Leigh On Sea News: EKCO Centenary Exhibition – THREE years on from the completion of a sculpture celebrating one of Southend’s greatest companies, Eric Cole’s family were finally able to visit together.
EKCO Centenary Exhibition - THREE years on from the completion of a sculpture celebrating one of Southend’s greatest companies, Eric Cole’s family were finally able to visit together.
THREE years on from the completion of a sculpture celebrating one of Southend’s greatest companies, Eric Cole’s family were finally able to visit together.
Eric Cole’s daughter and son in law, Anne and John Muir will be visited the sculpture along with three generations of the family.
The sculpture was completed during covid, when no unveiling was permitted, so this allowed Derek Cole’s grandson Alexander Pryce, Southend Mayor Stephen Habermel and local MP Anna Firth to officially unveil the sculpture alongside great grandson Alexander. The Artists Anne Schwegmann-Fielding and Tamsin Evans were also in attendance.
The life size Mosaic and Bronze sculpture of Cole, standing on an AD65 EKCO radio, is located in the new EKCO Park housing estate, where the factory once stood, and was commissioned by Bellway Homes.
Unlike more conventional statues, the photographs on ‘Our Eric’s’ suit capture the social history. 182 black and white photographs have been fired onto porcelain tiles and carefully cut by hand. T
The photos depict products made at the factory including radios and televisions, factory workers, company transport, press cuttings of sports and social events and even a Luftwaffe map outlining the EKCO factory.
Cole’s head, hands and shoes are cold-cast bronze and the radio made from Corten steel, reflects the shape and colour of the early Bakelite radios and forms a plinth.
Its creator is Anne Schwegmann-Fielding, an internationally renowned British sculptor and mosaic artist based in Colchester. Her work is predominantly made from recycled materials, but for this sculpture she “recycled” original photographs, bringing the community together, working closely with Eric’s relatives and former EKCO employees.
Schwegmann-Fielding worked with sculptor Tamsin Evans on the creation of the figure, with Evans producing a great likeness of Cole in cold cast bronze. She also worked with sculptor Michael Condron to create the Corten steel AD65 radio.
From humble beginnings in a garden shed in 1922, Eric K Cole went on to establish the EKCO factory in 1930, on a former cabbage patch field in Priory Crescent, Southend.
What started as a radio manufacturing firm, grew to be an international brand producing the must have electronics and gadgets of the time.
During the second world war they became a key developer of wartime technology including the electronics for radar and the first guided missiles, with Eric personally designing the circuitry used to help crack the enigma code.
At its peak the company was the main employer of the town, employing over 8,000 people. In its 40 years in business, EKCO produced everything from car radios and convection heaters to vital medical equipment and the award winning Novaware, a range of kitchen and dining products, much loved by Prince Philip.
Ms Firth said: “I was delighted to visit such an amazing commemoration of one of the forerunners of Southend’s enterprising community spirit.
“ECKO is an incredible example of the innovation and kindness which surrounds us, and I was privileged to attend today.”
Anne Schwegmann-Fielding added: “My work involves researching the history of a place and its links with the community.
“EKCO is still so loved in Southend, that it was not hard to meet people with great knowledge and stories, which were shared at an open day at the EKCO sports and social club.
“I try to make my public pieces feel part of the landscape, as if they had always been there.
“The use of personal images alongside the advertisements and products captures the unique history of the factory and demonstrates the appreciation Cole had for his staff.”
A plaque sums up his legacy, she said: “More than just a brand, Eric built a community.”