17. 09. – 02. 10. 2016, Tilbury, Southend, Gravesend and other locations

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After 2013's Shorelines festival – which already took me by surprise due to its scale and ambition – this felt like a quantum leap: a 16-day festival chock full with events and activities, across multiple sites, and a number of affiliated events: Tilbury docks, celebrating 130 years in operation, were open for tours by boat and bus, as were a number of other places which are usually closed to the public. 

At its core was a two week visual arts exhibition, 'Points of Departure' at the magnificent Tilbury Cruise Terminal, a pop-up 'Museum of the Estuary', and it was bookended by 'Shorelines', a two day festival of talks, performances and film screenings, and a two day music festival, 'Sound of the Thames Delta'. 

I negotiated a day off family duties on the Saturday of the opening weekend, and went to listen to a number of people, some of whom I had heard speaking at the 2013 Shorelines festival, others whom I'd become familiar with in the meantime. I was particularly keen to hear Patrick Wright talk about Uwe Johnson on Sheppey, and to hear Rachel Lichtenstein talk about her new book 'Estuary'. I  also joined a boat trip through Tilbury docks, and enjoyed the the exhibition – just as I did the rather magnificent building itself.

The festival was masterminded by the Southend-based arts organisation METAL, and the constituent parts curated by various estuary-luminaries; 'Shorelines' for example by the author and artist Rachel Lichtenstein. The 2016 festival was billed as the inaugural event of a biennial festival, but so far a date for the next event is yet to be announced; having spoken to Rachel Lichtenstein at the book launch of the Radical Essex publication, it doesn't seem as if that is going to be in 2018. I cannot fathom the amount of work that would have gone into organising the 2016 event, let alone to secure the necessary funding; also, it set the bar so high it seems difficult to repeat anything similar after a two year span. I'm hoping to see a repeat in 2019...

Estuary Festival including full programme on PDF, list of contributing artists, etc

Metal Southend

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