Phil Le Gal
Featured photographer


In the 1930s, Tomas Bata’s shoe making empire was expanding rapidly. After a difficult start the company grew significantly and factories were built not only in the Czechoslovakian town of Zlín but all around the world.
Many “Zlín satellite” copycat towns (up to 40 are accounted for in its heyday) were created between the 1930s and the 1970s.
Nicknamed “Bata Villes” the modernist worker’s utopian communities were the result of the founder’s global vision: A place where everyone would work, live and play, in a state of near autarchy.

The East Tilbury area was selected in the UK to become the site of the Bata Shoe Company and the building of the factories started in 1933.The English Essex county town became the Promised Land for a few hundred
Czechoslovakian employees and their families. In addition to the factory an Estate with houses, a community building/hotel, cinema, primary school, training college, open-air swimming pool and tennis courts was built
mirroring the design and scale of the Czechoslovakian model town of Zlín. With an architectural style adopted from Bauhaus the Estate stands out in the area. East Tilbury can be considered as one of the most important planned
landscapes in England, also known as Garden Cities. Streets bear the names of English Royalty as well as Bata-related titles such as Thomas Bata Avenue.

Eighty years after its creation the company with ground-breaking manufacturing practices became itself a victim of globalisation, as cheaper shoe production alternatives were found in Asia and Eastern Europe,
In 2006 the East Tilbury factory ceased production and the local community consequently began to disperse. With a shrinking remaining local community this project proposes to explore the legacy of one of the Bata Ville
townships and life after the factory closed its doors. It is an attempt to capture some of the last local residents and former workers way of life by revisiting places of work and social living spaces.

This project is a visual testimony of what remains from a unique community : One Man’s global vision with social conscience.

© All photos courtesy of Phil Le Gal

Phil Le Gal

Phil le gal