If you think London grinds to a halt in the time between summer ending and the anticipation of winter, think again!
Early autumn is a wonderful time to visit the city. The weather is cooler, yet the days are still long. And – best of all – travelling during the shoulder season means you can find plenty of deals on London hotels. On top of that, the Totally Thames Festival takes place in September – providing an event or activity to do every day of the month!
So, what is Totally Thames?
Totally Thames is an annual celebration of the River Thames with a creative and diverse programme of events curated by the Thames Festival Trust. Many of these are free, and, naturally, are in the vicinity of the river and so easily reachable from the Park Grand Paddington Court London.
Expect art, archaeology and adrenaline. Dive into the programme, and don’t fear getting wet!
Expect Culture: Visual Arts
Embrace the culture and check out these inspirational art events… all are free!
The Ship of Tolerance
(Sat 4 Sept – Sun 6 Oct)
This international art installation is the creation of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, and it makes its UK debut at Totally Thames. The ship’s sails are stitched together from paintings by hundreds of schoolchildren from various backgrounds. A conceptual piece, it reflects how divergent cultures interpret tolerance and how these interpretations overlap whilst conveying a message of hope.
A River Runs Through It
(Weds 4 – Sun 8 Sept, 11am – 8pm)
Observe London through the eyes of five revolutionary modern artists in an exhibition of modern art inspired by the city’s vibrant personality. Look out for L.E.D light installations, sculptures and bottled scents of London!
(Thurs 5 – Tues 10 Sept)
Eight artists from very different cultures are spending six months in residence at Re:Centre researching and collaborating on a project themed on the Thames. Explore their studio during to see a plethora of techniques including painting, textiles, sculpture, photography, sound installation, videography, poetry and printmaking.
Expect History: Archaeology and Heritage
With these events, you’re sure to pick up some Thames trivia for your next dinner party.
Mayflower & the ships of Rotherhithe
(every Sun & Mon, 10:45am – 12:45pm. Every Tues 6:15pm – 8.15pm. £10 adults, £8 concessions, free for children under 16)
Book onto this walking talk to discover the fascinating history of Thameside settlement Rotherhithe. You’ll visit a palace, a mortuary and a secret underground chamber. Hear about the pirates, captains, heroes, poets and the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel who each shaped the history of this historic riverside spot.
Foreshore Walks with Dr Fiona Haughey
(dates, locations and prices vary – check the programme)
Archaeologist Dr Fiona Haughey hosts a series a four foreshore walks during which you will engage with the history of the Thames. Learn what the Tudors ate, visit the site of a possible murder, meet local wildlife and take a glimpse into riverside life over the last few centuries. Firing on the Foreshore is a free event (Sat 7 Sept), where you can watch objects that have made from river clay as they are fired on the foreshore of the Thames, outside Tate Modern.
Expect Spectacle: River Events
Take it easy and enjoy marvelling at boats, bountiful boats in a series of free events.
The Great River Race
(Sat 14 Sept, 11:20am)
It’s not a river festival without a race! Over 300 crews will compete in the Totally Thames River Marathon which starts at Greenwich and ends in Ham. Vessels will include gigs, skiffs, cutters, naval whalers, Chinese dragon boats, Hawaiian war canoes, shallops, skerries and wherries, and many of the crew will don fancy dress for the occasion.
Classic Boat Festival
(Fri 6 – Sun 8 Sept)
Visit over 40 vintage sailing and motorboats and chat to boat owners, you’ll even have the opportunity to clamber aboard some of them. There will be waterside activities, live music and family-friend events at this free three-day event, so look out for weekend deals on London hotels to sample a bit of everything.
River Thames Clean Up
(Sat 21 Sept, 10am)
This foreshore clean up is organised by Art Action Change and led by 10-year-old climate activist Lilly Platt. Join them to celebrate World Cleanup Day and Peace One Day, to do something a little different with your holiday. The clean up concludes at the Ship of Tolerance where Peace One Day founder Jeremy Gilley will deliver a speech.
Expect: Adrenaline: Adventure for Everyone
If you want to add a little adventure to your city break, we challenge you to take the plunge and make a great big splash!
Totally Tidal Thames Swims
(Tues 3 Sept, 5:30pm. £5)
The Totally Tidal Thames Swims are social group swims, for confident swimmers with experience in open-water. Beginning and ending at the Black Lion Pub in Hammersmith, your swim launches with the end of the rising tide, and once the tide turns you begin your swim back towards the finish – so you are aided by the water.
Warm-up with a hot shower back at the Park Grand Paddington Court London after these antics.
Night Kayak Across London
(Sun 1 – Tues 3, Tue 17 – Weds 18 Sept, 6:30pm-9:30pm. £67)
Take a scenic paddle along the river as the tide falls and the light fades, taking in the sights of the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Old Naval College. Guided by professionals, this event is suitable for novice kayakers, but please note – it’s adult only.
Totally Thames Blast
(every Fri, Sat & Sun, 11am – 5pm. £26.50 (adults), £17.50 (children) + booking fee)
Fast, fun and wild – fifteen minutes of adrenaline-pumping boating on a Thames Rocket really will give you a blast, and possibly a new hair-do. These speedboats twist and turn at 30 knots, so hang on tight. Suitable for all the family.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, describes Totally Thames as…
“An incredible celebration, and with something for everyone, it will give all Londoners the opportunity to explore the terrific Thames.”
Book your tickets and accommodation at Park Grand Paddington Court now to see for yourself!