Tomas Bata's vision to "work collectively, live individually" inspired pre-war architects to design Modernist utopian settlements to serve the needs of his shoe factory workers. Bata's home-town of Zlin in the Czech Republic became a prototype that was replicated across the globe as his shoe empire expanded. One of these factory settlements was the village of East Tilbury in Thurrock, which was developed by Bata in 1932.
Recognising this remarkable history, we approached Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie to develop a project for the site and community of East Tilbury. Drawing upon Bata's idealism as well as East Tilbury's more recent industrial decline, the project began with the creation of a travel agency that recalled Bata's heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. As visitors browsed the Bata memorabilia they were invited to apply to go on a holiday in the Czech Republic. With responses from former employees, local residents, art, architecture and social/industrial history enthusiasts, over forty people were selected to go on the trip.
Directed by Pope and Guthrie, a film of this journey, 'Bata-ville: We Are Not Afraid of the Future', provides an unusual, entertaining and poignant exploration into the origins of East Tilbury as well as its impending regeneration.
Bata-ville was supported by funding from Allerdale Borough Council, Arts Council England East, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Cultural Foundation, Screen East and Thurrock Council.
Photograph by John Podpadec.