Visiting London during the shoulder season and the month of September is the ideal time for those seeking a calmer retreat in the city.
The swarms of summer tourists have left and you’ll be able to enjoy a peaceful pint in central London pubs like The Jugged Hare without even having to wait for a free table. Whilst summer fades and the first golden signs of autumn begin to appear, the Totally Thames Festival takes over, keeping the city bubbling with culture and art.
Totally Thames is an annual celebration of the River Thames with a creative and diverse programme of events curated by the Thames Festival Trust. There is an event, activity or performance scheduled for every single day of September, many of which are free.
As you might expect, most of these happenings are in close vicinity to the river and therefore easily reachable from The Barbican Hotel.
The programme boasts archaeological walks, historical talks, adrenaline activities, but above all – culture is the theme of the festival. Here are our top picks of cultural and artistic events on the programme, incorporating visual arts, performance and history.
Treat yourself to a stay in one of the luxury hotel suites in London and engross yourself in the ultimate culture trip.
Here’s what’s on:
Rivers of the World
(Fri 30 Aug – Weds 2 Oct, Riverside Gallery, Kew. Free)
What do rivers mean to communities in the modern-day? Find out what young people around the world think, in this magnificent retrospective exhibition. The project brought together children and teenagers with professional artists to collaborate and create artwork demonstrating how rivers are relied upon, and how different cultures interact with rivers. 30,000 young people have taken part in the project, worldwide.
The Ship of Tolerance
(Sat 31 Aug – Sun 6 Oct, River Thames by Tate Modern. Free)
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. As a conceptual piece, it reflects how divergent cultures interpret tolerance and how these interpretations overlap. Its mission is to convey a message of hope. Why did they choose a ship for this piece of art? Because it was via the passages of ships that cultures originally began to be transferred between different continents.
A Concert for London
(Thurs 5 Sept, 7pm, St John’s Smith’s Square. Free, but booking required)
Leading on from the Ship of Tolerance exhibition, A Concert for London features young, exceptionally talented musicians sharing traditional music from their own cultures. This one-off evening of performance will enthral you.
Here I Am
(Mon 2 – Mon 30 Sept, 10am – 5pm. The Boathouse Design Studio, Teddington. Free)
Here Am I gives you the chance to participate and leave a mark on a large map installation showing where you have been and whhat you have done.
There are no set rules – you can add a bench you have sat on or you could add gastropub The Jugged Hare to show where you ate dinner last night. Anything goes!
A River Runs Through It
(Weds 4 – Sun 8 Sept, 11am – 8pm)
Observe London through the eyes of five very different contemporary artists in an exhibition of modern art inspired by the city’s vibrant personality. Be dazzled by neon and L.E.D light installations, paper sculptures, aluminium, screenprints, landscape art and even bottled scents of London!
(Weds 4 – Fri 6 Sept, 6:45pm & Sat 7 Sept, 2pm & 6:45pm. Meet at Southwark Bridge. Tickets £4 plus booking fee)
Step out of your hotel suites in London and join the all walking, all talking spoken word event, Run Softly. Emerging writers and performers Izzy Inkpen, Sumner Brook, Sharlene Gandhi, Jamal Hassan, and Arno van Zelst invite you to their outdoor promenade of spoken word pieces where they re-imagine tales inspired by the Thames. Witness how human settlement has formed the landscape of the Thames as you wander along the embankment learning about the climate crisis threatening its future.
Women on the Waters’ Edge – Tales from the Thameside
(Weds 4 Sept & Weds 18 Sept, 6 – 7:30pm. Meet at Blackfriars Station. Free, booking required. Suitable for 18+)
A guided walk which begins at Blackfriars Bridge. During the event, you will come to understand the contribution of women to the development of London. Hear about how women in history established themselves as being as equally equipped as their male counterparts to handle working within the ports of London and the wine trade. Breaking through the barriers into a male-dominated workplace, these women fought for rights and recognition.
(Thurs 5 – Tues 10 Sept)
Everyone who lives in or passes through London is in some way connected by the river. Eight artists from very different cultures are currently spending six months in residence at Re:Centre in Hammersmith where they are collaborating on a project themed on the Thames. Visit their studio at the centre to see how they are researching and preparing to present their artwork. Be amazed by a diverse range of creative techniques including painting, textiles, sculpture, photography, sound installation, videography, poetry and printmaking.
Thank You For Having Us
(Sat 7 Sept, 8 – 9pm. Meet at King Street junction with Cheapside. Free)
This is an adrenaline-fuelled night-time walk featuring aerial acrobatics, high-wire stunts, pyrotechnics and live music. Join Générik Vapeur and Gorilla Circus as they take you on a theatrical quest through a plastic-filled artificial island formed by the currents of the North Pacific ocean.
(Sat 14 Sept, 12 – 4pm. Ancient Market Place, Kingston. Free)
Travel by Thames Clippers west to Kingston and watch Korean dance group The Move perform Red Umbrella. This is part of the Kingston Korean Harvest Festival which celebrated in North and South Korea as Chuseok (autumn eve). There are also a number of free workshops including Kimchi making, paper lantern making and the opportunity to try on traditional Korean costumes. Plus, tasty Korean food will be on sale!
Book your tickets and hotel suits in London now!