Six Maunsell Forts rising up out of the Thames Estuary. The towers were built during World War II to help in defend the United Kingdom

Estuary Festival 2016 programme launched

Posted on 23 May 2016

The shorelines of the Thames Estuary will be home to a brand new festival this September, celebrating the huge impact this part of the landscape has had on local communities and rest of the country.

Created by arts organisation Metal, Estuary 2016 will explore the estuary’s history, cultural importance and stunning geography. The programme will include a vibrant mix of literature, visual arts, music and performance, all driven by stories about the Thames Estuary.

An image looking across the grassy shorelines of the Thames Estuary
Thames Estuary. Metal. © Simon Fowler

Hedley Swain, Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “Metal has consistently delivered innovative, engaging and exciting arts projects and Estuary is no exception. Festivals have always been a really important opportunity for audiences to discover and develop their experience of arts and culture and I look forward to seeing Estuary do the same for this region.”

Over the years the Thames Estuary has been many things to many people. It has been the front line of defence for the realm and an essential gateway for trade and industry. It has also been a point of arrival and departure for many people looking to start new lives, both here and around the world.

Alongside the programme of arts events, Estuary 2016 will include a range of participation and education projects. These are all designed to ensure local communities remain at the heart of the work.

Colette Bailey, Artistic Director and CEO, Metal, said: “A key focus of Metal is the celebration of place and communities through the lens of contemporary art.  The Thames Estuary has for centuries been a source of inspiration, fascination and mystery for artists, musicians, film makers and writers.  I am very excited that Metal will be building on this tradition as we create Estuary.”

Southend Pier stretching out into the Thames Esuary with a tram travelling along it. A  ship is anchored in the distance.
Thames Estuary. Metal. © Simon Fowler

Estuary 2016’s programme will explore six main themes:

Points of Departure will be an exhibition of new and existing work by 28 contemporary artists. It will take place in the Grade II listed Tilbury Cruise Terminal, waterborne venues on the Thames and in Gravesend, Kent. It is curated by Gareth Evans and Sue Jones.

Shorelines Literature Festival will bring together writers, artists, film makers and performers to explore the Estuary and related themes. Speakers will include Horatio Clare, Rose George, Deborah Levy, Ken Warpole and Patrick Wright. It is curated by Rachel Lichtenstein.

Sound of the Thames Delta will bring together musicians, writers, artists, film-makers and broadcasters to examine the relationship between place and music. Essex has a rich history of musical sub-cultures and key figures from the last five decades will take part in a number of panel discussions.

In an exciting nod to the planned museum on Southend seafront, the Pop up Museum of the Thames Estuary will present a brand new collection of shipwreck finds from the estuary bed.

Southend Charabanc will be a weekend of culture and sight-seeing in venues and public spaces across Southend-on-Sea. It’s being produced in partnership with Focal Point Gallery, TAP, Southend Museums, Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend BID, Southend Pier & Foreshore and others.

Wish You Were Here will see 10 specially commissioned Beach Huts on Southend Pier take audiences on an artist-led journey through the Estuary seaside experience from the heyday of British seaside holidays to the present day.

For more information about Estuary Festival, please visit:

For more information about Metal, please visit: