Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Thames Festival

Not the most obvious thing one expects to see on the way to the supermarket, but last weekend was the Thames Festival, and there was plenty to see on and along the river, all the way from Tower Bridge to Waterloo Bridge.

Music, entertainments, stalls for arts, crafts and worthy causes (especially related to the river and the environment) were all on tap. I learnt (and immediately forgot) how to distinguish a reef knot from a thief knot, and all about the huge super-sewer tunnel to be built under the river (I thought that was well in hand ages ago, but apparently still not).

The river parade, such as it was, seemed a bit thin, though no doubt it would have been more interesting if I'd been near the commentary point. A few siren blasts and a fire boat, and it seemed to be gone. But Tower Bridge obligingly opened for a sailing barge, and later, for no apparent reason, a sturdy-looking launch carried some energetic bellringers down the river, so there was something to see actually on the water.

On land, I wanted to see the Hot Club of Belleville, who do 20s and 30s numbers in Reinhardt/Grappelli style, only with a tuba and a pretty lady violinist who occasionally plays a saw. Also on hand were the London Bulgarian Choir, who got people dancing with them, clog and morris dancing at Hay's Galleria, and hula-hoops and swing dancing outside Tate Modern.

Once again, Southwark Bridge was closed for the Feast on the Bridge. As well as the many and varied food stalls to buy your feast from, there was a rural theme. Somewhat surreally, every lamp-post was decorated with a scarecrow, there was a thatching demonstration and corn-dolly making (or you could make yourself a fruity hat if you preferred), and an irruption from a Romanian band giving out gingerbread men.

Those who needed further refreshment could get a green coconut opened for them to drink the water, and those who needed more excitement could try the helter-skelter with a view of St Paul's.

I'd chosen something more restful: a suitably nautical recital on a Thames sailing barge; but here are some more impressions of the afternoon:

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