In Review – TWENTY ONE
Tucked underneath Southend’s worldwide famous pier, Twenty One cultural venue is quietly making waves among the population of just under 200,000. For many years the inhabitants and council of Southend have tried profoundly to bring some joy back into the ‘Golden Mile’, finally with the addition of Twenty One it slowly feels as if the magic is starting to return. Located underneath Pier Hill as part of its multi-million pound redevelopment its premises has stood empty since that particular opening of 2005. Set back by numerous leaks and false starts, the famous hill finally met its new inhabitants in the form of ‘Focal Point Gallery‘. Helped via in-house funding and grants by both the council and the arts council of England, Focal point gallery was able to spruce up the venue, allowing twenty-one to move in and begin its hopefully successful spell. Finally with the vacant space being filled there was for me a sense of relief surrounding the issue with the now long vacant premises being occupied with what seems a promising venue!
Twenty One hopes to become a ‘alternative venue for healthy food, art and events’, with the space being developed to ‘celebrate the vibrant creative community of Southend’. From first looks approaching Twenty-One it already gives of a sense of being ‘different’, its open but sheltered front provides the perfect spot to escape the summer’s sun or winter’s downpour. Once inside you faced with a grand wall of A4 art. Focal Point Gallery currently has its ‘100% Southend’ showcase. Using the traditional page format of A4 they bring together a diverse range of 2D works from both established and emerging artists across the SS postcodes. The space is much more than a gallery or even so much more than a café, it’s an open space that aims to bring the community closer together through the means of art, but at the same time it’s also a hub for the thriving tourism.
No one has really had a reason to pop this side of the pier away from the city beach end for a while, but now that could change with the inclusion of Twenty One. Almost like the missing jigsaw piece, Twenty One could help connect people away from the city beach area and into the surrounding beaches that lead towards Chalkwell. If proven successful it will continue to open up the Golden mile, with nearby developments hopefully taking note with an understanding that a community independent structure is what the seafront is missing.
Its vibrant clear open space matches its clean eating menu, with prices that wont leave you bankrupt you can expect a tasty light meal while admiring the local art. With a team full of smiles you instantly feel welcomed, I imagine even on rainy dull day (as Southend often experiences) you could easily sit back a enjoy the surroundings of the crashing sea against the pier and the cheers of delights from the near by theme park. In the evening I’m told that space can easily convert into a performance venue allowing a range of artistic talent from the town to perform, them too starting to make a name for themselves. For me, this is exactly what I feel the town has been missing and I genuinely feel that if more ‘venues’ like Twenty One crop up in Southend, then the town could truly rise above other cultural savvy towns by becoming a true leader by example.
Unit 21 Pier Approach Western Esplanade Southend-on-Sea SS1 2EH