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September in London: August’s Much Cooler Cousin

2 September 2014 Josh Barrie

This September London has taken on a largely nautical theme, with great ships sailing in from distant shores, its river celebrated with over 100 cultural events. Though it’s not all boating and waterways – there’s a dodgeball tournament and giant Lego sculptures, too.

This month sees the first ever Totally Thames festival, a 30-day celebration of the watery heart of London.

Described as “an exciting new arts and cultural celebration of London’s river”, there are over 100 goings on planned along its 42-mile course, meandering through the capital and hosted at venues such as Hampton Court Bridge and the Dartford Crossing.

Organisers say: “Totally Thames is a collaborative effort, linking communities, local authorities and river-linked groups across the London stretch of the river. One event goes even further than that – the Source to Sea River Relay – which will involve communities along the whole of the Thames from its source in the Gloucestershire Hills to the Thames Estuary.”

One of the most enticing of the festival’s happenings, scheduled to be unveiled today (Sept 2), comes from Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman.

Hofman is behind an “extraordinary new sculpture” at Nine Elms – his first UK commission. All remains murky as I write this, but many have harked back to one of his previous famed works in which he decided to install a giant inflatable yellow duck in the Belgian town of Hasselt.

Other enjoyable-looking things include ‘The Great River Race’, dubbed the “rowing equivalent to the London Marathon”, and the ‘Thames SENSEation’, which will invite visitors to “immerse themselves in the sights, aromas, tastes, textures and sounds of London's bygone eras.”

Perhaps the most notable part of the festival though, and very much its own occasion, is Tall Ships 2014. Past eating Cornwall’s pasties and drinking its ale – and holidays of course – there’s rarely such a defined link between two very different parts of the country. The Falmouth to Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta provides a nourishing bond, beginning in the historic Cornish port and finishing in the south-east London borough.

With up to 50 vessels sailing into the dock, it’s the capital’s largest tall ship spectacle for over 25 years and Greenwich will host the excitement for four days between September 4 and 9.

The ships come from all over the world and are set to race from Falmouth to the Isle of Wight before cruising into London to berth, allowing the public to explore them and meet the trainee crews aboard.

A host of maritime goings on will be taking place on the banks of The Thames as part of the extravaganza, including street theatre from a Catalan performance group, a talk from a Polar explorer, and songs from a local shanty group at the famous Cutty Sark. Ticket prices vary.

If you need a break from river-based activities the annual Mencap Dodgeball Championships comes bouncing back to Wimbledon Park this September.

The fixture raises money to support those with learning disabilities – and their carers – and does so with teams adorning fancy dress and throwing balls at one another. As good a way as any, I feel. Anyone can enter a team of eight (two substitutes), while spectators are welcome too.

The less sport-inclined must fear not, however, for as well as the dodgeball tournament there’s also an auction, food and craft beer stalls, and an after party. You might consider getting involved though because every participating outfit is given a crate of booze thanks to sponsors The London Beer Factory. Drink: always a noble reward.

Aside from beer there are few better ways of relaxing after all that exercise than sitting on a plush carpet and playing with LEGO. We all love LEGO.

Alternatively, you might consider going to see an exhibition of the famous toy, which finally arrives in the UK after wowing the world in New York, Melbourne, Shanghai, and beyond.  

The Art of the Brick is the creation of artist Nathan Sawaya, who has constructed a show using millions of LEGO building bricks to form “conceptual pieces”, recreations of iconic artwork, human figures, and other instalments – a massive dinosaur being one.  

Sawaya explains: “I like using LEGO bricks as a medium because I enjoy seeing people’s reaction to artwork created from something with which they are familiar. My goal is to elevate this simple plaything to a place it has never been before.”

The attraction, naturally, speaks to all ages; it’s truly something many can relate to, whether it’s a past pursuit or otherwise. There are over 75 pieces to see at the exhibition, which, by the way, was named in the 10 ‘must see’ by news channel CNN, and is held at the Old Truman Brewery. If nothing else, there’s the opportunity to play with LEGO.

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