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This is the culture page for Essex.
Since 1990, great lengths have been taken to establish mass media and entertainment. Operating out of Kelvedon Hatch Bunker, which following the Revolution of 1990 was converted to civilian control and used for broadcasting. There are three public broadcast radio channels:
- Essex Waves provides news services, drama and comedy, such as Alan Davies' Slice of Life.
- Sounds provides pre-Doomsday music.
- The Hits broadcasts modern music and independent comedy productions.
Proposals have been made to extend the number of radio wavelengths available, though many are kept closed and monitored by the military in case foreign radio signals are sent.
Essex Waves is currently broadcasting a ten-part epic in one hour installments about the life of fictitious East End Londoner Mehmet Rakif and his struggle to survive in the fragmentary remains after Doomsday. Based on a number of survivor accounts acquired over the decades the story ranges from the days leading up to Doomsday and on that night in the first episode, and then follows Mehmet for the next two and a half decades. Featuring 'challenging' accounts of survival in the bleak and hellish landscape of London and the arrival of Essex raiding parties through 1996-98 (set to be the most 'controversial' episode) the story will strive to be as realistic as possible whilst adapting as many different stories as possible for a coherent and exciting storyline. It is hoped that the programme could be adapted for film or television, though as Essex has the capabilities of neither it is looking for foreign interest to sell the rights to televise. The story will begin broadcasting at 9:30 PM on May 1st and is expected to bring large audiences thanks to a powerful advertising campaign on all three major radio channels.
Essex currently has no public television capability, and very limited governmental use. Plans existed throughout 2010 and 2011 to change this, but under the new Barker-McCardle government the project was axed for technical difficulties and uselessness given the greater problems facing the nation.
The Essex Chronicle remains the primary newspaper within the country, having absorbed the Hertfordshire Mercury facilities upon expansion in the area. The Chronicle is subsidized and government-owned, delivered to all communes within the country and gives as balanced a view as possible on issues. It holds the distinction of being the only paper to serve the entire country, whereas every other paper only serves at most a few boroughs. The newspaper is printed on recycled paper and encourages readers to return older papers for further recycling.
In recent years traditional short stories and novels have regained popularity. However, the cost of printing individual books would be prohibitive, and if the entire run is not purchased could prove a waste of resources. As such groups of stories are typically published together in the monthly Imagination Magazine delivered with the Essex Chronicle. These magazines generally contain around twenty stories aimed at a number of audiences and of varying lengths, along with author biographies and a handful of reviews. These represent superior returns on investment as the costs of printing individual books are almost entirely removed from the equation, and as only single copies are delivered to subscribing communities ensure that no paper is wasted. The format is typically two or three novellas, ten or twelve short stories, and a few poems and children's stories included too. Stories are subject to extensive review prior to publishing and thoroughly proofread to ensure no paper is wasted, but the story must appear in written form for submission before being published; the magazine's editors publish 'the written word, not ideas'.
A popular story that has been reprinted twice is Fallen Light, written in 2009, a novella set in a world where the result of the War of 2008 was reversed and Essex was absorbed by the True British Army. Focusing on a soldier named Karen Smith, sole survivor of the fictional Battle of Takeley (ironically this would be the site of a key victory for Essex in 2010), the story explores her as she leads a group of survivors across the east of England, trying to stay ahead of the marauding force of the True British Army. The backdrop of the story is bleak but recognised as highly plausible: it assumes that a wise TBA leadership would immediately attempt to remove the aerial threat posed by Woodbridge, and after a pitched battle at Ipswich would manage to swarm the defences of the country and remove the threat there too. The East British Royal Guardsmen are utterly vanquished by a far stronger and more numerous foe, and by the time Karen Smith and her associates arrive in the Kingdom of Cleveland the TBA has managed to assume control over most of England. The story's end is bittersweet. The TBA's armies are trumped as they invade Cleveland by the technologically advanced strength of Celtic Alliance troops, but are spread out well enough to begin a long and brutal guerrrilla warfare campaign that, the last lines of the story suggest, was only concluded after the vicious usage of biological and chemical weapons by the Celtic Alliance that rendered much of England once more uninhabitable, leaving Karen Smith and her comrades the only remaining citizens of the now-irreparable Essex, Woodbridge and East Britain.
Upon the publishing of the novella in the Celtic Alliance, the author of Fallen Light has announced he intends to publish a new alternate history novel set in a world where Britain did not evacuate after Doomsday. The novel is tentatively set for a release date near Christmas and has the working title of The Ashes. The author has not specified the reason for this, though has hinted that it is related to the pre-Doomsday cricket competition, which was dominated by the rivalry between Britain and Australia.
Essex is the most densely populated nation in all of the former United Kingdom, with nearly 800,000 inhabitants. Life expectancy is 44 - about as high as it was in ancient Rome. This is a record high since Doomsday.Over 80% of the population is aged less than 40, and in the past this has been as much as 86%; as such Essex's extremely youthful population has shaped the nation in a mold subtly different from the rest of the UK's successor nations.
Life expectancy is so low due to the lack of proper healthcare. An industry of herbological pharmaceuticals has developed since Doomsday, along with almost three decades of slowly-amassed understanding of diets that naturally reduce the risk of cancer. Sicknesses have also been contained somewhat due to a conscious effort to improve sanitation, and Essex has never suffered a major epidemic. Nonetheless there is no getting the round the blight of the nation - the radioactive ruins of London.
Since contact with the outside world it has traded extensively to create as efficient an agricultural base as possible, and manages to feed an estimated 85% of its population solely on home-grown food. It buys the remainder both from nearby nations (chiefly Woodbridge, as well as other English states) and those further afield (continental Europe, with tentative agreements with New Britain).
As a side effect of its population Essex is the only English nation that can truly afford abortions. However, it still discourages these in most circumstances. Abortions have only been legal since 1997, when it was decided that radiation levels and numbers of deaths related to radiation were dropping sufficiently to allow voluntary loss of life. Average life expectancy has been rising slowly since the mid-1990s and is currently hovering around 55. Three in ten deaths are due to cancer, one in twenty due to radiation sickness from prolonged exposure to radioactive sites, and most of the rest down to diseases easily preventable in the more advanced regions of the world. Malnutrition makes up nearly all remaining cases. Two in five children die before age five.
Essex turns a blind eye to homosexual relationships but refuses same-sex marriage, on the grounds that it doesn't want to set precedent for a measure that could drastically curtail population growth in the state - an edict that is widely recognised as pointless, but tolerated by both homosexual and heterosexual couples. Marriage is permitted from the age of 16 upwards, regardless of parental consent.
Very little in the way of fashion has held Essex, though ‘designer’ clothes salvaged from Doomsday and produced following the Rejuvenation hold some value on the market . Most of the population of Essex still wear hand-me-downs from Doomsday, albeit heavily patched and repaired following years of wear and tear. The clothes most citizens wear are functional and utilitarian, heavily faded from years of sunlight after work in the fields, and patched.
Pet ownership following Doomsday fell dramatically. Resources were simply too tight to feed both humans and animals, and as such the vast majority of animals were either killed or allowed to run wild. However, since 1995 cats and dogs have started to regain popularity. Dogs remain in use by the authorities for tracking, guarding and searching, whilst cats have mostly switched to a semi-feral status, living in farmhouses and catching mice and other pests. Very few of either animal, though, are privately owned, and there are no pet shops throughout the entirety of Essex. The closest equivalent to these are the several stables and ranches, which breed horses, donkeys and mules for use on farms and for transportation of goods.
Essex was the home of the Essex Eagles cricket team and in 2007 their facilities were restored to playing condition after prior use for agriculture. Essex holds both national and international competitions at this cricket ground, and is making a bid for this to become the primary cricket ground for OBN competitions. It also plays friendly football games with teams from Woodbridge and, occasionally, East Britain.
Education in Essex is, like many other facilities, dispensed on a communal basis. Communes generally band together to provide basic schooling systems, whose quality has been steadily rising since the mid-1990s with the introduction of new textbooks and the abundance of writing materials. Most primary schools in the countryside have a few dozen pupils who are collected on cart (few can spare the time to escort their children to schools) and have only a couple of classes, generally 'older' and 'younger'. Secondary schools are typically based in towns and attended from wider areas. In 2005 attendance of secondary schools up to the age of 15 became compulsory.
After primary and secondary education students can either go straight to work, enter vocational colleges, or join one of five universities. Universities tend to offer more biased curricula, for instance towards engineering (the Engineering Corps runs its own university, based in Braintree) or agriculture, though Anglia-Ruskin University tries to offer a more broad subject range, at the expense of depth. Students from Essex often opt to go to Woodbridge's universities, and vice versa.
When Essex was the Interim Nation of Essex crime was dealt with extremely harshly: in nearly every case a crime would result in either execution or 'roaching' - sent into the ruins of London, Southend and Colchester to search for any usable equipment. The term 'roaching' developed from the horrible deformations that would result from injury on the missions, and the fact that, like cockroaches at Ground Zero, those punished with roaching would be living their lives where the bombs went off.
Following the Revolution of 1990 it was unilaterally decided that capital punishment in every case was barbaric, but it was still used in some circumstances, such as for murder, treason, and rape outside of a relationship. Roaching was generally abandoned as a practice, most roaches had already died off, and with slowly decreasing a few private partnerships were even offering to do the job for the government, in return for pay. These people are generally referred to as 'scavengers' but the term 'roach' stays with the job, and has even become a somewhat heroic activity in the eyes of the civilian population.
Other crimes - such as theft and assault - result in hard labour, often in the harshest of terrain. Like several other states Essex implements a 'three strike' system, though it has double usage; underage offenders are given two 'slaps on the wrist' before being sent to a life of hard labour (naturally, depending on the crime this can be skipped). For adults the three strikes lead to either a life sentence or execution, depending on the severity of the crimes committed.
Despite suffering heavily with the influx of Cockney-speakers since the 1880s, the Essex dialect has made a slow recovery since Doomsday. It is strongest in the north and east of the nation but has managed to spread into the Hertfordshire territories and even as far as Chelmsford. Once the preserve of the older generations, the lack of mobility has meant the dialect has suffered less dilution or pollution from the more common Estuary accent, and is now as common amongst youth as it is amongst the elderly. Peculiarities of the dialect include:
- Using 'boy' to describe a man of any age; ie calling a man an 'old boy'
- Substituting many words for 'a', such as 'of' and 'would'; i.e. 'pair a shoes' and 'everyone a be singin
- Dropping of 'l's; ie old > owd
- Shortening of elongated vowels; ie been > bin, seen > sin
- Dropping letters to ease flow of speech; ie wonderful > wunnerful, and correctly > creckly
The Estuary accent remains more common and is spoken most strongly throughout the southern and western parts of the nation, but is ubiquitous across the country. Most other accents have been lost or blended with Estuary.
Little London phenomenon
Following Doomsday, Essex received a large influx of refugees from London. While many of these people were scattered around to various farms, the majority of survivors from one area tended to form a single large camp. As towns were rebuilt in the 90s many of these settled populations began to refer to themselves by their places of origin, leading to examples of 'Little Upminster' and 'Little Loughton', generally built in the triangle of urbanisation between Chelmsford, Southend and Brentwood. As Essex has expanded into Kent and Hertfordshire, more populations have been moved either voluntarily or forcefully into this industrial heartland of Essex, and the phenomenon has repeated itself, leading to the founding of communities such as 'New Hertford' and 'Little Luton'.