Oops. That was a long time between updates. Too long, perhaps. Well, have some photos from the Thames Festival. I must admit it didn't seem as full of fun and interesting things as previous years, with smaller stages and less of them (although I only managed to get from Jubilee Gardens to Southwark Bridge, and half of my route was along back streets rather than the river path). Jubilee Gardens seemed particularly empty, with no events on the grass, and a much smaller music stage than usual shoved into a tiny corner and surrounded by high fences rather than the usual open plan of previous years. As a result it was smaller and more cramped with none of the smiling casual openness of people having picnics by the stage, and kids running around. From what I've heard, the other stages felt like that, too.
I suppose it's down to budget cuts — there have been a lot fewer celebratory events since Boris Johnson became mayor, especially compared to the Ken Livingstone era when there seemed to be at least one festival going on in some part of London every weekend from April to October, which was nice. People like festivals. We need more celebrations. It was already sad that the Thames Festival had been switched to a different weekend from The Great River Race and the annual closure of the Thames Barrier, as both these events played a great part in the early days of the festival. With the Thames Barrier closed, it meant there were guaranteed low tides, and lots of lovely activity on the Thames foreshore (champagne picnics! mudlarking! sandcastle art! dancing! you get the picture); and waiting around for the Great River Race to come past can get a bit dull, but was always enlivened by nearby festival activities. It's shame that we've lost both these things as part of the festival, I think. (Although you can still watch the Great River Race this Saturday, if you want to.)
There was a cute and very tiny children's fair at Jubilee Gardens (which included this dramatic sign above, for some reason), but my favourite thing was Les Célestes by Mastoc Production. Dresses filled with light, and suits covered in twinkles, hanging in the trees and draped around bushes. Delightful.
There was the usual scrum around the market stalls selling stuff you'd never give a second glance to usually, and Gabriel's Wharf was filled with marquees promoting Korean tourism, which felt depressingly corporate, instead of the interesting and magical installations that are usually there during the festival. It was pretty disappointing, although I did manage to catch a bit of a Taekwondo display, which I saw from the top floor of the nearby Bargehouse Gallery. It's not every day you get to see a man leap onto another man's head, to kick-break a wooden block being held by a third man standing on a fourth man's shoulders, so that was quite good. (The exhibition at the Bargehouse is a bit hit-and-miss, but I do love it as a venue, because I love scrappy old buildings with uneven floors and paint spatters.)
After stopping to admire a rainbow from Blackfriars Bridge, I went straight to Southwark Bridge for the Feast on the Bridge which is usually one of my favourite parts of the festival. I felt a bit sad being there on my own, though, because it's a place where people celebrate food together (although this hasn't stopped me enjoying myself before) and there was a distinct lack of any live music when I was there, which also felt a little bit sad. But everyone else was having a good time (and I was probably feeling a bit sad due to earlier events in the day when I was supposed to see some friends who were emigrating, and I got there a bit late and they'd left early, and we all missed each other — but not as much as I'm going to miss them now they've left the country for good. But I digress.)
There was also no hay fight, which I'd come to expect as being a Feast on the Bridge tradition, but that may just have been because it had been raining and they'd decided against wet hay being strewn everywhere. The people-watching was still quite fun and there were some nice crafty elements to spot. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get many photos of the crazy homemade hats people were wearing, but some of them were brilliant. The salad/herb hats were pretty nifty, with emphasis on pretty, because they were.
I was debating to myself about whether to get dinner, as the menu at the Forgotten Fish Restaurant looked good, but I didn't have enough cash on me, and then I bumped into a friend, so had a chat with him and ended up deciding to go home for dinner instead. There was another rainbow to greet me as I wandered off the bridge, and some some wonderful skies to stare at as I walked to my bus stop. The skies have been really great to look at lately. Maybe we should have a Cloud Festival. Festivals are good.
More photos, including from previous years, here.