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Firstsite is a visual arts organisation based in Colchester, Essex. Our mission is to make contemporary art relevant to everyone.

Our integrated programme of work includes projects, exhibitions and publications by established and emerging artists, as well as extensive learning opportunities and artists’ support initiatives.

Over the last fifteen years firstsite has gained a strong reputation by presenting ambitious work to new audiences in the East of England and beyond.

Firstsite’s new building was designed by the Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly. His design was selected by a worldwide architectural competition that attracted more than 100 entries.

The crescent shape was created to wrap around the existing D-shaped garden of East Hill House, leaving intact the established arc of mature trees.

Its low-lying, single-storey design nestles in the landscape, with minimum disruption to Colchester’s historic roofscape.

Venue Type:


Opening hours

Exhibition Spaces, shop and MUSA Café Restaurant

Tuesday - Sunday 10am – 5pm

Christmas Eve – open until 2pm

Christmas Day – closed

Boxing Day – closed

Saturday 27 December – open 10am – 5pm

Sunday 28 December – open 10am – 5pm

Monday 29 December – open 10am – 5pm (school holiday opening)

Tuesday 30 December – open 10am – 5pm

New Year’s Eve – open until 2pm

New Year’s Day – closed

Friday 2 January – open 10am – 5pm

Admission charges

Entry is free. Most events are free unless otherwise stated.

firstsite has no permanent collection.

Collection details

Fine Art, Decorative and Applied Art

Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
Installation view, BRONZE AGE c.3500BC – AD 2017, Hauser & Wirth, Frieze London, October 2017.

BRONZE AGE C. 3500 BC - AD 2018

  • 17 March — 28 October 2018 *on now

Phyllida Barlow * Louise Bourgeois * Martin Creed * Alberto Giacometti * Diego Giacometti * Subodh Gupta * Eva Hesse * Jenny Holzer * Thomas Houseago * Matthew Day Jackson * Hans Josephsohn * Bharti Kher * Anna Maria Maiolino * Paul McCarthy * Gary McDonald * Fausto Melotti * Henry Moore * David Smith * Simon Starling * Ricky Swallow * André Thomkins * Will Thompson * William Turnbull * Mark Wallinger * David Zink Yi

BRONZE AGE c. 3500 BC – AD 2018 recreates a fictional Bronze Age presentation from a forgotten museum. An iteration of Hauser & Wirth’s satirical museological presentation at Frieze London 2017, the show has been curated specifically for Colchester – the earliest recorded Roman town in Great Britain. Conceived and originated by Dr. Neil Wenman in collaboration with Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, the exhibition focuses solely on works made of bronze or from the Bronze Age period. These include artefacts on loan from regional museums and private collections nationwide, sculptures by artists including modern masters Louise Bourgeois, Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore, and Fausto Melotti, along with Phyllida Barlow’s bronze cast paint sticks, Subodh Gupta’s bronze Mona Lisa, a cast bronze fist by Martin Creed, and Mark Wallinger’s spectacles.

The artefacts and artworks are separated into six themes: Domestic Life, Decoration & Adornment, Fertility & the Body, Religion & Burial, Trade & Agriculture and War & Battle, mimicking the curatorial choices of historical museum exhibitions.

Contemporary works of art and historical artefacts are mischievously mixed with miscellaneous bronze items purchased from eBay. Masquerading as archaeological finds, these invite us to ponder how the significance of an object can be dictated by context. Moving away from the traditional white walls of an art gallery, the presentation challenges expectations and highlights the power of display.

Institutions that have loaned works and objects to BRONZE AGE include: Bruton Museum, Somerset; Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, Shrewsbury; and David Roberts Art Collection, London. At Firstsite, objects have been incorporated from the ‘designated status’ collection of the Colchester and Ipswich Museums. A unique addition to the presentation at Firstsite will be the Berryfield Mosaic (c. AD 150), which will be located at the entrance of the exhibition. This mosaic masterpiece was discovered in Colchester in 1923 where Firstsite is now located, and is permanently installed within the gallery floor.

An audio guide voiced by Professor Mary Beard, available on iTunes, enhances the visitor’s ‘museum’ experience and suggests the decoding of the objects on view.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


The words Britlin's with a line underneath and Frigg written in capital letters below as well as a background of four stripes of Red, Yellow, Green and Blue.

Scott King: A New Life in Frigg

  • 16 June — 2 September 2018 *on now

Firstsite, Colchester, is delighted to present A New Life in Frigg, an exhibition by the artist and graphic designer Scott King. In the show King invites visitors to the fictional town of Frigg, which is based on the former Butlins holiday camp at Clacton-on-Sea, Essex††. It is part of the artist's ongoing Butlins-inspired series Britlin's - a combination of the words 'Britain' and 'Butlins' - that plays with the power of collective nostalgia to reimagine a new society modeled on an idealised vision of the past.

A New Life in Frigg explores the idea of the 1970s holiday camp as utopian micro-societies, remembered through the colourful, hyperreal photography that was used on promotional postcards. Produced by the John Hinde Studio, these elaborately staged and cinematically lit images have informed the ironic euphoria of Britlin's' design vocabulary. Reinforcing the mythologising aspect, the four proposed Britlin's new towns are named after Anglo-Saxon gods: Frigg, Saxnot, Balder and Loki. Frigg is the goddess of love and wife of Odin, father of the gods.

The exhibition at Firstsite is informed by audio recordings and video footage held at Essex Records Office and the East Anglian Film Archives. It is comprised of a wall-based map of the proposed Frigg township, as well as questionnaires for visitors to fill out that set up satirical scenarios to consider one's suitability to join the Britlin's community.

Included is a new film commissioned by Firstsite for this exhibition, entitled Come to Frigg, which has been produced in collaboration with filmmaker Paul Kelly. The film acts as a sales pitch for the Britlin's vision, persuading the viewer (and potential resident) of its ethos and communitarian agenda.

Building on recent presentations at Reading International and Studio Voltaire, London, A New Life in Frigg is part of the artist's ongoing examination of the mechanisms of collective nostalgia and the poetics and politics they give rise to. In taking the holiday camp as a template for a model society, King constructs an absurdist design for a new Britain.

The exhibition presents a sardonic look at real and imagined notions of the past set in the context of divisive politics and contemporary forms of nationalism. It playfully observes how culture is deployed as an instrument of regeneration - a mechanism seen in seaside towns in the southeast of England.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
A person speaks into a megaphone.


  • 23 June 2018 11am-5pm

Through a combination of talks, performances and screenings this event invites discussion about the importance of female autonomy, activism and equality.

‘Do you feel like your voice is heard?’ brings together artists, cultural thinkers and local partners in an energetic and inspiring day of action. It builds on a series of projects that Firstsite have presented over the last year exploring ‘identity’. This includes 2017 Turner-Prize winner Lubaina Himid’s ‘Warp and Weft’; Emily Mulenga ‘Taking Up Space’; Rose Finn-Kelcey ‘Power for the People’; and ‘The Britishness Project’ – a ground breaking exhibition made by young people in collaboration with professional artists in the aftermath of the recent EU referendum.

The title of the symposium is inspired by an artwork by The Gilberd School and Alternative School of Economics (Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck) that is currently on display in ‘The Britishness Project’ at Firstsite.

Speakers include:

Alternative School of Economics
Hasina Ali
Tess Brooks

Suitable for

  • 18+


Lewis Gardens, High Street.


Pay what you can afford


Lewis Gardens
High Street




01206 713700


+44 (0)1206 577 067

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.