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Southend-based arts organisation Metal has been selected to lead a cultural strategy programme by the Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA). The appointment comes as a result of a competitive tender process and is for one year.

ASELA is a partnership of seven councils – Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Essex County, Rochford, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock – working together to promote prosperity and wellbeing across South Essex.

“SEEPARK is a fantastic initiative with huge potential for the South Essex region”

Andrea Cunningham, Director of Metal Southend

Metal was founded in London in 2002 by Jude Kelly CBE and has been active in Southend-on-Sea since 2007. It also has bases in Liverpool and Peterborough. It has transformed Chalkwell Hall in Southend, a previously disused space, into a vibrant cultural community hub. In 2021 it ran the second edition of the hugely successful Estuary festival in partnership with Cement Fields and with Creative Estuary.

Metal will lead work primarily to support ASELA’s SEEPARK programme, which will link and nurture five varied large-scale landscapes covering 23,000 hectares – including woodland, parkland, wetland and marshland – across South Essex bringing the benefits of ecological diversity and carbon capture as well as opportunities for leisure, tourism and business. 

Metal will work with the SEEPARK programme to position South Essex as a leading destination for the creative sector.

“Around 14,000 people work in the creative industries across our region and it is an important part of our economic and social mix,” said ASELA Chair and Leader of Brentwood Council Cllr Chris Hossack. “Culture creates jobs, brings people together and enhances civic pride and belonging. Helping it grow is an important part of our vision for South Essex. It’s great to have Metal on board to support this work.”

“SEEPARK is a fantastic initiative with huge potential for the South Essex region,” said Andrea Cunningham, Metal Southend’s Director. “We are delighted to be working with ASELA, regional partners and with the creative sector to co-produce a cultural strategy to position the region as a leading hub for the creative industries that connects to the wider ambitions of the Thames Estuary Production Corridor.”

“Embedding arts and culture into the design, development and DNA of our communities is fundamental to the Thames Estuary’s future,” said Emma Wilcox, Creative Estuary Director. “That is why Creative Estuary have embarked on a series of ambitious projects to establish best practice in the role that art and culture can play in civic planning and placemaking. We welcomed ASELA’s research from and by the creative sector into the opportunities, infrastructure and skills needs for the creative industries across South Essex, as part of the South Essex Estuary Park (SEEPARK) vision. We’re so delighted that the report and its recommendations have been recognised within the SEEPARK Delivery Plan and will unlock this opportunity to build culture, creativity and the creative industries sector into the heart of the SEEPARK vision.”

Read the ASELA Creative Industries report here


Image credit: YoHa Wasted Voyages in the Thames Estuary at Wat Tyler Country Park, commissioned by Estuary 2021 produced by Metal. Photo: Jonathan Juniper

South Essex councils select Metal to lead regional cultural work