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The Mayor’s Thames Festival 2009

Event preview

THE MAYOR’S Thames Festival, which takes place on Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13, 2009, is a spectacular free open-air celebration of London and its river.

Firmly established as a highlight in London’s cultural calendar, the Festival features an exciting programme of events and activities which take place right in the heart of London, between Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge and beyond.

This year’s Festival promises to be one of the most spectacular London events of the year with street arts, pyrotechnics, illuminations, art installations, river events, street theatre, massed choirs, circus and music.


On both evenings, French fire alchemists Compagnie Carabosse will create a spectacular fire garden in front of Tate Modern with animated fire machines, garlands of flamepots, boilers that belch fire and glorious structures laced with firepots.


On Saturday, Southwark Bridge hosts Feast on the Bridge, a celebratory harvest event with food, drink, entertainment and hands on activity.

Southwark Bridge will be closed to traffic and transformed into a feasting environment with banqueting tables, artist-led installations and the chance to sample food from some of the UK’s best sustainable food producers. There are also opportunities to get your hands dirty and have a go at churning butter, smoking a kipper, milking a cow or foraging for food along the Thames.

In the six months beforehand, an education project, Moveable Feast, will work with artists, schools and different communities to create 12 gardens and grow food in the city. Food from each garden will then be brought to Feast on the Bridge, exhibited and eaten on the bridge.


Flood Tide, a unique open air musical performance generated by the movement of tidal water, will be performed on Saturday. Flood Tide is a live sonification of tidal flow. A sensor placed in the Thames reads the river’s tidal movements which are converted into musical notation and played live by an ensemble of up to 32 musicians. The piece will last two hours, going from low to high tide.
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Highlights include:

The Thames Pageant which sees a flotilla of working boats, both old and new, sail from Tower Bridge to Westminster Bridge.

A unique chance to see Thames Festival Classic, a collection of classic wooden sailing boats, up close at St Katharine Docks, before watching them sail under Tower Bridge at dusk on Saturday evening, spectacularly lit by lights and flares.

And the Barge Pulling Race which will re-enact the way watermen used to manoeuvre cargo barges on the Thames before the age of steam.

Festival-goers can also learn about London’s river history at a show-and-tell stall; join archaeological walks and make pots from Thames clay that are fired in a bonfire on the Thames foreshore by the Globe Theatre.


Dress up and dance at the Festival’s famous Jive Stage and Al Fresco Ballroom, now in its fifth year, with workshops, exhibition dances and a host of live talent. There’s also Riverside Jazz from the F-IRE Collective; a New European music stage featuring future folk, Baltic beats and traditional gypsy sounds; and the amazing Disco Shed – a mobile disco complete with light show and visuals, housed in an ordinary garden shed!


Children and families are promised a host of exciting interactive activities at the Blue Ribbon Village at Potters Fields Park, the Festival’s environmental zone. Highlights include: Hoodwink Theatre’s production of The Pleasure Garden, a 15 minute show featuring bees, blossom, scents, extravagant characters and elegant comedy; an observational beehive housing over 2000 bees; and a flag installation by artist Shona Watt.

Creative workshops include making underwater seascapes at the Natural England marquee, and making musical instruments from river rubbish with Thames21, followed by the chance to perform as an orchestra.


On Sunday evening, over 2,000 dancers, musicians and masqueraders come from across the country with their amazing lanterns, illuminated costumes and fantastic structures to take part in the Night Procession. This will be followed by the Festival’s spectacular fireworks finale which is fired from two barges on the Thames between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges.