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Southend and Medway star in Estuary Festival 2021

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

From Thamesmead across to Sheerness and up to Shoeburyness, the Thames estuary in all its might and glory hosts a cultural celebration of community and place.




From 22 May to 13 June, Estuary 21 will present 23 days of art, literature, film and music across (and inspired by) 83 miles of Thames Estuary. The Festival is led by two estuary-based arts organisations, Metal in Essex and Cement Fields in North Kent.


Estuary 2021 is the second edition of the large-scale arts festival that celebrates the lives, landscapes and histories of the spectacular Thames Estuary.

The area includes two prominent members of the Key Cities network, Southend-on-Sea and Medway, which have both been actively involved in supporting the project and wil be hosting an array of exciting events.


Powerful themes


Taking place on the river itself, and along the 83 miles of South Essex and North Kent coastline, contemporary artworks, discussion and events explore and respond to powerful themes resonant to the estuary.


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, imperial legacy and the rich, often overlooked stories of its diverse communities, bringing new audiences to a deeper understanding of the estuary.


Key Cities Group members Southend-on-Sea and Medway are both supporting and actively involved in the festival.


The artist Bob and Roberta Smith is creating a pavilion in Chatham (Medway) in the form of an open-air gallery, where everyone is invited to ‘take a line for a walk’, adding to a new work of art that is created collectively over the 23 days of the festival, exploring how we can Draw Hope, and together find solutions for the big questions and issues of our time. The work is a co-commission with Medway Council.


Writer Robert Macfarlane, theatre maker Zoe Svendsen and sound designer Carolyn Downing are collaborating to stage a re-imagining of Robert’s book, Ness (Hamish Hamilton, 2019) written in collaboration with the artist Stanley Donwood. Set within the ex-MOD site, Gunners Park at Shoeburyness, the GPS sonic work will be experienced through headphones and will invite audiences to listen to the landscape reveal its past, as we witness the physical remnants of that history being reclaimed by nature. Working in close partnership with Essex Wildlife Trust and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.


Get involved in Estuary 2021 through open calls, the Associated Programme, artist-led workshops, work placements and volunteering – join the festival Facebook event here to keep up to date with future opportunities.



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