20 May Estuary 2021
22 May – 13 June 2021
Online and across multiple sites along the Essex and Kent shorelines
Estuary 2021 announces the full programme for its ambitious online Opening Weekend of specially commissioned artworks and discussion exploring the three festival themes of climate, rebellion and imperial legacy.
AN UNKNOWN EARTH: 22 MAY – 23 MAY has been curated by four artists all of whom know the Thames Estuary as home: Lu Williams who, through Grrrl Zine Fair, has been amplifying marginalised voices with a focus on DIY culture, workshops, intersectional feminism and working class culture since 2015. Elsa James is a British African-Caribbean, conceptual artist and activist living in Southend-on-Sea. Recent projects Forgotten Black Essex (2018) and Black Girl Essex (2019) explore the historical, temporal and spatial dimensions of what it means to be black in Essex. James Marriott, writer, artist, activist and naturalist lives on the Hoo Peninsula and works as part of Platform. He is co-author of the forthcoming book Crude Britannia, which tells the story of Britain’s energy past, present and future with a focus on the Thames Estuary. Jas Dhillon is a multimedia practitioner inspired by the people, script, language, symbolic objects, and poetic experiences, of the love and identity imprinted on her as a first-generation Indian female raised in Kent.
The programme for An Unknown Earth includes a packed with live and pre-recorded broadcast discussion with artists, activists and scientists and specially commissioned online artworks. It takes its title from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which opens with a vivid description of the Thames Estuary. Contended by many critics as a paradoxical and problematic account that is either a critique of colonialism or an example of it, many regard the 19th-century novella as one of the most important texts of Western literature.
The curators have worked together over the last five months to explore their shared concerns from very different starting points and experiences of the Estuary. The resulting programme is shaped around the distinctive 12 hour tides that have such a strong impact on the ebb and flow of life in this place. It opens with a performance of a dawn Raga by Jatinder Singh Durhailay at 06:25 on Saturday 22 May and finishes at 21:50 on Sunday evening with a performance from Ayesha Tan Jones, three tide-cycles later. Key low and high tide moments throughout the day will be marked by the artists and speakers.
New commissions include two filmed walks through the estuary landscape, from two artists with very different starting points and lived experience. Michael McMillan working with Dubmorphology and twelve Essex residents of African descent, documents a walk from the site of the arrival of HMS Windrush at Tilbury through industrial, rural and military landmarks to reach East Tilbury, examining identity and belonging along the route. Rebecca Moss walks the borderland between London and her birthplace, Essex. She begins at Rainham, passing under the QE2 bridge and on to Grays, sharing the inspiration she feels in these largely unpopulated spaces and why she believes they should be considered feminist spaces.
Akeim Touissant Buck and James Jordan Johnson have created filmed performances in two powerful Essex landscapes, Akeim at Thameside Nature Park, Mucking, a reclaimed ex-landfill site where wildlife now thrives, existing cheek by jowl with the heavy industry of the working river. And James, within the mud flats of the estuary during low tide at Chalkwell Beach. Both explore themes of migration, race politics, climate, imperialism, spirituality and nature.
Writers James Marriott, Terry Macalister (Crude Britannia, 2021) and poet Lucia Dove (Vloed, 2021) come together with high profile, international campaigners Dr Vandana Shiva and Lazarus Tamana to discuss climate, the past, present and the future threat, alongside the estuary’s role in global events. The People will Possess the Wind, a new film commissioned by Platform from artist Richard Houguez, will take viewers through the estuary on a sailing boat. A waterborne counterpoint to the experience of walking. The first part of the film will be shown on the opening weekend.
Live performance poet and playwright Inua Ellams explores the theme of water – through identity, displacement and destiny and, as a closing work to our first full day of festival, Antonio Roberts has created a new audiovisual work using data and technology to respond to the river and the predictions for near future sea level rise.
The full programme includes:-
Saturday 22 May
Early Morning Programme:-
06:25-06:40 – Dawn Raga
We begin Estuary 2021 with a beautiful dawn raga composition and performance by Jatinder Singh Durhailay performed to mark the morning’s High Tide on the Thames Estuary at 06.25
09:00-10:00 – Yoga with Saara Turiya
A gentle movement session, embodying the gifts of the element of water.
11:00-11:30 – An Unknown Earth
Meet the curators of our Estuary 2021 Opening Weekend programme – Jas Dhillon, Elsa James, James Marriott and Lu Williams. Introduced by festival organisers, Colette Bailey (Metal) and Sue Jones (Cement Fields).
11:30-12:45 – Crude Britannia Pt.1
The Estuary and the Legacies of Oil. Authors of the brand new book on the subject, talk with Dr Vandana Shiva, Lazarus Tamana and Peter May about the role of the Estuary in the story of the UK’s fossil fuel empire.
12:45-13.15 – Walking in the Wake
A new film by Michael McMillan, a meditation on the wake of the River Thames ebbing and flowing; the wake or ‘Nine Night’ as a Caribbean diaspora event to celebrate the life of the deceased; the wake in the wave of a moving slave ship, ships of Empire, container ships of globalisation; of contemporary black life in the wake of illness and death.
13:30-14:45 – Crude Britannia Pt.2 The Estuary, the Climate and the Future of Energy. What are the probable impacts of climate change on the Estuary in the coming decades? Join our panel of artists, writers, activists and scientists as they explore the Estuary and its climate across time, looking at history, what is happening today, and what is to come
15:00-15:20 – I am From
A short, experimental film by Akeim Toussaint Buck and Sam Baxter, reflecting the overlaying of events that have taken place on the Thames Estuary exploring themes of migration, race politics and climate change.
15:25-15:45 – Soon (2021)
James Jordan Johnson. Soon Come is the presentation of a filmed, site-specific performance on the estuary when the tide is at its lowest ebb, to create and think through the appearances / disappearances of land. Using found material from the nearby ex-military site, Gunners Park in Shoeburyness.
15:50-17:00 – Zine Activism
Throughout history, zines have been used as a tool for sharing information, stories from voices who have been marginalised. Meet zine activists from around the world as they explore their medium and its inclusive, accessible power.
18:00-18:50 – Whip it Good
A screening of Jeannette Ehlers performance Whip It Good (2013 – ongoing) followed by a discussion led by Fiona Compton (Know Your Caribbean) with Jeannette, alongside Aleema Gray, (Community History Curator at the Museum of London).
19:00-19:50 – Water. Ink. Voice.
Live performance from poet and playwright Inua Ellams. Join him to explore the theme of water, through identity, displacement and destiny. Readings from both published and unpublished work.
20:00-21:00 – Antonio Roberts
Antonio Roberts closes our first festival day with a sharing of a new audiovisual artwork that takes the river as its starting point.
Sunday 23 May
Early Morning Programme:-
09.30-09:45 – Dawn Raga
Our Sunday programme begins with a second beautiful dawn raga composition and performance by Jatinder Singh Durhailay to mark the morning’s High Tide on the Thames Estuary at 09.30
09:45-10:40 – Yoga
Join Dirish Shaktidas to begin your day with yoga. Dirish combines his deep knowledge of movement, mindful meditation and sound with a unique blend of Shakti Dance, Yin Yoga and Eastern Philosophy to create an inspiring, dynamic and elevating setting.
10:45 – 11:00 – Welcome
A welcome to the day with festival organisers and An Unknown Earth curators.
11:00-11:20 – Walking in the Wake
A second opportunity to see the new film by Michael McMillan, followed by Michael in conversation with Anita Sethi and Maria Amidu in the following session.
11:20-12:30 – I Belong Here
Anita Sethi, author of I Belong Here (Bloomsbury, 2021) which explores identity, place and belonging as she walks the ‘backbone of Britain’ reads from her recent book before being joined by Michael McMillan and visual artist, Maria Amidu, creator of Watermarks, eight beautiful works that mark the 107 mile Thames Estuary Trail.
12:30-13:00 – Here/Her: A Walk Along the Edge of the City
In her new documented walk, Here/Her: A Walk Along the Edge of the City, artist Rebecca Moss shares a route that she has frequently returned to during lockdown, between Rainham, on the edge of East London, and Grays in West Essex.
14:00-15:00 – Her Dreams are Bigger
Curator Jas Dhillon introduces designers, artists and activists, Osman Yousefzada and Caryn Franklin. in conversation. Session includes a film screening of Her Dreams are Bigger by Osman Yousefzada.
15:00-16:00 – Fashion Upcycling Workshop
Maya Scarlette leads a workshop, upcycling clothes – inspired by her Caribbean heritage and carnival culture.
16:00 -17:30 – Estuary Bioregionalism
Join James Piers Taylor to explore Bioregionalism, and how this concept might look here in the English orient. Cabotage, Enclosure, Rewilding, Sea-level rise, and more. Organised as part of Mary Mattingly’s Vanishing Point, an Estuary 2021 co-commission with Focal Point Gallery.
21:50-22:00 – Title TBC
Ayesha Tan Jones brings our opening online programme to an end with a filmed work to mark the High Tide moment. An exploration into the sludge of the in betweens. From river to ocean, between earth and water, borders and binaries.
More information about the Estuary 2021 programme, including online events, can be found here.