New tourism film to challenge Essex stereotypes

Award-winning chefs and a Paralympian are among the personalities being featured in a new film challenging the Essex stereotype, while showcasing the real Essex.

Ambassadors of #ThisisEssex – which will be presented for the first time next month – are each challenging one aspect of the Essex stereotype.

Star of TV’s The Mash Report, Ellie Taylor – who was born in Brentwood – has been asked to take a wry look at the Essex accent, whereas an eighth generation oysterman, Tom Haward, will try to prove that going “out, out” doesn’t always mean getting out the false eyelashes and spray tan.

The #ThisisEssex film also stars chefs the Galvin Brothers, Anne Wafula-Strike, a Harlow-based paralympic wheelchair racer and Nabila Tejpar, a female rally champ from Maldon.

The film from the Essex tourism board features ‘ambassadors’ to challenge decades-old stereotypes about the county and Essex County Council’s bid to redraw the way it markets Essex – and the  £3.4 billion Essex tourism industry – to focus more closely on Essex’s wide ranging diversity.

Lisa Bone, strategic tourism manager at Essex County Council, told a scrutiny panel in February that stereotypes, including those popularised in The Only Way is Essex, will remain the default if they are not challenged through effective marketing.

Instead its new Essex vision to market the county is focusing on finding “a way to capture our many local characteristics, the things that make Essex unique and special, to inspire pride in ourselves and so bring visitors, investment, opportunities and new people to Essex”.

A recent study of families and millennials showed that currently held perceptions of Essex are often a barrier for visitors, investors, students and potential residents.

“It is all about creating a strong narrative,” Ms Bone told the scrutiny committee.

“If we don’t talk about Essex and provide a narrative then others will make something up like the media have done.

“We’ll always be known as Towie if we don’t give another point of view.

“We need a narrative to sell into the media.”

The council says that “repositioning” of Visit Essex, to be more strategic and focus on wider place-marketing, will benefit other businesses aside from tourism attractions and accommodation providers, allowing Visit Essex or Marketing Essex and Essex County Council to seek investment from wider stakeholders such as transport providers, universities and large businesses across the county which see the benefit in being part of it.

Ms Bone added: “It provides a vision for the future. What is it we want to be known for in 10, 20, 30, 40 years time?

“It is really difficult for Essex in that we are a very diverse county.

“So it comes with its challenges but I also think that we look at the diversity as too much of a challenge and it is a real strength that we have so much.

“We need to build on that by building brand layers.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter