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9th June 2021

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the Thames Estuary is brimming with creativity as the Estuary 2021 arts festival returns for its second edition. I’m feeling uplifted already.

I’m a firm believer in the transformative power of the arts. Culture and creativity have a huge role to play in happy and prosperous places – and the Thames Estuary is no exception. The region is buzzing with creative spirit, ingenuity and expression, which is why I’m particularly thrilled to see the return of Estuary 2021.

The largest arts festival in the UK

From 22 May until 13 June, this large-scale arts festival – the largest in the UK and probably Europe this year – will be celebrating the lives, landscapes and histories of the spectacular Thames Estuary. Led by a partnership between Estuary-based arts organisations, Metal (South Essex) and Cement Fields (North Kent), Estuary 2021 is the flagship and forerunner event of a transformative Creative Estuary 3-year programme of cultural investment in the region.

The first event in 2016 saw the Estuary welcome more than 260 artists and 100,000 audience members – and this year is set to be even more exciting.

Covid-safe arts venues right across the Estuary

Taking place on the river itself, and along the 107 miles of South Essex and North Kent coastline, contemporary artworks, discussion and events explore and respond to powerful themes that directly impact our region and its residents.

Artworks set in the landscape, online and within Covid-safe venues, explore the Estuary through the lens of contemporary concerns, including climate justice, protest and rebellion, and imperial legacy, uncovering the rich stories of our diverse communities and bringing new audiences to a deeper understanding of the Estuary.

Discover the arts festival online

Online audiences can stream a mix of panel discussions, readings, artist presentations and films, and experience artworks commissioned specifically for online viewing, all available for free on the Estuary festival website. Visitors can attend any number of the 90 exhibitions and events presented in locations across Essex and Kent. The programme extends from the most easterly points of the Thames as it merges with the North Sea, right into London, with events at Lesnes Abbey Woods and Thamesmead.

Bringing together people, businesses and culture

Culture and creativity bring real opportunity, and the arts sector has the potential to inspire tangible economic growth. The festival will help to reopen and reinvigorate the Estuary post Covid, with local businesses kindly housing exhibitions and local residents involved in organising events. Estuary 2021 will also help shape the next generation of creative talent, supporting students and higher education staff across the region by providing industry experience through live briefs, talks, crit sessions and the commissioning of student artwork.

The Estuary 2021 festival is about more than bringing in cultural ventures: it’s also about liberating the creative spirit of the people of the Estuary themselves.

It’s no secret that I’m passionate about the arts and its transformative role on people and places. It’s my background, and I remain involved in the arts as Churchill Fellow, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and as a sitting member of the Arts Council’s National Council. I am delighted that as a Board, we are supporting this amazing festival, alongside numerous initiatives which are set to transform creative landscape of the Thames Estuary in the coming years. There’s more to come!

Don’t miss the latest activities and browse the 2021 events programme at

Find out more about Creative Estuary and the Thames Estuary Production Corridor.

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