scent of mud, the chippy and ice cream permeate the senses. In winter we hunker down and mend our boats.

“Travel has been my life, either at home or abroad. I go for short and long trips to broaden the mind and experience the well-known and the unexpected.

“Photography is my passion and reflects these journeys. It gives me a purpose, enabling me to exercise my enthusiasm for observing, engaging and communicating with people and their environment.”

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