Talk Time – Emergency Conversations along the Coastline

Throughout history coastal communities have been a hot bed of communication technology innovation, constantly devising new ways to keep in touch with those at sea.

Here in Essex, the Tendring coastline has its own unique part in this global story, as home to some of the first experiments with semaphore, radar and national amateur radio networks.

In early 2020 the world was shaken by COVID-19, whilst this project was initially about “everyday” communication technology, the pandemic provided an opportunity for the project to focus on how technology is facilitating our new remote reality and we found these four stories from Tendring’s past about communication technology during times of need:

  • Semaphore and the Martello towers during the Napoleonic Wars
  • RADAR on top of The Naze Tower in Walton during World War Two
  • The role of radio and telephones during the 1953 floods, and the resulting amateur radio emergency support network
  • How communities are using global tools to maintain local connections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Talk Time Podcast

We want to hear from anyone with stories, memories or knowledge of these topics for our upcoming Talk Time podcast where we’ll be unpacking the way that technology has a direct impact on how we keep in touch, especially in times of need. Perhaps you learnt semaphore in the sea cadets, have postcards of the RADAR dish at Walton or you have an interesting story about how you’ve kept in touch with loved ones during the pandemic. If you would like to get in touch, please contact

This project was made possible with funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Essex 2020.

Stop the ships from crashing into the rocks with our semaphore game!

Signals launches interactive semaphore website to celebrate Tendring’s coastal heritage and connections with early experiments in long distance communication during the Napoleonic war.

Stop the ships from crashing into the rocks with our Semaphore inspired video game! Use your webcam and wave your arms to semaphore different letters and save the ships from sinking. Celebrate Tendring’s maritime heritage and experiment with exciting new technology by playing games and learning local history.

Explore an interactive landscape of screenshots and samples from COVID Communications.

Connect is an interactive environment by artist Sian Fan. A 360 walkthrough of the interactive archive showing screenshots of digital communications from the people of Tendring during the Covid-19 pandemic submitted through an open call. Connect explores how our physical experiences have been reshaped through communication technologies like Zoom, FaceTime and the many other ways we connect online. Click here to watch the 360 video and read an interview with Sian to find out more about the artwork.

Explore the interactive landscape yourself