Totally Thames Festival

On Our RadarTotally Thames Festival

Annual festival turns 25 and celebrates the culture, environment and heritage of the River Thames with exciting events across London

Henry Reichhold, MSCTY

Totally Thames Festival is a chance to marvel at the Illuminated London’s bridges that will light up the Thames. Visit the mini-festival of events and explore the foreshore with Mudlarking at St Paul’s Cathedral. Or take a deep dive into the history of dockside communities with The Islanders. Check out the river-themed art from children across the globe at the National Maritime Museum in Rivers of the World.


Mudlarking is a 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 delves 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.

Totally Thames 2021 – The Islanders – Docks Protest – Photo Newham Archives and Local Studies Library
Rivers of the World 2020 – Southbank Installation.
Photo by Milo Robinson

Rivers of the World Artwork

Rivers of the World returns to the riverside outside the Tate Modern. Here, you can see some wonderful river-themed artwork from the UK’s younger generations. Six Greenwich secondary schools, schools in Ghana as well as professional artists have partnered to produce work that reflects their local waterfronts. This will be exhibited at the National Maritime Museum.

One Night Light Show by Leo Villarea

Light Show

Leo Villareal’s Illuminated River will light up some of London’s most famous bridges every night from sunset to 2am. This spring, Lambeth, Westminster, Golden Jubilee, Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges were switched on. They join Millennium, Southwark, Cannon Street and London Bridges, which were illuminated in 2019. Illuminated River is curating a three-day celebration for all from 23rd – 25th September as part of this year’s festival. A specially created programme includes guided tours, talks, sketching workshops and more. On 23rd September, Villareal will reprogramme the artwork lighting the nine bridges of Illuminated River in a special display.

Take me to the river! was our exhortation in the early Thames Festivals. Over the years, we’ve worked with commissioned artists and millions of audience members to energise the Thames and its environs. We’ve been able to lay on mid-river firework displays, dance and theatre, and feasts on bridges. There’s also night carnivals, beach parties, river races and regattas, and even a ships’ opera. We tell untold Thames tales and celebrate the river character 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 there’s so much more yet to say and do!

comments Totally Thames director Adrian Evans

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

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