If you had suggested then that eleven months later we'd see some of this city's neighbourhoods ablaze, family-owned shops looted and their owners mercilessly assaulted, victims of violence robbed by people who professed to be their rescuers I would have pointed to the thousands of people around us to give you a reality check. The sense of belonging that the Thames River Festival made palpable, the pride people from every class and origin seemed to take in being free to participate, to find a new part of themselves there on the banks of the Thames made unthinkable the prospect of riots and their rapacious, tear-down-everything-and-let-it-burn violence. London, I would have said, is bigger than this.
And it is.
There are as of this moment tens of thousands of police on London's streets, and on urban streets throughout Britain. If they are to be released from this urgent and pressing duty, if their watch is to be temporary and not perpetual, the Thames River Festival holds the key. The world needs more of this London, because it is the London of this Festival that shows us how to find delight in encountering the total stranger. This is the London that shows us, through the exuberance and inclusiveness of its celebration of life, how not to tire of life. At a time when so many forces have uprooted us, where we float and tweet through cyberspace, get knocked around by a perilous global economy which leaves some of us (an increasing number of us) homeless, finding a sense of place is never automatic and should never be taken for granted. The Thames River Festival, and with it the Dundarave Festival of Lights, are vital moments when we make a conscious effort, a deliberate and joyful act of will that shows the greatness in each of us through the music that moves us. Festivals have always played a vital role in allowing communities to renew themselves, by deepening our relationships with each other even as they school us in how to rejoice in the fact that we belong together.
So here's to London with love, here's to us.