Get Involved

The Water Replies

The Water Replies

As part of Estuary 2021, we are inviting young people and teachers from across South Essex and North Kent to get involved in creating a collective response to what life is like living and working by the great and spectacular river that is the Thames Estuary.

Led by published poets Selina Nwulu (London Poet Laureate, 2015) and Caroline Bird (London Olympics Official Poet, 2012) the project invites to you write poetry, prose and lyrics capturing your relationship to the estuary and how living by the water impacts on the rhythms of your daily life. The resulting work will form a very visible part of the programme presented at Estuary 2021 through an exhibition/reading room, live events and posters across the region.

This project has four strands which we invite you to take part in, attend or explore online.

1. The Water Replies : Notes on Teaching Contemporary Poetry resources for teachers

2. Call-out for estuary inspired poetry and written responses (open until 1 April 2021)

3. Creative Journaling (deadline now passed)

4. Public Programme as part of Estuary 2021


1. The Water Replies : Notes on Teaching Contemporary Poetry

Before Covid-19, our original plan was to work within schools and with young people in our local classrooms. As lockdown became a reality, we looked for a new way to continue this work. Developed through direct consultation with teachers and local students, we are pleased to share with you a publication filled with provocations, thoughts, questions and original poems, designed to inspire and support teachers to create poetry with their pupils. This book, along with online resources and worksheets, is available both as a PDF and as a hard copy.

- To download our free resources (PDF version of the book and our online worksheets), click here.
- To attend our launch event and register your interest in receiving a hard copy of this book, click here.

If you had any questions, please do get in touch :
[email protected] (for teachers in South Essex)
[email protected] (for teachers in North Kent).

We look forward to working together to breathe new life into an already often overlooked, and now dangerously threatened, part of the creative writing curriculum: contemporary poetry.

2. Call-out for estuary inspired poetry and written responses

We invite young people, students and teachers from across the South Essex and North Kent coastlines to send creative, written responses to life alongside the Thames Estuary. All works received will be displayed in The Water Replies, a series of exhibitions and reading rooms within the Estuary 2021 festival programme, from 22 May - 13 June 2021.

To get started, we invite you to respond to the exercises and prompts from our online resources or from The Water Replies : Notes on Teaching Contemporary Poetry. Click here for worksheets, exercises and poems which have been designed with a variety of ages and abilities in mind, complementing the current curriculum.

Send us your written contributions by 1 April 2021
We welcome poetry, prose, short stories, journal entries, lyrics, illustrations and more.

If you live in South Essex, please post your work to : FREEPOST ESTUARY 2021, THE WATER REPLIES, ESSEX
If you live in North Kent, please post your work to : FREEPOST ESTUARY 2021, THE WATER REPLIES, KENT

If you had any questions, please do get in touch :
[email protected] (for people in South Essex)
[email protected] (for people in North Kent).


3. Creative Journalling

During the first three months of this year's lockdown, we sent 446 blank journals to individuals and families across the coastline, inviting creative responses to life along the water. There was no format to the journalling process - these have been completed with words, drawings, collage and thoughts in however the person taking part would like to do it.

To encourage new creative ideas, we hosted free artist-led workshops, originally hosted within arts spaces along the coastline, before being transferred to Zoom due to COVID-19.
These journals will be brought together to form a public exhibition for the duration of Estuary 2021, in venues on both sides of the river, celebrating the impact of the water on the daily lives of local people.

Follow @EstuaryFestival and #TheWaterReplies on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to join in with the project online and connect with fellow journalers along the coastline.
Another way of connecting with fellow participants is via our private Facebook group.




4. Public Programme

We envisage that through this programme, wonderful work will be created by people of all ages who live and work along this amazing river that we all share. We are expecting the unexpected, thoughtful, funny, moving, short, long, momentary, mundane, extraordinary and everything in between. Brought together, we believe this project will create a 'written picture' - a fascinating insight into the people and the lives being lived by the Thames Estuary.

These physical artworks will be in place for the entirety of Estuary 2021.

The public programme will include -
- An exhibition of all the poems, works and journals submitted from young people, teachers and anyone who would like to contribute. On the South Essex side of the river, the exhibition venue will be Chalkwell Hall in Chalkwell Park. North Kent venue to be announced soon.
- Excerpts of poetry and poetic prose will be selected to be shared on printed posters and at mural sites, showcased across the landscapes of the estuary for the duration of the festival.

A huge thank you to the funders of this project

Metal Southend and Cement Fields aim to reach large numbers of teachers; thousands of young people; and at least 300 journalers across both sides of the river through The Water Replies, leaving a fantastic legacy which will continue to influence inspiring lesson content and poetry from young people in the coming years.

The project has been made possible through a number of partners on both sides of the estuary:

- The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport funds the Cultural Development Fund which is administered by Arts Council England.
- Creative Estuary
- Royal Opera House Bridge (development of our resources teachers)
- Essex Book Festival (who enabled us to include some workshops as part of our Essex Writers House programme)
- Southend Borough Council
- Kent County Council
- Medway Council
- C2C (who are providing poster sites for the final artworks)


Support the project

There is still an opportunity for sponsors, funders and individual supporters to get involved - to expand the reach of the project to more young people - and to enable a larger showcase during the festival.
If this is of interest to you please do get in touch – [email protected] / 01702 470700

Image credits:
Top of page and estuary landscape images: Jonathan Juniper, 2019
Artwork: Creative journal page by Peter Haugh
Below: Previous Metal projects


Estuary 2021 is made possible by

Principal Partners

Creative_Estuary_New_1   ace

Major Partners

ecc uok thurrock thames_gateway selep medway  thames estuary   ebbsfleet    mayor locatekent kentcc gravesham uoe bas_coun   south_coun Here for Culture

Commissioning Partners

book_fest community_fund heritage_fund creative_coast bexleysalford fpg lesnes Essex2020Logo The Old Waterworks Logo UCA1

Festival Partners

arts_human uni_south uni_oxford uni_glas send_pier pla opp_se henley Flowers Gallery logoc2c roh southeastern Thamesmead2 Peabody2 BowArts3 raddison uber arriva

Festival Supporters

essex_diversity SouthEssex1 UniversityCentre1