Haute cuisine street food at the Thames River Festival, steps down from the Globe Theatre.
There were, on both banks of the Thames, hundreds of thousands of people taking in the warm September air last year at Thames River Festival. The scale of this Festival is in keeping with the expanse and depth of London; the strong, vibrant pulse of a city at the heart of human history. Families of every description and from every corner of the planet meandered through a maze of outdoor performance spaces, all of them free by the grace of the Mayor. Not a beer garden in sight, many if not most of the adults walked with a glass of wine or a pint in hand. No panic, no pushing, no mobs of any kind, no broken glass: this was the beautiful cosmopolitan face of a global capitol shining with the best of what it means to be alive, to be human.
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.
The Dundarave Festival Society
We are a circle of friends working in the Dundarave Festival of Lights Society to bring to life the promise of Christmas in our community, a season of life, passion and purpose that leaves no one in the cold. This is community-driven social change, in the true spirit of Christmas and the best spirit of our community.