Thames Festival Trust is delighted to present London’s annual river festival, Totally Thames 2023. The festival will feature art installations and exhibitions, performances including a climate cabaret, foreshore walks, talks, boat trips, river races and more this September, particularly focusing on sustainability and protecting the environment and ecosystem of the river. This exciting annual celebration of the Thames is back for its 27th year with an all-new look: each weekend will see a festival hub in a different London riverside location with events and activities, and there will be further events across London all month long.
Sustainability and the environment are key themes at Totally Thames as the festival seeks to promote protecting and appreciating the river and its ecology. Maximilian Himpe in collaboration with Creative Youth in Kingston upon Thames, one of the festival hubs, presents Climate Cabaret. This live storytelling lab explores new ways of narrating, discussing, and impacting climate change, devised with a cohort of Creative Youth artists, incorporating live music, comedy, burlesque, puppetry and more. Artist Chiara Zaccagnini presents CH20 at WappART, a new artist-run space in Wapping founded by Daniela Magni. This incredible AR and hologram immersive event highlights the fragility of planet Earth. Viewers are surrounded by a mesmerising array of interactive sound and video projections that capture liquified satellite views of the beauty and complexity of the natural world. CH20 explores the impact of climate change and the environmental degradation of the planet, with powerful satellite images of the River Thames and surrounding areas.
Artist Irma Irsara’s installation TIDAL TRACES explores the intermingling of natural and synthetic matter in the river, our relationship with the materials we produce and their impact on the environment. It takes place at The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret and draws parallels with the objects in the museum and the material the artist has retrieved from the foreshore. Tidal Traces highlights the urgency of re-establishing and maintaining balanced ecosystems, with live and dried microscopic samples that audiences can view.
There will be river clean-ups in September run by Thames21, encouraging London residents to get down to the Thames foreshore and its smaller tributaries to help litter-pick and remove invasive species to protect the river’s natural habitat.
Festival-goers can get out on the river this September with Totally Thames. As part of Sir Christopher Wren’s tercentenary, the Wren London Series is a programme of talks at and about some of Wren’s most iconic buildings. One of them, Wren by River, is a special tour and talk on board an Uber Boat by Thames Clippers vessel, with a café bar, taking in Wren’s famous buildings from the unique perspective of the river. Celebrating the new RNLI Tower Lifeboat Station, members of the public can visit and take a tour of this incredible new lifeboat station near Embankment in central London, finding out more about the lifeboats and the RNLI’s life-saving work on the River Thames.
Returning for 2023 is the Great River Race on 16th September – hundreds of row boats race along the Thames, this year from Millwall to Ham Common. The St Katharine Docks Classic Boat Festival returns this September, an annual boating extravaganza that will see 40 beautiful vintage boats assemble in the central basin of St Katharine Docks including Dunkirk Little Ships and Bates Starcraft. The Classic Boats Festival will see live music, kids’ activities and talks, making it the perfect day out for the whole family.
Exhibitions and installations abound this September as part of Totally Thames. Ebb and Flow is an installation by Małgorzata Lisiecka on the Docks. Long pieces of strikingly coloured fabric will come to life with the rising tide: at high tide, the fabric will be floating on the surface, creating stunning patterns according to the water’s movements. Creatures of the Kelp, in Brentford, is an immersive installation and performance from Camilla Brendon. The performers embody UMOs (unidentified marine objects) with recycled costumes in Kelp Forest, interacting with visitors.
From the Mouth of the Thames is a poetry and visual art collaboration in Brentford between poet and performer Sam Phipps and artist Clem Routledge. This poetry and art exhibition will celebrate the Thames, with Phipps’ poetry tracing the river from mouth to source. Artist Henry Reichhold will present a public exhibition, The Crossing, of his river-related work at London Bridge Station, bringing the joy of the river to thousands of people who use this busy transport hub every day.
The annual photography competition Thames Lens returns to encourage non-professional photographers to get creative along the river. As part of Thames Lens 2023, and the return of the Illuminated River category, award-winning photographer Nigel Wilson will be hosting an Illuminated River Photography Workshop. The evening workshop will include a guided walk from Blackfriars to Tower Bridge taking photographs of the long-term art installation Illuminated River, an orchestrated series of light sequences that span nine bridges from London to Lambeth.
History lovers can enjoy a series of events about mudlarking, the historic practice of foraging on the foreshore. Join modern mudlark Tom Chivers for his Hands on History: Thames, River of Rubbish Talk, a chance to learn about mudlarking finds through the lens of river pollution, how we can protect the Thames, and the exciting opportunity to handle artefacts – including medieval and Tudor jewellery to Victorian glassware.
The Team London Bridge Walking Tour will highlight the history and significance of the Thames in the development of London. From the Roman trading settlement to the glittering corporate towers that dominate the city’s modern skyline, the river has always played an integral role in London’s past, present and future. Discover the background to the Illuminated River project by artist Leo Villareal, where site-specific light artworks, spanning across nine bridges from London to Lambeth, have transformed the river by night. Learn about its social and cultural impacts and the experiences of directing the longest public art commission in the world. The walk will be hosted by Blue Badge Guide Alan Read and Sarah Gaventa, Former Director of the Illuminated River Foundation.
The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret presents a Victorian Public Health Walk, a fascinating opportunity to learn about the history of Southwark, particularly focused on the Victorian era, the impact of the industrial revolution on the area, and the development of understanding disease and ill health during that time, and how this was tackled – particularly in connection with the Thames.
These fantastic Totally Thames events run alongside an exciting variety of dedicated events and activities at the Weekend festival hubs. The hubs will be in Brentford (Weekend One), The Royal Docks (Weekend Two), London Bridge (Weekend Three), Greenwich (Weekend Four), and Kingston upon Thames (Weekend Five). More information on the festival hub events can be found on our What's On.
Thames Festival Trust Director Adrian Evans comments:
The Thames is a constant source of inspiration and delight. Our festival’s twenty-seventh edition features river races, mudlark finds, art exhibitions, foreshore performances, and a not-to-be-missed commission, ‘Saltley Geyser’ from installation artist David Cotterrell, it’s a spectacular eruption of water!
See related news
Sing for Water 2023
Although we didn't have a flagship Sing for Water event in London this year we did have lots of local events across the country which have raised over…
Boat Poets: Tributary by Tatenda Naomi Matsvai
Watch the new Boat Poets video and download the brochure.
Docu-series: Week #5 / Kingston upon Thames
Kingston Museum curator Ruth Brimacombe and artist Lindsay Russell show take us onto the river to talk about 'Creative Flow: Kingston, Art and The River'.