Talk Time – Emergency Conversations along the Coastline


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 communication technology 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.




During the Napoleonic war the British grew envious of the French’s semaphore systems and began to develop their own. In the early 1800s various experiments took place along the Tendring coastline and along the chain of Martello towers and HMS Warning at Mersea Island. Discover more of the history in our blog post here.

Interactive Website

Signals worked with Creative Technologist Ben Tilbury from the University of Essex to create the Interactive Semaphore website, celebrating Tendring’s coastal heritage and connections with early experiments in long distance communication during the Napoleonic war. Play the game here.

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.


In this first episode of the Talk Time podcast, we interviewed David Neame from Friends of the Jaywick Martello tower, who told us all about why the towers were built and the role they played in the war.

RADAR at The Naze



During WWII, The Naze at Walton was home to a top secret British experiment. Installed on top of the Naze Tower itself, this technology was so powerful it gave Britain the winning hand in the crucial Battle of Britain. That technology was RADAR.

We interviewed Michelle Nye-Browne, one of the current owners of The Naze Tower and spoke to her about the buildings fascinating history throughout the centuries.

Find out more of the history in the blog post here.

Video Game

We worked with the SEN students of Market Field College to make an exciting game all about RADAR. Working together, remotely over the internet, we explored how to easily visualise the technology which allows you to ‘see in the dark’ using radio waves.

Play for yourself here.

North Sea Flood of 1953



On the 68th anniversary of the North Sea Flood, Signals is sharing a specially commissioned animation and interactive story exploring how communication technology of the time influenced both the devastating death toll and inspiring stories of survival.

Find out more about the history in our blog post here.

Interactive Website

We commissioned digital artist Dave Norton to create an interactive experience based on the 1953 North Sea Flood, inspired by the first hand and eye witness accounts detailed in various archives, including Essex Record Office and local history groups. In the process of making this interactive story, Dave worked with the young musicians at CLIP to create all the sound design, and the Colchester Sea Cadets who put the game through its paces in the testing phase.

Play the game for yourself here.


We spoke to Steve James from Essex RAYNET who told us about the live saving role that amateur radio played during the disaster and the resulting creation of RAYNET, an organisation that still plays an important role to this day.

COVID Communications


Interactive Website

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.