Creative Estuary brand architectural pattern 12

The Thames Estuary: A Creative Commons?


A series of discussions exploring the public right to culture across Britain’s largest waterway.  

Date: 3 – 17 November 2021

Location: Online

The Thames Estuary serves many purposes. As the country’s major waterway and shipping channel, it was once the centre of the British Empire controlling a quarter of the world’s land via sea. It includes some of the UK’s most beautiful landscapes and its coastal habitats and marshlands sustain various agricultural and foraging practices, some of which have coproduced its internationally important wetlands and grazing marshes. The Thames barrier keeps out the tides and the sea level rise from flooding in. The environment continues to be a source of inspiration to artists, who for centuries have captured the dynamic, often conflicting transformations of landscape and places that are now home to communities that live, work and play on its banks.

With a looming environmental and social justice crisis dramatically reshaping our world, the future of the Estuary is too often framed by dominant narratives that portray a landscape of dereliction, dominated by decay, which is ripe for economic investment, remediation and regeneration. Can these different narratives be reconciled? Is it possible for the Estuary to emerge as a true ‘common’, offering public right to it as a resource? Can we deduce models for sustainable development that ensure access to goods and services, that are deemed neither private or public, but instead are valued, protected and made accessible to people and wildlife through renewed mechanisms of commoning?

This series of discussions, supported by the Creative Estuary programme, will consider past, present and future uses to understand if a creative commons might be possible, and what structures would need to be in place to establish a holistic model of stewardship that sustains the unique landscapes, habitats and communities of the Thames Estuary.

Wednesday 3 November, 6.30pm: Historical Commons and Landscape Character

An assessment of the various common practices and uses of the Thames Estuary region, and how these histories might be alive today in the stewardship of its land and waters. A conversation with Kathi Bauer, Ian Bride, James Piers Taylor and Mark Walton, chaired by Dr Khalil Betz-Heinemann.

Wednesday 10 November, 6.30pm: Commons, Ecosystems and Public Interventions

An exploration of the current creative uses of Estuary land through individual and collective action, such as artistic intervention in the work of contemporary novelists, poets, musicians and artists, or in how we use our land and what we produce, the food systems and structures that and its value to people and wildlife. A conversation with Graham Burnett and Rosanna Vitiello, chaired by Ken Whittaker.

Wednesday 17 November, 6.30pm: The future of Estuary Commons

A look ahead to consider how we might harness the Estuary to ensure our communities can take ownership of this common resource for the betterment of cultural practice, through creative practitioners making interventions and addressing the challenges between public and private spaces. A conversation with Victoria Barrow-Williams and Emma Edmondson chaired by Hayley Dixon.

This talks series is part of the public programme for FPG’s exhibition Tip of the Iceberg