Image by Simon Fowler Photography

Sarah Dance leaves legacy of success and ambition at Creative Estuary

16 May 2023

Sarah Dance has announced that she will be stepping down as Chair of Creative Estuary. Sarah was instrumental in establishing our ambitious programme, having initiated the strong partnerships and vision for the Thames Estuary Production Corridor with colleagues at the GLA. Her ambition and energy was critical in securing the investment of £4.3m from DCMS which brought the vision to life, as well as our new funding from Arts Council England. Under her leadership and guidance, Creative Estuary has become a significant driver of culture and creative placemaking, supporting innovative projects and benefitting the diverse communities of the estuary.

Sarah said: “I have been truly honoured to chair such a fantastic project and to enable it to develop from the kernel of an idea into what it has become today.  It has been a privilege to work with so many inspiring and brilliant people. The time has come for me to hand over the reins to another in the knowledge that the future is both full of exciting opportunities and financially secure for the next three years. I would like to pay a particular tribute to Emma and the team who delivered so much so well and to the University of Kent for hosting this brilliant partnership.” 

During Sarah’s tenure as Chair of Creative Estuary she saw a huge variety of successes and achievements including:

  • Securing over £2m of partnership investment and ensuring further investment in cultural infrastructure in the region
  • Establishing the distinctive and credible Creative Estuary brand which is highly visible in promoting the creative sector and the Thames Estuary internationally
  • Creating new pathways to creative careers with 101 young people in training and placements through the Re:Generation 2031 programme
  • £554,000 invested in co-commissions which prioritised diversity and inclusion, with 24% of funding allocated to global majority heritage–led organisations or dedicated commission opportunities
  • Estuary Festival in 2021 which generated over £16.8 million of economic activity in the Thames Estuary area and worked with a huge number of partners including; community, arts and heritage, local businesses, higher and further education partner institutions, strategic partnerships and 13 local authorities
  • Strengthening the evidence base and case for investment in culture through research, influencing policy development and creating new tools for planners, developers, local government and cultural organisations

Emma Wilcox, Director of Creative Estuary, said: “It is thanks to Sarah’s visionary leadership and her unwavering ambition for our region and for the creative industries that Creative Estuary is where it is today. Her support and guidance has been crucial in navigating the challenges of the past few years, ensuring that we delivered (and more!) against our objectives and that we are well set for continued success into the future. From a personal perspective she has been an invaluable support to me and I am hugely grateful for her counsel, her insight and her friendship. She will be greatly missed.”

Sarah leaves a legacy of strong leadership and a powerful vision for the future that will carry the organisation forward in exciting new ways. Creative Estuary is poised to build upon the strong foundations that she has established.

© Matt Rock