Every September there’s a Thames Festival in London, usually over the course of a weekend or two which hosts various events in celebration of this river which winds and snakes through the capital.
This year, they’re going bigger and better with a month-long celebration called Totally Thames which starts today until the end of the month. The programme of events this year is spectacular and far too numerous to go into detail – there are riverside walks and historical documentaries, lots of family festivities and things for kids to do (art and storytelling about ships and rivers of the world); there’s live music and free cinema, sports challenges, boat-rides and quizzes, not to mention a 5-day festival down at Greenwich where you’ll see an array of tall sailing ships passing through. Most events are free but some, like the fire garden tribute to Battersea power station (before it closes for refurbishment) are free but tickets are required. Intrigued by the notion of a fire garden? Me too! Check it out here.
Of particular note to you thesps out there is the free film festival down at The Scoop at More London (click here for films showing), various historical walks if you’re doing some character research and want to get a sense of London dockyards during the blitz or the areas that Dickens wrote about and a historical walk/talk with Brian Cookson called Bishops, Brothels and the Bard which will take you on a walk around The Globe area and talk about Shakespeare’s links with Southwark Cathedral (tickets for that one are £7 – click here for further details).
There’s also live art at Endersby Wharf which will include animation and performance under the umbrella title of Over Time (click here) and screenings, talks and workshops at the Floating Cinema (which got a mention in a previous post and will be in residency at St Katharine Docks). Click here for details.
Why this big fuss over a river? That’s what I was thinking, so here are some facts about the Thames you may/may not know:
- The Thames is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest (after the River Severn) in the UK.
- The Thames is made up of both freshwater and seawater. It’s said to start at Thames Head in Gloucestershire and flows through the Thames Estuary, out to the North Sea.
- The Romans established a settlement on the river around 50AD and called it Londinium. Later it became a major ship building and trade area for the Saxons, Normans and Tudors so London was a port long before it became the capital of England. By 1576, London was the world’s foremost trading port.
- Trade flourished on London’s docks. The river, its by-ways and canals were an important method of transporting goods. The growth of road transport, and the decline of the Empire in the years following 1914, reduced the economic prominence of the river.
- During World War II, the protection of certain Thames-side facilities, particularly docks and water treatment plants, was crucial to the munitions and water supply of the country. For that reason, it was heavily targeted by German bombs from 1939-1941 and the destruction changed the landscape and architectural profile of London entirely.
- Alongside the entire river runs the Thames Path – a national route for walkers and cyclists.
- In the early 1980’s, the Thames Barrier was built to protect London’s low-lying areas from flooding.
- The Thames itself provides two-thirds of London’s drinking water.
So. It’s pretty important then. Seems worthy of a celebration in my opinion.
Hoorah for the Thames….hip hip!!