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Thames Festival takes its focus back to the river

  • Date: 3 October 2013
  • Area: London
1513: A Ships' Opera performance on the River Thames during the Thames Festival 2013

1513: A Ships' Opera performance at the Thames Festival 2013. Credit: Frantzesco Kangaris

Over 10 days this September, the Thames Festival staged an inspiring celebration of one of London's greatest landmarks, the River Thames.

Thames Festival is a fantastic annual cultural event that brings audiences and artists together in celebration the iconic River and its history and is a unique cross-arts festival that draws on the River Thames for its inspiration.

The Festival is moving its focus beyond the central London footpath it has traditionally occupied and aspires to embrace and promote artistic activities that stretch from the source of the Thames down to its mouth. This year's event also took a departure from previous years, throwing off the shackles of a weekend and embraced a wider ranging programme spread over 10 days.

Thames Festival has always been a very popular and successful event, and this year was no different. It featured a fantastic array of music, arts and educational events and activities that contributed towards making it a real beacon of cultural excellence, drawing interest from local, national and international audiences.

Boasting 36 events ranging from 1513: A Ships' Opera by Richard Wilson and Zatorski + Zatorski through to Doug Fishbone's Deluxe River Cruises, a series of walks and talks and Kids' Choir - Voyages of Discovery 2013, the event offered something for everyone.

Adrian Evans, Festival Director, said: 'By shedding the restriction of a weekend and broadening its geographical horizons, combined with a fantastic and wide-ranging programme of events, the festival will inspire people to re-connect with London's greatest natural asset in new and surprising ways.'

Joyce Wilson, Area Director, London, Arts Council England, said: 'This year's festival has represented quite a dramatic change of direction from recent years, returning to a format that places a greater focus on artist led interventions. This has been very successful and enabled the festival's director, Adrian Evans, to return artists and audiences to conversations with the river, historically the source of London's success and international standing. We look forward to what next year's event has in store for us.'

In addition to curating the festival, the Thames Festival also runs Rivers of the World, a year-round international learning and participation programme. Working with more than 120 schools across London and beyond, the Festival reaches out to more than 9,000 children and young people each year.

The Thames Festival is supported by Arts Council England and receives investment as a National portfolio organisation. In addition to funding the festival itself, Arts Council England also supported a number of artistic commissions through the Grants for the Arts programme.

The Thames Festival is staged by the Thames Festival Trust, a not-for-profit charitable trust with an independent board of trustees.

Some of this year's highlights were:

1513: A Ships' Opera - A Cultureship project

1513: A Ships' Opera was a fantastic project that culminated in a haunting, beautiful, cacophonous and iconic performance that enthralled audiences along the River Thames.

Featuring nine ships from our maritime history, 1513: A Ships' Opera saw the vessels make their way along the River Thames, performing a live, moving, operatic concerto of steam whistles, bells, horns, hooters, sirens and cannon that formed the centrepiece of Thames Festival 2013.

Starting at the mouth of Thames Estuary, the performance concluded in the theatre of the Pool of London where the historic vessels were joined by HMS Belfast in an acknowledgement of our historic naval might.

Deluxe River Cruise - A Cultureship project

Audiences joined artist Doug Fishbone for an alternative boat tour of London's past and present river landscapes. Described as a "stand-up conceptual artist", the Deluxe River Cruise took people on an incredible journey through both the heart of the city and Doug's own mildy warped imagination.

Illustrating his narration with hundreds of internet images, Fishbone presented a new form of story-telling that is both hilarious and unsettling. Employing advertising, propaganda and stand-up comedy, Doug explored the relativity of perception and understanding in surprising visual and narrative tapestries that recycled the contemporary landscape in new and unexpected ways.

Adrift by Hew Locke - A Cultureship project

Sited in the magnificent and historic All Hallows by the Tower - the mariners' church and the oldest in the City of London - Adrift comprised a twelve-foot boat, festooned with ornamental flowers and trinkets, remembering those who lost their lives on the river and at sea.

Designed so that audiences could experience an imaginary voyage, the piece explored the spiritual and metaphysical symbolism of the ship, sea travel and the final funerary journey.

River Tour with Dan Cruikshank

National Geographic and BBC art historian, writer and presenter Dan Cruickshank, whose credits include Around the World in 80 Treasures and Marvels of the Modern Age, took audiences on an architectural tour of London's bridges, past and present, their rich history and significance in making our capital the powerhouse it is today.

YES by Ildikó Buckley and Jane Palmer

The duo behind the infamous floating YES sculpture from music and arts festival Secret Garden Party (2011) unveiled the large land-based sculpture commissioned by Secret Arts Foundation.

A glittering gift to the Thames, the YES sculpture spread affirmation all along the river as it popped up at a new location each day of the festival. Connecting people and places with the positive power of YES, a world of possibilities opens up. YES invited the viewer to engage with their environment, and the people around them, in new ways.

This was the positive power of YES and audiences didn't say no!