Estuary 2021 injects £6.5m of “new” money into the region

By Project Director Emma Wilcox 

In my last update I had the challenging task of listing Creative Estuary’s top 3 achievements of 2021. Estuary 2021 of course made that list, and with the recent release of the festival’s final evaluation report, produced with the external assistance of BOP Consulting and the Audience Agency, it is easy to see why.

Estuary 2021 was a 23-day-long arts festival that celebrated the lives, landscapes and histories of the spectacular Thames Estuary. It was conceived as a highly visible, high impact, multi-faceted arts festival and cultural development activity, building on the success of the festival’s first iteration in 2016. With nearly 140k visitors in attendance, it is highly likely you experienced it for yourself.

Much of our work at Creative Estuary involves highlighting the impact that the creative industries have on all areas our lives and Estuary 2021 does this perfectly:

Economic Impact
Over £15 million pounds was spent by people attending our FREE festival benefiting a whole host of businesses, including those outside the sector. 84% of the audiences planned additional activities within the region alongside their trip to the festival, including dining, shopping and visiting other cultural attractions, whilst 11,676 visits to the event resulted in visitors staying in paid accommodation.

In total £6.5m of “new” money has been injected into the Thames Estuary region as a result of the festival.

Cultural impact
Estuary 2021 enabled access to excellent quality art, supported artistic talent and attracted new audiences and participants, including a significant number from groups highlighted as being least likely to engage with arts. 87% of visitors were new to the festival, having not been to Estuary 2016.

It also created opportunities for our diverse communities to explore the Thames Estuary, participate and share experiences, with 92% agreeing that Estuary 2021 enhanced the sense of community in the Thames Estuary.

Strategic Impact
Estuary 2021 worked in direct partnership with 101 partners to deliver the festival, including local businesses, local authorities and educational institutions; schools colleges and universities. This has acted as a catalyst for new partnerships that will bring further opportunities to the Thames Estuary and the creative and wider community.

This summary only touches on the full impact of the festival and I recommend reading the evaluation report for further details. And look out for our social media activity over the next few months as we share the findings, and please do amplify them

I am immensely proud of what Estuary 2021 has achieved for our region, shining a spotlight on and showcasing the abundance of creative energy, innovation and talent we possess along the length of the Thames. The festival was a huge success, helping us to champion the region, attract visitors, and helping us to build one of the most exciting creative clusters in the world.