Meet our Trustee Amar Qureshi: "The river causes you to stop, look and absorb. It provides a form of connection between us"
Amar Qureshi is co-owner and chief executive of Agilia, a specialist infrastructure development consultancy. Prior to then he was Commercial Director at Thames Water responsible for many of its infrastructure projects. This included helping to develop the Thames Tideway Tunnel, the super sewer which is currently being built beneath the river. He is passionate about changing the public's perception of the river so that we are inspired to protect it, something his work and our work both aim to achieve. We caught up with him to find out more.
How did you get to become a Thames Festival Trust board member?
When I was at Thames Water supporting and helping develop the Thames Tideway Tunnel we were supporting the Trust, and I got introduced to Adrian [Thames Festival Trust Director], and obviously Adrian presents fantastic energy and passion around representing the Trust and what it stands for.
We found that were both drawn to this celebration and significance of the river from very different avenues – the Trust through arts and culture, Thames Water & the Tideway Tunnel through improving infrastructure. In a way that symbolically represents what the river means to all of us, actually. It draws people in to a collective focal point from whatever background, gender, or ethnicity.
Tell us about the Thames Tideway Tunnel project, and what does this mean for the Thames?
I joined Thames Water specifically to help develop Thames Tideway Tunnel, my role there was as Commercial Director responsible for helping develop the model to attract money but also to get the construction contractors on board. So it was absolutely fascinating and what attracted me to that was the environmental aspects.
On a more personal level it was about contributing something back to London – my parents came to England as immigrants, living a life they probably couldn’t quite imagine frankly, and obviously they worked hard as well. But being able to directly contribute and give something back to the city was a motivator to get involved.
What is your favourite part of the River Thames and why?
I couldn’t say…there are so many amazing spots. What the Thames does do is it causes you to stop. Everyone is always flurrying non-stop from one point to the other, and the river just causes you to stop and look and absorb. I think you can pick that up almost anywhere along the Thames.
What have been some of your favourite moments as a Trustee?
I think Bascule Chamber Concerts and the launch party on the Dixie Queen a couple of years ago, that was fantastic as it was such a coming together of people who support the Trust. The other highlight for me was the Fire Garden by Carabosse at Battersea Power Station a few years ago, that was amazing.
Why is the work of the Thames Festival Trust vital?
Because on one level there are so many things which move in society, and so few things which approach any form of being relatively constant and I think the river is one of them. The Trust encourages people to engage with the river from a cultural perspective, and that really adds a different dimension for people's lives and how they relate to their surroundings. We as Londoners have that same sense of wonder and vastness through our relationship with the river that others do with the ocean. I think we are increasingly becoming more atomised as a society, and what the River Thames does and what the Thames Festival Trust does is to provide a focal point around the river to provide a form of connection between us.