Visit Essex challenges Essex stereotype to reveal Real Essex in new campaign

At Visit Essex we’ve launched a new campaign to reveal real Essex, showcasing the extraordinary people of Essex and promoting the county as a great place to live, work, visit, study and invest. 

Following a call for talented performers, scientists, sports persons, chefs, entrepreneurs and community heroes to step forward, nominations flooded in and a wide-range of people have been chosen to front a new calendar to show-off Essex’s best assets.

The ‘This is Essex’ campaign is focused on bringing visitors from London and the rest of the home counties to the region by challenging perceptions of Essex as a place to visit, work and live. Councillor Mark Durham, Vice Chairman, Visit Essex, explains: “For many years the Essex stereotype has perpetuated. Essex is home to a wide range of hardworking, talented and aspiring individuals. The county is also blessed with over 350 miles of coastline, top family attractions and thriving towns and villages. Essex has so much to offer and we want the people of Essex to help us challenge perceptions and make visitors take a second look at our diverse county.

Ambassadors for the campaign have been photographed and filmed in Essex’s top visitor attractions, contrasting landscapes, historic towns, villages and hidden gems. The photographs will also be turned into a pop-up gallery which, along with the calendar, will be officially unveiled in London on 11 October.

Did you know these famous faces were born and lived in Essex?

Two men in chefs uniform posed in front of their restaurant

Born in Essex, Chris and Jeff, are the only brothers in the world to both hold Michelin Stars. After launching their first restaurant in 2005, they now own five leading restaurants in London. Back home in Essex they’ve launched a stylish Pub & Restaurant, Galvin Green Man near Chelmsford, which has been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand, 2 AA Rosettes and a Catey for best Pub & Bar in the UK.

A woman sitting on a church bench

Martina Cole was born and raised in Aveley, Essex and her debut novel ‘Dangerous Lady’ caused a sensation when it was published 27 years ago and launched one of the bestselling fiction wrters fo her generation. She has written 25 novels, of which 15 have been No. 1 bestsellers and total sales stand at over 16 million copies.

Taking Essex to the world

A man handling oysters in a crate against a coastal backdrop

The Haward family have been cultivating oysters on Mersea Island since 1732. Their award-winning oysters are renowned worldwide. Tom Haward is otherwise known as ‘8th Gen’ and is proud to be an eighth generation oysterman. Tom works alongside his father and brother and runs the waterfront operation, from grading the catch through to delivery.

A woman reading a book, resting on a walking stile

Historian and Essex champion Gillian Darley takes readers on a vivid personal tour of the county in her new book, Excellent Essex. The book explores seaside piers, secret nuclear bunkers, marshlands and the new town high-rises, revealing a landscape and a story like no other. Gillian is an Essex resident and is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.

Woman standing on the platform at Southend station.
Elsa James is a visual artist, activist and producer based in Southend-on-Sea. Her works have included ‘Black Girl Essex’ and site-specific performances on 'Forgotten Black Essex'. Elsa's latest exhibition, Super Black launches this October at Firstsite, Colchester. Super Black asks, 'What does it mean to be black in England today?'
A woman holding grapes in a vineyard
Half Essex / half Australian, Jane Mohan, loved the quaint village of Coggeshall, so when the chance came to buy a small vineyard there, she jumped at it. Fast forward 10 years and West Street Vineyard is now a vibrant restaurant, wine school and vineyard producing award-winning wines.

Essex figures leading the way

A man standing in front of an exhibition panel

Miles Adcock is President of Space & Quantum at Teledyne e2v, a cutting-edge technology company based in Chelmsford. He is part of the team that leads the organisation, developing new innovations in healthcare, life sciences, space, transportation, defence & security and industrial markets.

A man standing in front of a modern building
The University of Essex attracts over 15,000 students from across the world and was named ‘University of the Year’ in 2018. A top member of their team is Dr Mike Rogerson, Lecturer in Sports and Exercise Sciences. He’s passionate about his subject and is an expert in his field.

Our community heroes, as awarded by you

Scott Irving

A man spray painting a graffiti wall

Southend-on-Sea is home to Scott Irving, a leading graffiti artist. Scott has undertaken numerous commissions to transform the streets of Essex with his vivid and stunning street art. He also works as a community worker and a support teacher for children with special needs. Scott thrives on bringing the world of street art into children's lives to bring them brighter futures.

Man ringing a bell in front of a boat

‘Oh yay, oh yay!’ James Cole has been a Town Crier for 21 years. He’s passionate about his local community and is a great supporter of Harwich. This year he is championing the 400th anniverary of the Mayflower crossing the Atlantic. Events to mark the anniversary will be staged in Harwich throughout 2020.

A man dressed as a woman in front of a castle
The people of Essex love a good panto! ‘Oh yes they do!’ This year the Mercury Theatre in Colchester’s long serving pantomime dame, Antony ‘Ash’ Stuart-Hicks, returns in Jack and the Beanstalk. Born in Liverpool, Ash has made Essex his second home and is much loved for his performances in the theatre. Last year’s Mercury panto was nominated for no less than five Great British Panto Awards, including Best Dame!
A woman holding a glass artwork with a house in the background

Mona moved to Essex 25 years ago where she discovered her true calling as an artist after enrolling on a glass making course in Brentwood. Mona is now a leading glass artist and a founding member of the Hylands Artists, based at the Hylands estate, Chelmsford. She helped organise the Hylands Sculpture Trail and the exhibition 'I feel' which explores the positive relatioship between creativity and mental health.

Making Essex proud

A woman on a racetrack

Born in Kenya, Anne Wafula-Strike caught polio at just 2 years of age. She was the first wheelchair racer from Sub-Saharan Africa to compete at the Paralympics. In 2000 Anne moved to Essex and later became a British citizen and member of Team GB. In 2014 she was awarded an MBE for her work as a disabled athlete and for involvement in charity work for people with disabilities.

A man in uniform standing in a coastal spot
Brogan Bates is the youngest member of the Clacton-on-Sea lifeboatmen crew at just 20 years old. Out on the sea a team of RNLI lifeboatmen are always on call no matter the weather or time of day. Brogan is also a trainee paramedic.
A woman in her racing outfit standing in front of her car

At just 26 Nabila Tejpar has taken the world of motor racing by storm. She’s the current UK female rally driving champion and is in pole position to become the European champion too. Born in Essex to a motorsport family, she first tried a rally car at 15.

We are still looking for more Essex ambassadors and we would love to hear from you. To nominate a candidate, simply email us detailing why your hero or heroine should become an ambassador for the county. All nominees must be over 18.