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. And yet, many Londoners have never engaged with the river. Through Totally Thames
annual season of over 150 events on, beneath and beside the River Thames, Londoners 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 years programme is curated around the timely issue of plastic pollution in our rivers and oceans, Handels 300th Anniversary of Water Music, and stories of the river.
Plastic Pollution, River litter
This timely, global environmental issue affects the Thames, waterways and 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 to 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 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.
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 bridges river and road sounds. The intimate concerts will also feature performances from clarinettist Kate Romano, spoken work 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, Kids 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 Handels Water Music by Hunter Cobblentz.
Stories of the River
The River Thames has a rich history as a working river which has affected its heritage and the communities and cultures that adorn it. Working River: Londons 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 wheel houses 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.
Other key projects include Thames Festival Trusts Rivers of the World, an international arts education programme that has worked in 20 countries. Rivers of the World artworks will be on display at City Hall and along the Thames Pathway. Plus, The Great River Race (9th September) - London's 21.6 mile River Marathon with over 300 crews from all over the globe. A rare opportunity to get wet and wild in the Thames with an invigorating Tidal Swim (2nd September) around Chiswick Eyot.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said This festival celebrates one of our citys major assets, bringing its history to life through a fantastic variety of free activities including concerts, exhibitions, installations and performances. From learning about environmental issues facing the river to hearing about those who live on it, theres something for everyone to get involved in this September.
Adrian Evans, Director of Totally Thames, comments, For this, our 20th birthday edition, we are exploring the working river and the history of Thames boatyards through spoken word and oral history; through photography and film. We are deploring marine plastic pollution via Maria Arceos thought-provoking installation Future Dust. We are responding to the 300th anniversary of Handels Water Music with massed choir and contemporary compositions. And, we are celebrating our beautiful River Thames with boat races, barge pulls, rallies, stand up paddle boarding and even a river swim.