Thurrock is an amazing place. It is an area of great historical and strategic significance – it is not well known nor necessarily valued highly enough. Thurrock: A Visionary Brief in the Thames Gateway will communicate the richness of this place. The Cruise Terminal and the Port of Tilbury represent gateways to Britain. The coming and going, the receiving and sending off, the long history of the exchange of goods and ideas: this is ongoing.

Thurrock and South Essex have a rich social history of pioneering experimentation. Opening up the opportunity for contemporary utopian thinking within this programme is therefore apposite.

Internationally, the links between social engagement and art, architecture, heritage, planning, and the natural environment have demonstrated a new approach to regeneration in a powerful way. A field of practice which is cross-disciplinary has developed that has enabled regeneration to become more creative, engaged and sustainable. In Britain this work has been at the fringes of the current regeneration context. Thurrock: A Visionary Brief in the Thames Gateway will change this.

We believe that culturally-led regeneration can inspire and transform communities. Cultural activity can be a strong regenerative catalyst. As well as contributing towards a more diverse and skilled economy, it can reinforce a strong local identity. Cultural infrastructure and activity have the ability to transform and raise aspirations, to encourage a sense of ownership and place as well as providing long-term improvement to the quality of life. In order to have real impact and efficacy, regeneration initiatives must be grounded in the values and character of the local area and people.

This programme has been put together to unearth the unique character of Thurrock and to bring new thinking to bear on a number of big issues that will affect the communities of the Thames Gateway over the next decades.

Thurrock: A Visionary Brief in the Thames Gateway aims to bring an international perspective to local, regional and national policy debates around cultural practice in regeneration. It aims to kick-start a more creative approach to regeneration in Thurrock and the Thames Gateway in order to stimulate cultural activities and new cultural infrastructure in the sub-region.

The programme as a whole is a demonstration of a process that will be evaluated and show-cased internationally. At its heart is the belief that a period of characterisation and brief-setting is of huge value to the understanding of all the agencies involved in delivering long-term regeneration. The programme will present ideas and a series of models for creative community engagement to be taken forward. It will identify relevant international case studies. It will also provide a range of early wins and strategic briefs that all agencies should be encouraged to develop.

A distinctive and dynamic forward programme for the sub-region marks a very significant moment: Thurrock Council and partner agencies have grasped this

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opportunity to encourage visionary and strategic thinking for the future of the Thames Gateway. The programme will provide an important resource for Thurrock’s new Urban Development Corporation and all agencies involved in the Thames Gateway. Cross-agency partnership action of this kind is the future and will remain essential if longevity and ownership are to be achieved.

We are very pleased that the enlightened thinking of Thurrock Council, Arts Council England, Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, The Countryside Agency, East of England Development Agency, Essex County Council, Government Office for the East of England, Heritage Lottery Fund, Living East, Price Waterhouse Cooper, Sport England and Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership hosting this programme has meant that the area is welcoming an incredibly impressive list of international practitioners. We are delighted that their ideas and input will contribute to the future of the Thames Gateway. We would like to thank everybody who has made this programme possible.

Clare Cumberlidge and Lucy Musgrave
General Public Agency
May 2004