INSA Mural final touches, Our Towns, Basildon. A Creative Estuary co-commission. Photo by Doug Gillen.

Creative Estuary funded for the next 3 years


Wednesday 12 April 2023

Following the hugely successful programme delivered over the last 4 years, Creative Estuary has been awarded new investment of £1.15m from Arts Council England to continue its ambitious work for a further 3 years.

The award from the Place Partnership Project Fund, supported using public funding by Arts Council England, will enable the delivery of a programme focussed in the six Levelling Up for Culture Places of the Thames Estuary region – Basildon, Castle Point, Gravesham, Medway, Swale and Thurrock – and will work closely with the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation.

Working at scale across institutional, political and geographic boundaries, Creative Estuary will deliver a programme of connected activities building capacity, ambition and impact.

The programme will include co-commissioning new work relating to places, spaces and communities; developing leadership and access to specialist skills and creating opportunities to deliver new cultural infrastructure. There will be three project strands: Creative Assets and Place, ‘Made in the Estuary’ and the Knowledge Exchange Partnership.

With extensive knowledge of the Estuary’s creative landscape and awareness of gaps in provision, skill and capacity, Creative Estuary will add value to emerging projects, collaborating with a consortium of partners to unblock challenges and to guide and nurture new initiatives. The work will focus on places where partnership and co-investment can deliver sustainable projects for long-term impact.

Emma Wilcox, Creative Estuary Director, said: “This investment means that the high impact work that Creative Estuary has delivered over the past four years can continue to drive forward the creative and economic evolution of the area, using culture as a catalyst for growth. We are excited to be shaping an ambitious new programme thanks to the Place Partnership Project Fund and look forward to sharing details of our programme over the next few months.”

The future programme will continue to strengthen cultural production infrastructure, building capacity and skills in both the cultural sector and in local government to increase resilience and ambition. It will ensure the workforce and programme reflects the diverse communities of the estuary, lever investment into the region and champion the estuary as a creative place.

The next three years will build upon the programme which was kick-started in 2019 with an investment of £4.7m from the first round of the Cultural Development Fund from DCMS and Arts Council England. Creative Estuary is a programme within the Thames Estuary Production Corridor, a partnership established by the South East LEP and GLA in 2017, and is led by the Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries at the University of Kent on behalf of a range of partners from the creative and public sector.

Sarah Dance, Chair of Creative Estuary says “The Thames Estuary Production Corridor vision which was launched in 2019 and, supported by government, has been brought to life in Kent and Essex through the work of Creative Estuary. I am excited and delighted that this work has been recognised and valued by Arts Council England as shown by this significant investment for a further 3 years. There is much more to do and we are looking forward to delivering real impact in our communities and nurturing creative success for the vitality of the sector.”

Hazel Edwards, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “We’re delighted to have awarded Place Partnership funding to Creative Estuary. Our support will help Creative Estuary to work alongside partners and to continue delivering high quality cultural activity in the Thames Estuary region and we can’t wait to see the next steps as the project develops.”



Creative Estuary has a vision to forge a new future founded on creative energy and innovation, along the length of the Thames Estuary. The project is hosted by the Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries, an Arts Council England NPO at the University of Kent, on behalf of a consortium of public sector and cultural organisations. They include the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), Kent and Essex County Councils, the Greater London Authority, 11 local authority areas represented by Greater North Kent Partnership and Opportunity South Essex, South East Creative Economy Network (SECEN), University of Essex, Locate in Kent and cultural organisations Metal and Cement Fields.

Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries

Based at The Historic Dockyard Chatham, the Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries (iCCi) was launched in 2020 by the University of Kent to be its catalyst for culture and creativity – enabling new ways of researching and teaching in the context of a particularly innovative and fast-moving industry. The Institute is different by design, outward-facing and working closely with industry, regional communities and national bodies. Fully engaged in research, civic and business engagement and skills development, it is home to Creative Estuary, extra-curricular music and the Gulbenkian Arts Centre, the latter a live lab for CCI research and innovation and the best integrated campus-based arts centre in the UK, with a national reputation for its work with children and young people.

iCCi is a unique entity within UK HE, passionate about opening up new audiences for culture and providing regional cultural leadership. In order to do so, its work is collaborative, sharing aims and working closely in the regional creative industries ecosystem of SMEs, publicly-funded arts practice, Council Arts and Culture teams, Cultural Compacts and national bodies representing the industry such as Arts Council England and Creative UK.

Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. We have set out our strategic vision in Let’s Create that by 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where everyone of us has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences. From 2023 to 2026 we will invest over £440 million of public money from Government and an estimated £93 million from The National Lottery each year to help support the sector and to deliver this vision.

Following the Covid-19 crisis, the Arts Council developed a £160 million Emergency Response Package, with nearly 90% coming from the National Lottery, for organisations and individuals needing support. We are also one of the bodies responsible for administering the Government’s unprecedented Culture Recovery Fund of which we delivered over £1 billion to the sector in grants and loans. Find out more at