The Life of Julie Cope – exhibition at firstsite

Julie Cope was an Essex Girl. Her life is celebrated in Grayson Perry’s House for Essex in Wrabness, overlooking the River Stour.

We visited the house on a bike ride on a glorious summers day in 2015, and wrote it up here. As you can see, back in 2015 Grayson was our all-time favourite Essex-born cross-dressing contemporary artist specialising in ceramics. And he still is – if not more so!

Julie was born on Canvey Island, and moved across the county, living her life, working, caring for her family and friends, having fun and falling in love. Her final home was in the Dutch Quarter in Colchester. I wonder whether Grayson noted the connection between Canvey Island, which was originally drained and reclaimed from the sea in the sevententh century by Dutch engineers, and the Dutch Quarter, so named because it is where Flemish Weavers settled when they arrived in Colchester to work in the wool trade in the sixteenth century.

The artist Grayson Perry brought Julie to life through his work in poetry, sculpture, tapestry and television programmes. I particularly enjoyed this article about Grayson in the Guardian written in November 2017 just before the exhibition at firstsite opened.

This is the story of and ordinary woman, whose identity is created and influenced by the culture, social background, history and landscape of her home in the south of the county. Then as Julie grows and moves home across the county, her life changes and her world expands.

The exhibition The Life of Julie Cope at firstsite has been a resounding success with thousands of visitors. When I visited there were groups of people sitting listening to the audio of Grayson reading Julie’s story, groups discussing the glorious tapestries and looking for local landmarks in them, (Colchester’s Victorian Town Hall features prominently in one of the tapestries), whilst others were looking at the original sketchbooks and plans for Julies House at Wrabness.

Many reviews and articles have been written about Grayson Perry, the Life of Julie Cope and the House for Essex. I can’t add any thing original to the discussions, other than to say, if you’re any where near to Colchester before the 18th February 2018, make sure that you take time to visit the exhibition at firstsite. Seeing it and then visiting Julies House at Wrabness will I think make you feel happy and thoughtful, which as they say is no bad thing.

And clearly this Essex Girl had been a good girl throughout the year as Father Christmas brought me a couple of Grayson Perry books, *and* the tapestry Essex Map tote bag. But clearly not *that* good as there was no Grayson Perry ceramic vase under the Christmas tree,,,,