Audrey Snee, her journalist husband and two children, are citizens of Leigh-on-Sea, an historic fishing community of the estuary found just west of Southend.
Audrey is an example of the good things incomers bring to an area. A former financial journalist, she and her husband decided to move to Leigh about 15 years ago for the fresh air and affordable housing, while being in touch with London.
Audrey found a reporting job at the Southend Echo: “I enjoyed working there. It put me in touch with the area, the history of the town, its traditions, connecting with people”.
It was a good spot for her to bring up the children because Southend has lots of interest and history with many a tale to tell. She says, “We have fishermen here who can chart their family fishing businesses back over six generations, also we have the cocklers community,
She got to know Leigh man Paul Gilson. He was looking to publish a book of his memories of over 40 years of fishing in the estuary, of his family’s 300-year tradition in the trade. Nothing daunted, she set up in 2011 Estuary Publishing on her kitchen table and published her first title, Sole Searching by Paul Gilson that year.
Her next project was a children’s fantasy novel Festival of the Gargoyles set along the estuary marshes, by local writer Robert Hallmman and illustrated by local artist David Hurrell.
Audrey has more books on local themes in the pipeline. “It’s a shoe string affair with funds from one publication helping to finance the next, but it is interesting and it’s a way to get in touch with a wider public,” she explains.
The most well received title from Estuary Publishing is EKCO Sounds by Chris Poole and Peter C Browne. It’s the story of Southend’s fascinating EKCO Bakelite radio factory, set up by Eric Kirkham Cole (EKCO) in 1924.
EKCO did top secret radar work in World War II, and went on to produce home-ware plastics, becoming a global brand in the 1960s and ‘70s.
“Eric Cole was the Steve Jobs of his era, creating gadgets when new technology came along, such as the car radio,” says Audrey.
Eric Cole, died in mysterious circumstances shortly after his wife’s death in 1966. His son Derek Cole helped the authors put together the story.
Southend is showing signs of being proud of its EKCO heritage. Bellway Homes has named a 230-house estate EKCO Park.
Audrey and other enthusiasts are campaigning to erect a statue of Eric Cole, possibly near the site of the EKCO factory, opposite Southend’s Priory Park.
Audrey is pivotal in Southend’s Active Art Group, where writers and artists put on shows and events, supported by the council. She runs the Southend Writers and Artists Network, an online forum of 160 members. It reaches out to all things creative in the estuary and take part in the thriving annual Essex Book Festival.
So what about being a small business person, like Audrey, in and round Southend and the estuary? She answers, “My business seeks out local writers, artists, book designers, editors, photographers, and importantly for Southenders, brings a bit of fame to the area.”
She warns she doesn’t make much money, but it’s a fulfilling way of life which she can fit in around her family.
Audrey makes a plea: “There’s so much potential here. I wish that what we do in the arts would receive more support. There is never, ever any funding – even though we help put Southend on the map.”
Anyone wishing to back the EKCO statue project please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
See a video about EKCO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhF2UepHCBw.