Folk Off, TOWIE

Having lived in Essex for most of my life, I am as much in love with the place as I am appalled by it. I’ve never wanted to leave, but occasionally I find myself wondering how I’m still here.

I am aware that this love-hate dichotomy is not unique to Essex; it’s just what happens when you live somewhere. You see good stuff, you see bad stuff. I’ve been in Nottingham on a Saturday night and it was horrifyingly ‘Essex’. Newcastle – more ‘Essex’ than I have ever got close to seeing in actual ‘Essex’. The wrongly patented ‘low culture’ of Essex can be found anywhere. Its localisation is a fallacy.

It isn’t helped by people continuing to stoke the stereotypes. There are comedians and public personas who do little to challenge the tired old Essex schtick and I’m always disappointed they don’t find more original thoughts; write newer jokes. Of course they will say that they’re just commenting on what’s around them, but I would counter that with: move in better circles then. Be more interesting.

But there are no worse ambassadors for the county right now than the effluence that gets polished up, put in tiny clothes and thrust on TOWIE. Why did they have to put Essex in the title? Couldn’t they have called it The Only Way You Won’t Want To Commit Homicide Is If You Switch Off Now?

It’s not a style thing. I don’t have a problem with the way they make themselves look. (Though the girls on TOWIE would probably rather douse themselves in Jagermeister and set themselves alight than go out looking like me, and that is fine; feel free, girls.)

No, what I oppose isn’t so much the clothes, the outlook, the lifestyle, the materialism, the shallow pursuits, the gauche pantomime of human relationships, the nurtured inanity, or the verbal excreta that is encouraged to spew forth untrammelled from the glossy collagen-puckered sphincter-holes they still call mouths in the name of entertainment. We, the world, have an illustrious cultural history of laughing at morons after all. From the court jester, to Shakespearean fools, to be-wigged Restoration buffoons, to Charlie Chaplin, to Norman Wisdom, to Morecambe and Wise, through to the beautiful slapstick of Miranda Hart. We will always love to chuckle at idiots. (It is worth noting though that those people are merely acting stupid.)

This column isn’t even about the damage the TOWIE lot (and by lot I do mean mostly the production team behind it, not its more arresting cast) are doing to impressionable viewers who think that the bilge they’re watching – the contrived lives of malleable models of social and intellectual ineptitude – is to be revered and emulated. Not even that today, folks.


Leigh Folk Festival is the country’s biggest free folk festival. It is a superbly planned, programmed, and orchestrated event in my home town – a beautiful fishing town near the mouth of the river Thames, under an hour away from the bustle of London – and there is so much wonderful stuff on offer. The artists that travel from around the world to perform there are masters of their craft and the reputation of the Festival is impeccable.

So when I heard that the dimwitted clothes-horses off TOWIE planned to stage a day trip, a diarrhoeic diaspora to film with the Folkies, I got a bit riled. BOG OFF, YOU BOTOX-CLOGGED NUMBSKULLS. We don’t turn up at the Sugar Hut with our tambourines and faded plaid shirts, so don’t come clacking to our folk festival because you think you’ll get some hilarious juxtapositional edits from your cackling vacuity rubbing up alongside a nice man named Brian playing his accordion, who’s worked his fingers bloody to get good at something. Don’t bring your cleavage beaming with the iridescent glaze of dried spunk as you totter along saying you didn’t even know music existed before they invented electricity. And don’t you dare even try to raise a botoxed eyebrow at the nice man who wears a top hat covered in flowers. He’s been being quietly quirky since long before your parents had their ill-fated fuck in a Clacton caravan.

I can hear the producer: “Hey, guys. Guys. Quickly, put the bronzer down and listen up. And you, girls. Right. There’s this thing, like, in Leigh? In the old bit, that smells of fish? I know. Grimsville. Anyway. It’s got guys playing guitars that aren’t plugged in and people singing nursery rhymes and stuff? I was thinking we could all go down there in white DJs and slutty LBDs and get some footage of you gyrating a xylophone? It’s a thing you bash with a stick? Anyway. I think it would be pretty reem and totes hilair. LET’S GET TOTALLY FOLKED AND RUIN EVERYONE’S FUN THEN TAKE SELFIES OF US LAUGHING ABOUT IT IN THE LIMOS ON THE WAY HOME! OMG, LOL, ROFL, LMAO, YOLO. Yeah?”

That’s what I can’t stand. Their intentions. Their intention was not to go down to a nice fishing town that appears in the Domesday book, that sent men in their little boats to Dunkirk who never returned, to muse on the sea or the silent swollen history of the Thames. Their intention was not to have their minds opened by nice music they’ve not heard before nor to spend time in the presence of people different to themselves. They weren’t even going to contrive a nauseating segment where an ailing on-off cast ‘relationship’ is rekindled by the moving strains of a ukelele orchestra; their souls temporarily transformed by some arcane melody of a sea shanty as old as the sea itself; they weren’t going to finish the episode with a thought-provoking epilogue where Dickhead #1 muses to Dickhead #2 that they’ve had a really nice day not being in a club or salon, and that life really is richer the more hues are woven into its tapestry, before trying to play Ring-a-Ring-a-Roses on some recorders that appear magically from an unseen runner’s hand.


Their intention was to get cheap laughs for their relentlessly turgidly awful programme. Their intention was to steal focus from people who had turned up to perform in a modest beautiful honest way, and to distract people who had come to watch something artful and accomplished that didn’t involve gemstones being glue-gunned to a bald pubis.

I know I sound a bit harsh. I’m sure they’re not all completely deplorable deep down. Some of them are probably even a bit alright. I hear ‘Joey Essex’ in particular is quite cute and a bit heartbreaking. But by god’s great balls I would wrestle him to the death in a vat of cold beans to wrest my county’s name from his moniker for the greater good.

After spending time they didn’t really have deliberating over TOWIE’s request to film there, the Leigh Folk Festival committee politely declined.

And the saying no is important. No to the wrong kind of exposure. No to the telly company’s dirty dollar. No to the faff it would have involved accommodating their gauche arrival, no to the distraction from operations that the organisers have spent all year working hard towards, no to the diversion from what the festival is actually all about.
The no is important. Essex gets maligned and misrepresented enough. Essex gets taken over by lots of forces we can’t control, quite often by the wearying potency of television, and it’s important to defend and exercise what power we have when we can.
We are not the tired old tripe, the blinkered lazy stereotype. We are not the shit on the box. We are not that Essex. No.





  1. Kirsty McHattie · June 30, 2014

    I cheered when I got to the end of reading this. Well said, that gal! Although, I can’t help thinking that the decline from the LFF committee may also have had more than a passing thought of what would’ve happened to their fine name should a collection of blindingly orange carcasses been discovered bobbing on the incoming tide today.

    Still, I wholeheartedly agree with their refusal. Sadie, you are absolutely correct: we are not THAT Essex. Bravo!

  2. Mark · June 30, 2014

    A few years ago, myself and other complementary therapists and healers in the area were asked to appear on TOWIE. The spiel was that one of the lead cast members was genuinely looking for spiritual guidance over a recent relationship break-up. The producers claimed that the topic would be dealt with sensitively and with respect but it still felt wrong. The segment that eventually aired showed him going to a yoga class that was full of leotard-clad ladies with 90% of the shots focusing on bums and boobs. So glad we said no…

  3. Heather Hennessey · June 30, 2014

    Well said! I so agree with everything said here. I am a Geordie and feel exactly the same about the dross that is Geordie Shore……absolute rubbish pertaining to be the ‘norm’ in Newcastle. I cheered too!

  4. \Colin Strange · June 30, 2014

    Well said Sadie. Essex and Leigh in particular is a great place to live and should not be ruined by TOWIE idiots and fluff heads.

  5. bookersasha · June 30, 2014

    OMG this article is totes amazeballs!!!!! (No really, a beautifully laugh out loud defence of the folk festival). Keep up the good work bro x

  6. Kathy Rees · June 30, 2014

    Thank you for saying this so eloquently. I too felt outraged when I heard of TOWIE’s request and I respect the committee for saying no, and for not getting distracted from what they do so well – showcasing a huge breadth of live music for the people of Essex (and beyond)

    • sadiehasler · June 30, 2014

      Thanks, Kathy! Yes, was a good decision on their part. But they’ve got class, so not a surprising one. 🙂

  7. Renee Mathieson · July 1, 2014

    I’m a Leigh resident and a member of the LFF,I could not have put it better myself,nice to see so many of you agree.

  8. matt frow · July 1, 2014

    Ive never seen TOWIE or have been to leigh. But I saw towie when there went to Coalhouse fort near me in East Tilbury ghost hunting.I thought what a brainless idiots.i lived in Essex all my life and anything like TOWIE that brings essex down needs shooting

  9. Julie · July 1, 2014

    Perhaps you all need to extract yourselves from your patronising folky bums and realise it’s just a bit of fun. Perhaps you’re all just jealous because they’re prettier and probably in real life far more educated than the lot of you.

  10. Peter Walsh · July 1, 2014

    An absolutely superb article showing the feelings of genuine Essex people over the age of 30. I had the misfortune of catching the opening episode of towie with my then 15 year old daughter and we were both equally appalled that a TV company would want to make a spoof program like that ( if only ) We’ll done L.F.F for maintaining your standards and integrity.

  11. Dave · July 1, 2014

    10 brain cells shared among the whole cast.

  12. Lauren Clark · July 1, 2014

    What a well written piece. I can’t articulate my outrage and disgust in any other way that “Argh! Do one TOWIE!”

    I live in Essex, and I work in Brentwood High Street. Every time one of those plastacine, orange gonks walks out into the public I hear screaming like someone has been fatally wounded, or run down, or something terrible has happened – but no! It’s just another feeb from the show TOWIE. I stick my fingers in my ears while everyone runs to the window. Essex is now full of businesses named “The Only Way is Trevor’s Plumbers” and “The Only Way is Yoga for Mums and Babies”

    When will it end?

    It’s even worse that there is this pressure to like, and watch TOWIE. If you don’t you’re seen as some miserable pariah.

    • sadiehasler · July 1, 2014

      Ugh. Sounds fuckin horrible, Lauren! *high five of sisterly solidarity* xxx

    • spyintheskyuk · July 1, 2014

      Wow when I was a kid Brentwood was deemed rather up market, all red jumpers on golf courses. Is anywhere safe from this lowest common denominator?

    • Shahshahagogo · July 1, 2014

      I am more than happy to be a pariah.

  13. Steve · July 1, 2014

    Joey Essex. So named so he didn’t forget where he lived, I think we should be told where all these people went to school so they can be put on special measures forever, what a bunch of brainless morons…But with obviously more brains than those that watch the drivel they call entertainment.

  14. cookwitch1 · July 1, 2014

    I think I fell more and more in love with you the further I read. Absolutely well said. And well done to it being declined. Rightly so.

  15. Fiona Fox · July 1, 2014

    This article is genius. I was born and raised just outside Brentwood but moved about 12 years ago. When towie started I watched the first episode thinking it’d be nice to see familiar places etc… Never been so disappointed and annoyed. That’s not my Essex. That’s not where I came from. Kudos to the LFF for saying no.
    “Irredescent glaze of dried spunk” is going to have me chuckling all day 🙂

  16. spyintheskyuk · July 1, 2014

    Those of us from Essex and the East End have spent lives trying to offer an alternative view to the ignorance and bigotry thrown at us from every direction especially from those who should know better. Thank you for stating this so beautifully on our behalf and thanks to the LFF for tossing out this request. Rarely are we given a chance to challenge the stereotypes so where possible we much confront those behind them at every opportunity especially the home counties media luvvies who barely see us as human on their scale.

    • sadiehasler · July 1, 2014

      Wow. Thanks for your thoughtful response. Too right! 🙂

  17. Leigh On Sea Forum · July 1, 2014

    Great article, you have hit the nail on the head. I have mixed feelings about the work planned at the Grand. I am glad someone is doing something with it but also concerned about the programme decending on Leigh for the very reasons you have highlighted. Nice blog thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • sadiehasler · July 1, 2014

      Thank you!

      Yes, the Grand plans are slightly terrifying! Yeesh.

    • Louis Gaston · July 2, 2014

      I live round the corner from the Grand and will consider moving if the Broadway becomes even more of a playground for these vacuous morons.

  18. SeanP · July 1, 2014

    What a marvellous article, I couldn’t have said it better myself! As someone from Southend who studies in the North of England, I’m fed up of the TOWIE obsession and the assumption that I’m one of them!

    Incidentally Leigh Folk Festival and Leigh Art Trail are some of my yearly highlights so I whole heartedly agree with the organising committee!

  19. sarah · July 1, 2014

    I too live in Brentwood, and can agree that the whole TOWIE thing is complete shite..but it has put the place well and truly on the map and where as other towns are full of closed shops and few people Brentwood is a bustling place of classy shops, stalls, bars, restaurants and much much more and that is genuinely down to TOWIE, I just wish I didn’t live here!

  20. Rachel · July 1, 2014

    Well said! I moved to Essex from the beautiful New Forest 10 years ago to marry. I was dreading it. Yet when I moved here, Rayleigh, not far from Leigh I fell in love with it. Parts are beautiful, and some less so (just like the rest of the country) and the same goes for the people.

  21. Jacque baker · July 1, 2014

    What a breath of fresh air to read your article sadie , I have lived in Essex all my life, I now live at the top of Essex, the smallest town in Britain , I dread to think what they would make of the witch finder general, or him of them. My god what has education etequate and common sense become, half the time I don’t understand what the hell they are saying, after flicking the channels I couldn’t belive my ears and had to go back to programme several times just to erasure my mind that NO I didn’t understand them. Anyway well said, I agree with every word .

  22. Dave · July 1, 2014

    More power to every word you have written Sadie!
    As a resident of Essex (and unfortunately living next door but one to the owner of that horrible club featured on that dross of a TV programme) I stand for everything that isn’t depicted on that programme.
    I have had rows with the runners of it when they were filming in our road because they said I couldn’t walk up my own street. As a man who has had a lot of involvement in getting road closures and permissions for gatherings all over this country (including Trafalgar Square) I was the wrong person to try to stop. Nor am I starstruck around so called celebrities having met and talked with actual celebrities.
    Well done to the LFF for telling them no.
    Knowing I am not the only one to despise this vacuous shower has gladdened my heart.

  23. Karen Nute · July 1, 2014

    OMG, shuuuut uuuppp, well reeem.. No I am, of course, taking the piss! As I read your fantastically well observed article I was inwardly cheering. My Mum said recently ‘oh how exciting that the Grand will soon be full of TOWIE people’. I remember seeing Junior Jump and numerous other local bands at the Grand, all wearing whatever the hell we wanted, dancing like crazy and loving it. I’d rather paint myself orange and cut off my fake 38GG tits off than mingle with TOWIE. Well said Sadie!

  24. Hunnybunch · July 2, 2014

    Mr Norcross was also spotted in another establishment being refurbished in leigh-on-sea. Like Mr Rick Stein in Padstowe ‘sourly’ nicknamed Padstein by the locals, I wonder if he will be following in the same suit and buying up most of Leigh Broadway………another opportunity for the TOWIE crew to descend upon you all. I miss the people and Leigh an awful lot. I now live in the Chilterns, Midsomer Murder area but we are thinking of moving back to be near my old pals, good schools, some of the best in the country I might add. Not that you’d think it when listening to some of the members from TOWIE. However you get them everywhere it just so happens a TV crew have managed to make money out of this lot and the cast have done very well financially, as well as the local economy. I guess it had to happen somewhere it is just unfortunate for Essex. Just as you were trying to lift the old Essex girl/man reputation – maybe a(nother) EU grant?? They could send everyone for elocution lessons too get rid of that dreadful estuary accent, not even the true Essex accent which I like!!!

  25. Kevin playfair · July 2, 2014

    I had the misfortune to watch said programme for the first and only time last month as an acquaintance of mine was in it. My jaw was aching after, not from laughter but from being dropped open aghast for an hour of total garbage.
    The above article has hit the nail on the head. I’m still wondering how Leigh will be affected by The Grand being run by orange coloured people?

  26. Phoenix Tarjun · July 2, 2014

    On the morning of the last day of the folk festival, we decided to go, only for me to check the news…and there it was TOWIE trying to disrupt an amazing festival that I have been going to since I was a nipper. So glad they said no and I couldn’t have written this article better myself. You have literally reached into my brain and taken my thoughts, thank you thank you and thrice thank you! p.s we had a blast there again this year it just keeps getting better 🙂

  27. Louise · July 2, 2014

    I run the website Essex Mums and a year or so before the show came out I was contacted by a TV company saying they were looking for individuals and families to be in a new programme about life in Essex. Said they were looking for ‘larger than life characters’ in particular but that it was about the lives of ‘normal people in Essex’. I posted something on the site but they also asked if I knew anyone who would fit. I think at that point they were undecided about where they would film, though I’m sure they always knew the sort of style (or lack of) the programme would have. I’m so glad no-one I knew round here applied – it could have been us rather than Brentwood that this hell happened to!

  28. AP Wyatt · July 2, 2014

    Why is Towie actually on Television – Television was thought of as educational, i can find more educational studies up my left nostril than sitting down to watch that rubbish again. 1 episode was by far too much!

  29. Claire Hobden · July 2, 2014

    Fecking excellent read! I sit here, as a Kentish Lady & county neighbour, marvelling at an article that has spewed forth all that was in my mind, and more. The only difference being, it has been articulated in away I could only dream of!

    I have never, and will never, watch this awful tripe & shows like it. Although I’ve never watched an episode, it’s difficult to go through life at the moment without online references to it, or the ‘stars’ of the show, invading other panel shows like little tango faced, plastic dollies. They make my flesh crawl with the cootiness of a thousand fleas, and quite frankly, I’d rather gouge my own eyes out with hot spoons that watch utter shite like TOWIE. It makes me weep for true entertainment television, you know, where people that have invested their time, money and energy in training for a career at drama school or theatre. Poor unemployed, talented bastards

    Sadie, I love you a little bit today….

    Claire, 43, Self Employed dog groomer. Currently post op recovering at home. Avoiding shit telly! Xx

  30. Thank You so very much.Essex and I am a Leigh boy born and brought up there and the constant references to vacuous stupidity and showy flashness irritates to the point of violence.Essex is,as you illustrate, so much more than these idiots.Great old pubs (the ones still trading) restauarants,guest houses run by good hearted enthusiastic locals The Gleneagles especially on the Cliffs run by the delightful Penny and Gary Lowen, We are more than the multi-national Coffee bars and Burger chains and Essex has Phillip Splett Master Butcher still trading and suppying fabulous meats,salt marsh lamb,sausdages that are a little bit of meat eaters heaven.All of the trades and crafts and skills are there to display to the UK and the wider world but we get turgid grotesque nonsense from vile shells once housing humanity and Our Creator’s Divine spark.

  31. Helen · July 3, 2014

    Interesting article quite amuzing, however there are more shows coming out based in Essex for example golden ladies which is a new reality show showing spoilt rich older women or something but they basing it on comedy which I don’t know how they are going to do that as their current cast look like wannabe hags

    • Sam · July 7, 2014

      Actually Golden Ladies is not about spoilt rich older women, rich does not really come into it. Helen you sound jealous!

    • Suzi Dunn · July 7, 2014

      I enjoyed the article and think you are quite right to have turned them down…. my response however is to Helen….. I am one of the cast of Golden Ladies my name is Suzi Dunn Dumbrill and I own a company called Totally Essex and a brand called EssexLocks, I also designed a product for women called Invisible which is now sold worldwide…. So no i am not a “spoilt rich older woman” nor am I a “wannabe hag”, I would actually love to know where you saw us to say such a nasty thing and how you obtained your information about the show which is by the way incorrect?

      ALL of the cast are Essex Business Women who ALL work extremely hard and are completely self-made. We have also ALL built OUR own businesses from scratch, I would love to know about you? what you do? and how successful have you been in your life?

      All of us are in our forties so yes we have a few wrinkles I would say none of us are hags, we also have life experience, personalities, can speak properly and have WORKED our backsides off to get where we are today which is through sheer hard graft, determination and the business acumen to succeed in our chosen fields. My reason for being in Golden Ladies is to show the other side of living and being from Essex.

      Some of us are also single mothers who rather than take hand-outs from the system or re-marry and expect a man to keep us in credit cards, ranger rovers, designer handbags and shoes decided to go it alone, bring up our children and make something of ourselves….. can you say you would be cut of the same cloth if you were in our position?

      I look forward to your comments on the show when it is aired.

      • sadiehasler · July 7, 2014

        Interesting points, all you ladies. I say let’s reconvene when we’ve all watched it! Interesting conversation. I felt strongly about the TOWIE thing, not because (as I said) I dislike the programme (though I do) so much as disliked their intentions in rocking up to an event they’d otherwise have no interest in. I just don’t think that’s nice telly. Poor form & all that.

        However, I think women who survive and fight and work their tits off and create their own lives and businesses as well as keeping households and families together are awesome – no matter what they’re wearing, how they speak, what they spend their money on, where they shop, how they beautify, or any of that. We’re all gloriously different, & long live it, & good luck to you all!

        I don’t watch much telly, so I doubt I’ll catch it, but might try & watch an episode or two to see what it’s all about.

        High five to you ALL, ladies!

  32. mbcmatthew · July 6, 2014

    Well said Sadie. I was one of the volunteers this year as a photgrapher. I was a little disappointed when I heard they were going, glad to hear they didn’t.

    The weekend was an eye opener for me as it was my first time there. Talented people, truly talented with their talents being enjoyed by people who really appreciated them.

    The people of TOWIE would not have been in keeping with the spirit of the event at all.

  33. Hoyster · July 7, 2014

    @Helen July 3rd – I am one of the cast of Golden Ladies. I am not rich or spoilt in any way. I am a single parent, to a ten year old and I care for for grandmother full time. I am certainly not a ‘wannabe’ and at 43, I’m I have a few wrinkles but am certainly not a ‘hag’! I speak on behalf of the other castembers who are all hard working and of working class and are all trying to better the lives of their family members – is this such a crime? It is a fun, lighthearted view in to our lives and also promoting Leigh and South Essex, at it’s finest. I currently shop, eat and drink in area and funny enough, no one turns down my money or turns me away, so why would they when the show is aired?!!!
    Give us chance, as we need a little support at some point in our lives!

  34. Suzi Dunn · July 7, 2014

    Helen Ashcroft has just stalked me and been very abusive on twitter….. clearly I have hit a nerve in my response to the above comments from her….. have some very nasty tweets from the uneducated individual!!! obviously a troll, keyboard warrior and a very questionable hair and fashion sense!! Twitter have now suspended her account, people like her make a mockery of forums and blogs!

    • sadiehasler · July 8, 2014

      I’m really sorry to hear that, Suzi. I’ve not posted her latest comments on here as, in the interests of peace, I don’t think it’s wise.

      My blog ain’t the place for a row! *clicks fingers sassily*

      Have a lovely day, all. X

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