Clever Essex

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Clever Essex is a Metal project which aims to highlight incredible Essex women and men throughout the ages. We want to de-bunk the contemporary stereotypes of our county by celebrating some of the lesser known, clever, imaginative, resourceful, influential and downright awesome people of Essex’s history who have helped shape the world as we know it.

Did you know that an Essex girl was one of Britain’s first health gurus?
Who invented the unsinkable lifeboat? That’s right, it was an Essex boy!

You can join us in celebrating these brilliant people of Essex’s past. Click here for our online form and share your Clever Essex character nomination with us! Don’t forget, we are celebrating characters from the past, who had connections to Southend and Essex during their lifetime.

To celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Borough of Southend, we are on the hunt for 125 amazing characters from the past, who lived in or spent a significant period of time in Southend or our surrounding areas! We want to celebrate inventors, authors, pacifists, doctors, artists, politicians, actors, engineers, architects and more. Please email us on if you have any questions.

We will be bringing these characters to life at Village Green 2017, on the Clever Essex Stage, presented by Rob Jelly from BBC Essex. Join us on 8th July for loads of fun drop-in activities, games, talks and more as we celebrate our 125 characters!



Want to bring Clever Essex into your school or community group?

Following a mass launch at Village Green in 2014, we have designed a workshop that can be run in schools – or at festivals – and other contexts, that runs as a Balloon Debate!

  • 32 Clever Essex characters are in a hot air balloon – each has made an extraordinary contribution to the world during their lifetime (the first suffragette pamphlet, the first unsinkable life raft, the lens that allowed us to understand the stars – to name just a few!)
  • BUT the balloon is losing height!  Someone has to go.  Which game-changing invention, which life-changing campaigner, which world-class talent should be saved?
  • Each participant speaks on behalf of their chosen character, putting forward the case for why their achievement is of utmost value and must not be lost to the world.


The debates are feisty and fun – and can convey a huge amount of information and pride about Essex and its brilliance in a very engaging one and a half hour session.

Metal can come and run the debate for you – just call us 01702 470700 or email and we can book it in (there is a small cost for our facilitator’s time).

Or you can run the debate yourselves, using our FREE online resources for teachers, schools and anyone else interested in helping to spread the word about the Clever people of Essex.


To run a Clever Essex workshop – you will need…….

An Introduction to our set of 32 Clever Essex characters from the 15th to the 21st Century.  DOWNLOAD HERE 

Ideas for workshops and lesson plans in schools – DOWNLOAD OUR TRIED AND TESTED IDEA HERE

How the workshop links to the HISTORY and CITIZENSHIP curriculum


Following a period of research, conducted by Metal alongside young people from across Southend, a long list of relatively unsung, little known, extraordinary Essex lives has been amassed.
Through in-school debates, we have selected eight of these characters to create face masks that will be given out at Village Green – Metal’s arts and music festival in Chalkwell Park on Saturday 12 July 2014.
At 3pm from the main Village Green stage we are asking festival-goers to join us for a mass photo call to stand up and show the world the many faces of CLEVER ESSEX.
Clever Essex is a wider, ongoing educational project with FREE online resources for schools and colleges available from August 2014


We hope you have fun debating these and many more ingenious, Clever people from Essex.


The History of the Project

Clever Essex is a Metal project that was funded through a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Following a period of research and in-school debates, conducted by Metal with 70 young people from across South East Essex, a long list of 32 relatively unsung, little known, extraordinary Essex lives has been amassed.  Through a series of in-school debates at secondary schools in the summer of 2014, we selected eight of these characters to create face masks that were given out at Metal’s Village Green 2014 festival in Southend on Sea.  At 3pm from the Main Stage, comedian and local Essex boy, Phill Jupitus asked the 20,000 strong crowd to wear their Clever Essex masks with pride – and give a shout out to the county that produced the ‘father of English Natural History’, inspired Joseph Conrad, started the mass fitness craze and invented the Catamaran –  and much more.


Watch the Clever Essex moment at Village Green in 2014:


This project has been made possible through:-


High-impact Black English

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