Signals – Talk Time: Emergency Conversations Along the Coastline

A simple computer generated image of figures spelling TALK TIME in semaphore

Colchester’s Signals has announced a major new project which examines the way that communications technologies have been used locally throughout history in times of crisis.

The initiative will include workshops and a Talk Time podcast. Do you have knowledge or memories to share? Signals needs YOU!

Throughout history coastal communities have been a hotbed 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 Signals’ project was initially about “everyday” communication technology, the pandemic provided an opportunity for the award-winning arts and education charity to focus on how technology is facilitating our new remote reality. They have found these four stories of innovation 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


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

Frazer Merrick, Education Co-ordinator


Signals is an award-winning centre for creative digital learning based in Colchester. The workshops are part of Harwich Festival of Arts and the project is made possible by National Lottery Heritage funding.