Be prepared for a large surprise on the Thames River at Nine Elms this September. What surprise exactly? Well Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman is preparing his first UK commission. This will be semi-immersed in the Thames, and will rise and fall with the tide. Almost certainly it will be large. Very large. It is closely under wraps until 2 September, when it will be transported along the Thames, and is likely to be a talking point in the up and coming Vaxhall area. Hofman is famous for large scaled up sculptures of everyday objects. Not surprisingly his 26-metre high inflatable “Rubber Duck” has been the focus of much attention in a variety of cities, including Auckland, Sao Paolo and Osaka.
Hofman’s inspiration for the commission is apparently the prehistory of the River Thames and it will form a part of the month long Totally Thames Festival, 2 – 30 September. Along 42 miles of the Thames there will be cultural and river events. These include the Source to Sea River Relay, which will involve the transportation of a bottle of water from the source of the Thames. It passes through London from 1 September. Also promising to be spectacular is Fire Garden by Carabosse in the vast surrounds of Battersea Power Station (5-6 September, 6:30pm – 10:30pm). Another sure to be favourite is the magnificent Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival (5 – 9 September). This will be the largest feet of Tall Ships to come to London in 25 years.
The Gallery at Oxo Tower will exhibit rare maps of London’s river from 1572. French sculptor Jacques Limousin has created artworks from floatsam and objects found on the shores of the Thames, and these will form the exhibition River Works at the Crystal in the Royal Victoria Docks.
A classic boat rally on 13 -14 September at St Katherine Docks should be a great opportunity to get up close, and even on board some historic and beautiful vessels. Scheduled attractions include a fire boat, a steam tug, and the centre piece Gloriana, the Queen’s Row Barge.
Royal Barge Gloriana at the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. Photo: ©Tony Harrison.
The atmosphere should be made by the musical addition of sea shanties from Barnet Hill Lifeboat Crew on the Saturday and the National Youth Jazz Orchestra on the Sunday.
14 September is also a date for the lucky ones (it is now sold out) of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks, which will be performed in the Privy Gardens at Hampton Court Palace. The evening will end magnificently with a Georgian Firework display.
On 20 September, look out for Barge Driving Races, which are a chance to witness the skills of the lightermen who worked the laden barges with a single sweep of the oar, to come alongside the ships in port. If you are anywhere between Millwall and Ham on 27 September, look out for the Grate River Race, which is a marathon on the river! Over 300 crews will take part, some for pure fun, and others for serious sport.
2014 is the first year of Totally Thames, a month long river festival. The Thames Festival Trust, led by Artistic Director Adrian Evans, who was the Pageant Master for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee river celebrations, is expanding the concept from central London to the whole river in London, from Richmond to Havering, under the banner Totally Thames.
Totally Thames: Tall Ships At The Thames Barrier. Photo: ©Jaani Riordan.