Club Critical Theory (Southend-On-Sea)


Giles Tofield (The Cultural Engine)

Andrew Branch (School of Arts & Digital Industries, UEL)

Tony D Sampson (School of Arts & Digital Industries, UEL)


The Aim

To bring about a public engagement with the concept of critical theory – not as something that relates only to itself, but as something that can be considered and applied to public life. Something that is, in fact, useful (we can debate that). Whether we choose to believe it, or see it, we all see things from a theoretical perspective; we may not know what perspective(s) that is, or care. It is suggested (prior to rigorous testing through debate) that theory should be applied and not purely self-referential (this is of course an over simplification as much theory is applied over time).

The Benevolent Theorist

There are a lot of people out there who are critically aware, but how often does that thinking pervade the public life outside of universities, galleries and literature? This is not to challenge the importance of ‘critical spaces’, but this whole system could be considered exclusive. Perhaps the mass of theory should be pulling its weight more out there where we need it.

Why do we need it? Should we not want more critically aware citizens in Southend? Is it right to expect people to look at their own attitudes to areas of public policy more critically? Would this not improve our interaction and perhaps influence on policy and keep our local and national politicians, community and business leaders on their toes? Not caring about what happens around us is still a decision.

Building the Critical Space               


It is proposed that we gather together, on a regular basis, those who are interested in critical theory and its real world application. This, at least initially, is likely to be academics, artists and writers. This may be simply recreating the ‘exclusivity’ of the critical space, but it is a start. That can be discussed.

Creating a ‘critical space’ would involve people who are interested in explaining areas of critical theory that they think could/should have real world application, and then explaining how it might be useful to Southend in particular (but also other areas of the world). Focusing on Southend would perhaps challenge those taking part to think about applying critical theory to areas of public life that may impact (positively or negatively) on themselves, and people that they know (and other people). Applied theory – a challenge to everyone.


It is proposed that a critical space – a space that specifically refers to itself as such – can only be beneficial for public life. The aim is to get critical theory out there…..There are no political aims, rather a proposal that more critically aware (or inclined) individuals are likely to engage in public issues more effectively (although it might do the opposite).

Giles Tofield, 18th December 2013

Getting Involved: Proposals for future events and engagement in CCT

One of our declared aspirations is to generate a critical space in which to reflect on the cultural experiences of people living in south Essex. We hope that the debates instigated at our events might contribute to the shaping of local government policy initiatives.

This means that we welcome contributions from anyone interested in theorizing practice. Whether you’re an artist, musician, photographer, political activist, student, teacher, writer, or just someone keen to generate informed debate, we’d like to hear from you.

If you have an idea for a theme/topic to be addressed at a CCT event, or want to suggest a speaker, please complete this form…

CLUB CRITICAL THEORY proposal pro forma

… and submit it to


External Links



banner photograph by Simon Fowler


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