This September, go out or head online to discover more about the River Thames and celebrate its heritage with a month-long festival. Totally Thames 2021 will feature a programme of more than 80 cultural events that you can attend in person or view online from the comfort of your sofa. With family activities and free events, there’s something for everyone.
What can you see and do at Totally Thames?
At this year’s Totally Thames festival, you can marvel at London’s bridges as Leo Villareal’s Illuminated River lights up every night, explore the foreshore with Mudlarking at St Paul’s Cathedral, and take a deep dive into the history of dockside communities with The Islanders. Or see river-themed art from children across the globe come together in Rivers of the World. And the whole 2021 programme will be accessible both in person and online, to ensure you can all enjoy the festival.
Before 1850, Silvertown was a bleak stretch of uninhabited marshland to the east of the city. Some parts were up to 10 feet below sea level. And smuggling and illegal prize-fighting was commonplace here. The Islanders follows the history of Silvertown and North Woolwich. It starts at the point when the industrial revolution reached the riverside, followed by the devastation of war in the 1940s and ending with the blossoming docklands area that is being developed for a new generation. The Islanders will include a photography exhibition held at Thames Barrier Park, as well as walking tours and talks held in North Woolwich and the Royal Docks.
Mudlarking is a hugely popular pastime that’s revealed many historical gems and unusual finds on the foreshore over recent years. This year, Totally Thames takes a closer look at the river shore with a number of fascinating mudlarking events.
Mudlarks have been present along the Thames for hundreds of years, with modern day mudlarks continuing this tradition. And so, Hands On History present Mudlarking at St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s an exhibition of the fascinating objects collected by mudlarkers over several decades, allowing you to see for yourself the finds made. And portraits of the mudlarks, taken by photographer Hannah Smiles, will also be on display.
For something a bit more unusual, you can join mudlark Nicola White at Woods Quay for A Mudlark’s Feast. As part of this immersive talk you’ll get to experience the delicious tastes and evocative aromas of past dishes and drinks. White will delve into her own mudlarking collection to display culinary finds, while Woods Quay’s head chef will complement these with carefully prepared tasters.
Poet Sophie Dumont will examine the riverbank in her Poet as Mudlark online writing workshop. You can find moments of surprise in everyday silt, just as mudlarks do. And River Thames archaeologist Dr Fiona Hughey will host a range of fascinating Archaeological Foreshore Walks, revealing London’s history and secrets at low tide.
Exhibitions and installations
Rivers of the World returns to the riverside outside the Tate Modern. It features magnificent river-themed artwork produced by children and young people from around the UK and the world, in collaboration with professional artists. And children and young people from six Greenwich secondary schools have partnered with schools in Ghana and professional artists to produce work that responds to their local environment and waterfront, which you’ll find on display at the National Maritime Museum.
Leo Villareal’s Illuminated River is now complete, lighting up some of London’s most famous bridges every night from sunset to 2am. In Spring 2021, Lambeth, Westminster, Golden Jubilee, Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges were switched on. Joining Millennium, Southwark, Cannon Street and London Bridges, which were illuminated in 2019. It’s the longest public art installation, which will last 10 years.
To mark the successful completion of this monumental artwork, Illuminated River is curating a three-day celebration for all. It’ll take place from 23rd to 25th September, as part of this year’s Totally Thames festival.
The specially created programme includes guided tours, talks and sketching workshops. On 23rd September, Villareal will reprogramme the artwork in a one-off event. He will enhance the algorithmic lighting of the nine bridges of Illuminated River, in this special display for the festival.
Looking for more festivals you can enjoy in person or online? We’ve got some unusual, interesting and quirky suggestions here.
When: 1st – 30th September 2021
Where: At various locations along and near the Thames in London, and online
£: Ticket prices vary, depending on the event. Many events are free
More info: www.totallythames.org