This document is a composite of paraphrased voices from three online panel talks held across October and November 2021. These talks brought together over 30 contributors including 4 conveners, 12 speakers and attendees, as well various cited resources. This document explores the notion of a Thames Estuary Creative Commons through piecing together these peoples contributions.
‘the public right to culture across Britain’s largest waterway’
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, 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 ways of developing 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?