New exhibition at Southend Central Museum celebrates EKCO: 100 Years of Design and Innovation in Southend

An exciting new exhibition recording the development and history of EKCO, is set to open this month at Southend Central Museum. A global brand and once one of the largest employers in Southend, EKCO had a huge impact on local people and the development of Southend, and even contributed to Britain’s success in World War Two.

Black and white photo of EKCO shop floor

‘EKCO: 100 Years of Design and Innovation in Southend’ will run from 26 November 2022 to November 2023. A celebration of the visually iconic EKCO brand, the exhibition will feature original EKCO radios, televisions and domestic plastics produced between 1920 and 1970. The exhibition will feature experiences of the local people who worked for EKCO, and the contribution of significant figures, including founder Eric Kirkham Cole and renowned designers Wells Coats and Serge Chermayeff.

EKCO radio holds a cherished place for many citizens of Southend-on-Sea and will no doubt evoke feelings of nostalgia for EKCO workers, relatives and customers. As we celebrate innovation and champion Southend’s entrepreneurial spirit in our first year as a city, the exhibition will also introduce younger generations to the EKCO story.  The exhibition charts the growth of EKCO from a local company to a global leader and supplier of cutting-edge technological products.

Visitors will also find out about the largely unknown role that workers from EKCO played during World War Two. In addition to making significant contributions towards the development of radar, EKCO had a role in developing components of the famous Enigma code-breaking machine.

As well as fascinating objects from the largest collection of historic EKCO products, the exhibition will also feature stories submitted by people with connections to EKCO. These stories will be featured in an online archive of oral histories.

Cllr Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for environment, culture and tourism, said: “The EKCO company was a staple of the Southend community for many years, so it is only right that we tell its story. It is really exciting to see what artefacts have been uncovered as part of the exhibit, and I hope everyone will visit this exhibition to immerse themselves in the history of a great company and our great city.
“I would like to thank our museum staff for the care which they take with such precious items and to all those from the area and beyond who have contributed with their own memories and donations.”

Ciara Phipps, director of Southend Museums, said:This exhibition has been a wonderful opportunity to display a selection of the extensive collection of EKCO ephemera and objects that we hold at Southend Museums. Exploring the exceptional design of EKCO products and advertising material, alongside the innovative and creative technological advances the company were making, will be enriched with the insightful and heart-warming accounts of what EKCO was really like for those who worked there. Locally cherished and globally respected, EKCO was a game changer, and we can't wait for the local community to experience the show.”

‘EKCO: 100 years of design and innovation in Southend’ will run from 26/11/22 to 26/11/23. To find out more about Southend Museums, or check out past exhibitions, visit their website.

Published: 4th November 2022

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