The Thames Festival

The Mayor’s Thames Festival is London’s largest free festival and one of Europe’s most spectacular two-day event, which is now in its twentieth year. I was aware for some time of its existence, although I hadn't a clue what to expect and although it boasts some 800,000 visitors it has never had the same publicity as other street festivals such as the Notting Hill Carnival.

You would think that being a Thames Festival it would be mostly about sailing vessels and such like, although nothing could be further from the truth. Sure boats, barges and ships are involved, although a good many of the visitors, especially young children find that the river banks have a lot more going on to interest them, all the way from St Katharine Docks to the London Eye.

   The Portwey was used for training troops for the D-Day landings

Being a hot Indian Summers day when I arrived at St Katherine's Docks, with reported temperatures of 82 degrees, you can imagine a number of people visiting the Classic Boat section at the marina and checking out some of the crafts moored in the docks.The first to catch my eye was the old steam tug “Portwey” built on the Clyde in 1927 she derived her name from Portland and Weymouth Coaling Company and worked her way from there to Falmouth. The Portwey was used for training troops for the D-Day landings, and it was a recovery craft for the American ships. During the battle, a German E boat got caught amongst the American ships and started to torpedo them. Dead American seamen were loaded onto the Portwey and it was said in the newsreels at the time that you couldn't see the deck for the number of bodies piled up on it!

Chinese lanterns adorned the masts on the deck of the “Lando” a Chinese sailing boat invited to the 2012 London Olympic Games cultural parade. Inside the boat, a lady played music on a harp. The lounge and cabins were so comfortable in such tranquil surrounding.

Crowds outside City Hall by More London

With the City Hall as backdrop outside the Scoop at More London, where packed audiences watched 600 London school children perform a new song written by the award-winning British traditional singer Sam Lee to celebrate the tenth year of the Kids’ Choir, followed by choirs from across the UK sing in a unique mass choir concert on behalf of Water Aid.

The Thames sailing barge “Lady Daphne” recreated history by sailing through the Festival site on this historic vessel and causing Tower Bridge to lift several times. I could not help recalling how frustrating it is when you are stuck there in the traffic as the bridge opens and yet looking through the tourist's eyes it is a wonder to behold. With the Union flag flying from one side of the top walkway and St Georges flag flying on the other side, no other city on earth can look so majestic and beautiful.

Tower Bridge is recognised throughout the world as London’s Bridge. Next time I get caught in my cab trying to cross over it I will think of the wonderful excitement this open bridge creates. Funny how we can travel far and wide and yet can we honestly say we have seen anything better than this?

There was so much to see and do in this two-day event that after spending all day on Sunday cramming in as much as I could possibly do I felt there was plenty of other things I didn’t have time to see.

As the evening sky grew dark it was time for the Night Carnival which brought together over 1,500 dancers, drummers and masqueraders with Soca music and Brazilian Latin on the menu to welcome Rio as the next Olympic City.

The parade made its way from the starting line at Upper Ground, then across Blackfriars Bridge and along the Embankment where a firework finale ended the evening.

From 1-30 September

For more details please visit the official website: Totally Thames

London Time

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