Estuary Festival secures Arts Council England investment

Estuary Festival is delighted to announce that it has been awarded an Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grant of £50,000 to develop plans for the next Estuary Festival in 2025, alongside focussed work with local communities and the creative and cultural sector in Castle Point, South Essex.

Estuary Festival has been established as an independent Community Interest Company based in Castle Point and working across the Thames Estuary. The new organisation has been established with seed funding from Creative Estuary to take forward the work of Estuary 2016, founded and curated by arts organisation Metal, and Estuary 2021, led by a partnership between Metal and Cement Fields.

Estuary Festival shines a spotlight on the Thames Estuary region through high-quality contemporary arts programmes that celebrate the stories, places, and people of the Thames Estuary.

Estuary Festival explores the rich, often overlooked stories of Estuary people and places through ambitious contemporary arts programmes including art, performance, film, literature and more. Inspired by the Thames Estuary and its connections with the rest of the world, Estuary Festival creates extraordinary arts experiences inspired by unexpected places – where sea and river meet, land and water mingle, and nature and industry intertwine.

The investment from Arts Council England will support the early stages of development for the next festival in 2025. This foundational work will be rooted in the Estuary aiming to create a programme of international significance, to position Estuary Festival alongside other great arts festivals of the world to benefit the region and wider cultural sector.

We look forward to sharing more information about plans for the festival as they evolve! To make sure you don’t miss future announcements please follow Estuary Festival on social media @estuaryfestival on Instagram, Facebook and X (Twitter) and keep an eye on this website.

Estuary Festival is delivered in partnership with Creative Estuary to support and grow the creative sector in the Thames Estuary. Made in the Estuary is a high-quality creative programme from Creative Estuary which will nurture and highlight cultural production in the Thames Estuary area (South Essex and North Kent). Estuary Festival is central to the success of Made in the Estuary, bringing curatorial and production expertise to ensure opportunities are increased for the creative sector. 

Lorraine Cox, Creative Estuary Director said: “We are so pleased to hear this exciting news which shows the importance of Estuary Festival's work in the Thames Estuary area.  This significant investment is an important building block to our joint plans to sustain creative activity in the Thames Estuary and adds to our continued investment in the Estuary Festival model.  This investment and the Festival, could not be in better hands than with Thea Behrman whose knowledge of the creative sector and her genuine interest in the creativity of local communities is top notch!  I urge all residents in the area to watch this space as Estuary Festival's plans come to fruition in 2025.  We're committed to continue our support of this initiative.”

Colette Bailey, Estuary Festival Chair and The WOW Foundation Executive Director said: “It’s wonderful to be part of this ambitious new chapter for the Estuary Festival as its inaugural chair as a CIC. Huge thanks to Arts Council England, Castle Point Borough Council, Creative Estuary and Metal for all their support in getting us to this point. I’m delighted to continue my involvement with both the project and the Estuary region as we work on an exciting programme with communities and partners across the region.”

Susie Thornberry Metal Culture Artistic Director said: “This is fantastic news for the region. We’re proud to be founders of the Festival and are excited to support the new edition – in its new chapter as an independent organisation – to showcase the Estuary’s distinct stories and landscape.”

Estuary 2016, the first edition of the festival, was curated by arts organisation Metal and presented in culturally and historically significant venues across the Essex and Kent shorelines over 16 days in 2016. Metal worked in partnership with five estuary local authorities, local and regional agencies as well as a wide range of arts and business partners. It was funded by Arts Council England and other partners. It attracted 101,179 live audiences and 23.7 million people through press and media. 

The second edition, Estuary 2021 took place on the river itself, and along the 107 miles of South Essex and North Kent coastline. Artworks were set in the landscape, online and within Covid-safe venues, led by a partnership between estuary-based arts organisations Metal Culture and Cement Fields. Estuary 2021 was possible through Creative Estuary an ambitious long-term project to make the Thames Estuary the world's largest creative corridor. It attracted over 200,000 live audiences.

Estuary Festival CIC was established in 2023 as an independent organisation to take forward the work initiated through the first two festivals founded by Metal Culture in 2016 and 2021. It has been established with seed funding from Creative Estuary, public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, UK Shared Prosperity Fund, Essex County Council’s Arts & Cultural Fund and is working in partnership with local authorities across the region.

About Creative Estuary
Our ambition is simple: To transform 60 miles of the Thames Estuary across Essex and Kent into one of the most exciting cultural hubs in the world.

Creative Estuary works to forge a new future founded on creative energy and innovation.  Our deeply networked development programme builds leadership, capacity and space for creative production, and accelerates the growing cultural impact of the Thames Estuary region.  We understand and use culture as the catalyst for growth, resulting in the provision of much-needed space for expanding creative businesses which will deliver the scale of services, skills and infrastructure sought by both UK and international creative producers and organisations. 

Creative Estuary is supported using public funding by Arts Council England as part of their Place Partnerships Fund. The University of Kent is the responsible authority for Creative Estuary, working in partnership with their Institute of Culture and Creative Industries at the Medway campus, allowing collaboration to leverage the University’s significant place-based expertise and build partnerships with colleagues to shape regional creative industries policy. 

Image credit: Crude Britannia by Platform, live events commissioned for Estuary 2021. Photo by Richard Houguez

Estuary Festival is supported by