News: Totally Thames season returns to celebrate the wonders of the waterway

News: Totally Thames season returns to celebrate the wonders of the waterway

An annual celebration of the River Thames returns with a creative and diverse programme that inspires, connects and enthrals.

The River Thames travels over 210 miles, starting as a small trickle in the Cotswolds, right into the centre of London and out into the North Sea. And yet, many Londoners have never engaged with the river. Through Totally Thames’ annual season of over 150 events on, beneath and beside the River Thames, Londoners can take part in an exciting programme of arts, cultural, archaeological and active river events including concerts, film screenings, exhibitions, installations, performances, walks, a boat party and even a wild swim!

This year’s programme is curated around the timely issue of plastic pollution in our rivers and oceans, Handel’s 300th Anniversary of Water Music, and stories of the river.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:

“This festival celebrates one of our city’s major assets, bringing its history to life through a fantastic variety of free activities including concerts, exhibitions, installations and performances. From learning about environmental issues facing the river to hearing about those who live on it, there’s something for everyone to get involved in this September.”

Plastic Pollution, River litter

This timely, global environmental issue affects the Thames, waterways and oceans. The World Economic Forum has predicted there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by weight by 2050. This is highlighted in Future Dust, an installation by artist Maria Arceo (throughout September); for the last year, Arceo has been collecting plastic from over 40 beaches along the tidal Thames down to the Estuary. By beachcombing, handpicking, identifying, and colour-coding found plastic debris, she will create a large-scale artwork that responds to the sheer scale of plastic litter that is being deposited into the Thames.

The installation will tour to different riverside locations across London and will be illuminated at dusk by Dutch interactive light artist Tim Scheffer. The Plastic Ocean Festival runs over the month with screenings of film A Plastic Ocean, which David Attenborough has described as one of the most important films of our time, environmental talks, paddle boarding and river clean-ups to encourage direct action.

Tower Bridge Bascule Chamber (image courtesy of David Levene)

300th Anniversary of Handel’s Water Music
Composer Iain Chambers returns with his third edition of the Bascule Chamber Concerts (22 – 24 September 2017) inside the cavernous bascule chamber of Tower Bridge. The programme of new works includes a response to the 300th anniversary of Water Music from Langham Research Centre that uses live recordings of the bridge’s river and road sounds. The intimate concerts will also feature performances from clarinettist Kate Romano, spoken work artist Kayo Chingonyi plus award-winning Franco-Cameroonian singer Coco Mbassi will perform a new work imagining the conversations happening onboard boats carrying immigrants. On the shore, Kid’s Choir (17 September 2017) sees 400 Primary School children from across London come together at The Scoop to perform an array of songs including a contemporary response to Handel’s Water Music by Hunter Cobblentz.

Boat Poets

Stories of the River

The River Thames has a rich history as a working river which has affected its heritage and the communities and cultures that adorn it. Working River: London’s Boatyards (throughout September) will bring the living history of the boatyards on the Tidal Thames alive through oral history, film and photography in a series of exhibitions. While Boat Poets (6, 25 and 28 September 2017)  places four young emerging spoken word artists on tidal residencies. Artists will explore life on the river through time spent in the wheel houses of river boats, barges and tugs central to industry on the Thames. The Boat Poets will perform at the National Poetry Library and the Tongue Fu Boat Party and will be popping up on MBNA Thames Clippers for National Poetry Day.

Adrian Evans, Director of Totally Thames, comments:

“For this, our 20th birthday edition, we are exploring the working river and the history of Thames boatyards through spoken word and oral history; through photography and film. We are deploring marine plastic pollution via Maria Arceo’s thought-provoking installation Future Dust. We are responding to the 300th anniversary of Handel’s Water Music with massed choir and contemporary compositions. And, we are celebrating our beautiful River Thames with boat races, barge pulls, rallies, stand up paddle boarding and even a river swim.”


Totally Thames 2017 runs from 1 – 30 September 2017. For more information or to purchase tickets to  any of the events, please visit the website.