Activities Outdoors

Totally Thames Festival brings family friendly events to London for September 2021

Totally Thames, the annual festival that celebrates the culture, environment and heritage of the  River Thames, turns 25 this year with exciting events across London from 1st until 30th of September.

September is here and it means we get to celebrate London’s river through a series of events. The whole 2021  programme will be accessible both in person and online to ensure that everyone can enjoy the  festival. Marvel at London’s bridges as  Leo Villareal’s Illuminated River lights up the Thames every night alongside a mini-festival of events,  explore the foreshore with Mudlarking at St Paul’s Cathedral, take a deep dive into the history of  dockside communities with The Islanders and see river-themed art from children across the globe  come together at the National Maritime Museum in Rivers of the World.  

Before 1850, Silvertown was a bleak stretch of uninhabited marshland east of the city, with some  parts up to 10 feet below sea level; smuggling and illegal prize-fighting was commonplace. The  Islanders follows the history of Silvertown and North Woolwich starting at the point when the  industrial revolution reached the riverside, followed by the devastation of war in the 1940s, to the  blossoming docklands area that is being developed for a new generation. The Islanders will include  a photography exhibition held at Thames Barrier Park, as well as walking tours and talks held in  North Woolwich and the Royal Docks.  

Mudlarking is a hugely popular pastime that has revealed many historical gems and unusual finds on the foreshore over the years. This year, Totally Thames takes a closer look at the river shore  with a number of fascinating mudlarking events. Mudlarks have been present along the Thames for  hundreds of years, and modern day mudlarks continue the tradition. Hands On History present  Mudlarking at St Paul’s Cathedral, an exhibition of the fascinating objects collected by mudlarkers  over several decades. Portraits of the mudlarks taken by photographer Hannah Smiles will also be displayed. At Woods Quay, participants can join mudlark Nicola White for an immersive talk and a  sensory experience of delicious tastes and evocative aromas in A Mudlark’s Feast. White will delve  into her own mudlarking collection to display culinary finds while Woods Quay’s head chef will  complement these with carefully prepared tastes from the past. Poet Sophie Dumont will examine  the riverbank in her Poet as Mudlark online writing workshop, where participants can find  moments of surprise in everyday silt, just as mudlarks do. River Thames archaeologist Dr Fiona  Hughey will host a range of Archaeological Foreshore Walks, revealing London’s history and secrets  at low tide.  

Rivers of the World returns to the riverside outside the Tate Modern, with magnificent river themed artwork produced by children and young people from around the UK and the world in  collaboration with professional artists. Children and young people from six Greenwich secondary  schools have partnered with schools in Ghana and professional artists to produce work that  responds to their local environment and waterfront, which will be exhibited at the National  Maritime Museum.  

Leo Villareal’s Illuminated River is now complete, lighting up some of London’s most famous  bridges every night from sunset to 2am. In Spring 2021, Lambeth, Westminster, Golden Jubilee,  Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges were switched on, joining Millennium, Southwark, Cannon Street  and London Bridges, which were illuminated in 2019. To mark the successful completion of this  monumental artwork – the world’s longest public art installation, which will last 10 years – Illuminated River is curating a three-day celebration for all from 23rd – 25th September as part of this  year’s Totally Thames festival. A specially created programme includes guided tours, talks,  sketching workshops and more. On 23rd September, Villareal will reprogramme the artwork in a  one-off event, enhancing his algorithmic lighting of the nine bridges of Illuminated River in a special  display exclusively for the festival.  

In September we open Totally Thames 2021, our  25th festival. “Take me to the river!” was our exhortation in the early Thames Festivals, and over the  years we have done just that with a hundred or so artist commissions and millions of audience  members. We’ve energised the Thames and its environs with mid-river firework displays, dance and  theatre, feasts on bridges, night carnivals, riverside ballrooms, beach parties, river races and  regattas, and even a ships’ opera. We’ve explored previously untold Thames tales and celebrated  river characters and folklore. We’ve raised awareness of the importance of the river to tens of  thousands of young people. For 25 years we’ve been the cultural voice of the river. And we will  continue to do so – there’s so much more yet to say and do!

Totally Thames director Adrian Evans comments.

The full Totally Thames 2021 programme of over 80 exciting cultural events can be seen at

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