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  • Miles Hedley


People have lived by the Thames for millennia and their traces can still be seen. So, too, can the artworks, artefacts, monuments and buildings of the societies that followed and continue to flourish beside the world famous river. And all of them, as well as the river itself, are being celebrated once again in the Totally Thames Festival.

Despite major restrictions due to Covid 19, the festival’s 24th outing will run throughout September offering live and/or online events created by artists, writers, musicians, mudlarkers, anglers, kayakers, hikers, archaeologists, palaeontologists, historians, boaters and environmentalists, especially those dealing with recycling, pollution, climate change and rising sea levels.

The highlight of the live programme is the month-long Rivers Of The World installation (below), a series of display boards and flags along the riverfront at Tate Modern created by more than 2,000 kids aged 13 and 14 from the UK, Ethiopia, Sudan, Morocco, Tanzania, Lebanon and India.

On the 19th, a guided walk along the foreshore at Bermondsey promises to reveal prehistoric remains – including 5,500-year-old pottery – relics of centuries of shipbuilding and even evidence of a historical murder.

The Line is a culture-rich walk starting at the 02 on Greenwich Peninsula and ending across the river at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which will feature creations by major artists such as Anthony Gormley and Laura Ford. You’ll also be able to follow the route online.

Daily boat trips during the festival will celebrate the contribution made to London by the great 19th century engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who built three bridges across the Thames, designed the giant steamer Great Eastern for a shipyard on the Isle of Dogs and helped his father construct the first ever tunnel under the river.

And speaking of Brunel, on 27 September lovers of contemporary classical music can go to the museum named in his honour at Rotherhithe and revel in Live From Under The Thames, a socially-distanced recital by the acclaimed Modulus Quartet (above), who specialise in playing new works in offbeat venues. Their programme includes the world premiere of Richard Norris’s 15 Steps Ahead.

If you don’t want to risk a public event because of the pandemic, festival organisers have laid on a wealth of fascinating online events for 2020, most of them freely accessible all month.

Artist Epoh Beech’s hand-drawn animation The Masque Of Blackness, inspired by Ben Johnson and Joseph Conrad, links the Thames, the Rhine and the Niger in west Africa (below) in a film about the spirit of a place.

And in another animation, this one called The Eels/On Water, artist Grace Black explores the mind-boggling effects of flushed-away cocaine on the capital’s eels.

Every day there will be a talk from aboard Cutty Sark at Greenwich about life in the London docks in the 19th century, when imperial international trade was at its zenith.

Photographer Agne Rita Kucinskaite walked 150 miles of the Thames Path in just 11 days, taking pictures as she went. A selection of her images will be available online throughout September.

And if you want to see more of the river close up, there will be a link to Google Earth so that you can follow the entire 215 miles (346 km) of the Thames in The River Source To Sea.

Online music highlights include Rolling Down The River, an anthology of songs commemorating the Thames by The London Sea Shanty Collective, and – on the 27th - Kids Choir/Sing For Water, a concert of choral performances by hundreds of children from across the country.

And for lovers of urban wildlife, nighttime nature walks from North Woolwich Old Dock to Canary Wharf will be streamed live on 11 and 12 September.

You can follow the festival on its social media platforms - Facebook @ThamesFestivalTrust / Instagram @thamesfestivaltrust / Twitter @ThamesFestTrust #TotallyThames

And for the full programme and details about ticket sales, go to

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