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Celebrating Totally Thames

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

The annual celebration Totally Thames returned on 1st September and runs until the end of the month. This year with another creative and diverse program is set to inspire. Here are some of the events you don't want to miss!

Thames Barge Parade 2016 ©Nigel Pepper

Celebrating Totally Thames Festival, London

The River Thames travels over 210 miles, starting as a small trickle in the Cotswolds, right into the centre of London, and out into the North Sea. Yet, many Londoners have never engaged with the river.

This year Totally Thames will include 150 events on, beneath, and beside the River Thames, Londoners and visitors alike can take part in an exciting programme of arts, cultural, archaeological, and active river events including concerts, film screenings, exhibitions, installations, performances, walks, a boat party, and even a wild swim!

This year’s programme is curated around the timely issue of plastic pollution in our rivers and oceans, Handel’s 300th Anniversary of Water Music, and stories of the river.

The Handlebards

Plastic Pollution

Plastic Pollution and river litter are timely global environmental issues which not only affects the Thames, and waterways but also our oceans. The World Economic Forum has predicted there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by weight by 2050.

This is highlighted in Future Dust, an installation by artist Maria Arceo (throughout September); for the last year, Arceo has been collecting plastic from over 40 beaches along the tidal Thames down to the Estuary. By beachcombing, handpicking, identifying, and colour-coding found plastic debris, she will create a large-scale artwork that responds to the sheer scale of plastic litter that is being deposited into the Thames.

The installation will tour different riverside locations across London and will be illuminated at dusk by Dutch interactive light artist Tim Scheffer. The Plastic Ocean Festival runs over the month with screenings of the film A Plastic Ocean, which David Attenborough has described as one of the most important films of our time, environmental talks, paddle boarding, and river clean-ups to encourage direct action.

A Plastic Ocean, We Need a Wave of Change

300th Anniversary of Handel's Water Music

300th Anniversary of Handel's Water Music Composer Iain Chambers returns with his third edition of the Bascule Chamber Concerts (22nd – 24th September) inside the cavernous bascule chamber of Tower Bridge.

The programme of new works includes a response to the 300th anniversary of Water Music from Langham Research Centre that uses live recordings of the bridge’s river and road sounds. The intimate concerts will also feature performances from clarinetist Kate Romano, and spoken word artist Kayo Chingonyi plus award-winning Franco-Cameroonian singer Coco Mbassi will perform a new work imagining the conversations happening onboard boats carrying immigrants. On the shore, Kid’s Choir (17th September) sees 400 Primary School children from across London come together at The Scoop to perform an array of songs including a contemporary response to Handel’s Water Music by Hunter Cobblentz.

Bascule Chamber Concert ©David Levene

Stories of the River

The River Thames has a rich history as a working river, which has affected its heritage, the communities, and the cultures that adorn it.

Working River: London’s Boatyards (throughout September) will bring the living history of the boatyards on the Tidal Thames alive through oral history, film, and photography in a series of exhibitions.

While Boat Poets (6th, 25th, and 28th September) places four young emerging spoken word artists on tidal residencies. Artists will explore life on the river through time spent in the wheelhouses of river boats, barges, and tugs central to industry on the Thames. The Boat Poets will perform at the National Poetry Library and the Tongue Fu Boat Party and will be popping up on MBNA Thames Clippers for National Poetry Day.

Thames Festival Trust’s Rivers of the World, an international arts education programme that has worked in 20 countries, are exhibiting artworks that will be on display at City Hall and along the Thames Pathway.

Boat Poets' Final Artwork

Go along and enjoy the celebrations! Something for all the family.

It's really easy to get around London with the Oyster Card, for more on what to see and do around London check out TripAdvisor.

See you at this year's Totally Thames x

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