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Experience the story of the

Tues 19th - Sat 23rd September 2023
Southend Pier

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City that Walks on Water

What is CTWOW?

Get to know the project

The City that Walks on Water Project (CTWOW) is a community led creative exploration of Southend-on-Sea’s historical legacy. It aims to create a dramatic and inclusive theatrical blueprint that informs and engages the rich and diverse heritage that has made a small fishing village into a thriving city.

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You could be part of it too!

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CTWOW will work with local community groups using historical research and storytelling to find the people whose lives echo current times, and move history away from weighty tomes and dry lectures to playful scripts and engaging stories that will bring heritage to life across generations.

Who are we working with?


Meet the many people who made it all possible

Meet Sir William Heygate, once Lord Mayor of London who first championed the building of a Pier in the 1830s, as well as the men who risked life and limb to build an engineering miracle in diseased tidal mud, meet the German POWs from WW1 imprisoned on cruise ships at the end of the Pier. Meet the staff that pioneered the use of one of the first ever x-ray machines in the UK in Queen Mary’s Naval Hospital, the Italian family that sold sweets and ice cream for half a century, only for their father to be interned when WW2 started because he hadn’t got his papers, and Mona Marnell and her team who fed the Armed Forces on HMS Leigh.

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When can you come down and enjoy the experience?

CTWOW will be performed on Southend Pier from the 19th to the 23rd of September 2023, and will focus on the powerful real-life human dramas that have unfolded since the inception of the Pier in the 1830s.

Each of the scenes will be constructed to work as a standalone performance, as well as an immersive theatrical piece, inspired by archive and memory.

Importantly, the project will also preserve the history of the real past lives of the city: Each dramatic piece will be based on the true story behind it. Like the pier itself– CTWOW will be a gateway to further heritage interest and engagement of the rich and vaired past of Southend-on-Sea City and the villages that formed it.

When and where will CTWOW be performed?

On Tuesday 28th February, BBC Essex interviewed Project Leaders Beth Hooper and Alastair Deacon, as well as Co-writer Samantha Lierens to talk about our upcoming production.

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CTWOW aims to encourage local schools, theatre and community groups to perform part or all of scenes that make up the whole CTWOW production, and it will be an excellent opportunity for people to both explore and own their local heritage.

CTWOW workshops devising the scripts for each scene will examine why things we take for granted now came to play such an important part in the history of the city. Many of the stories of Southend Pier – immigration, identity, war, family disputes, poverty, sexism – resonate with current-day issues.


The project is working with a writer’s cooperative, local historians and community groups/schools to generate and stage an innovative take on the last 200 years.

If you would like to take part in the City that Walks on Water, please contact us at:

Aims of CTWOW

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