Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

The Thames Festival… No Red Stripe?

September 12, 2010 · 4 Comments

I can’t begin to imagine the amount of beer cans that were picked up off the streets of Notting Hill after that gigantic parade/fair that I visited at the beginning of the program. Everyone was drinking as they followed the floats (if you call reggae DJ’s riding on big buses floats) down the streets of the neighborhood, throwing their beers on the ground as they were receiving a joint from a generous hand or reaching into their pockets for two pounds to purchase a sketchy jello shot. The side walks were engulfed in the trash that overflowed behind the jerk chicken and Bob Marley tee shirt vendors. Though it sounds dirty, which I guess it was, it was a unique (not going to say fun) experience. First off, I don’t think I’d ever seen saw many people in one spot in my entire life. I was nearly crushed to death so many times. I also liked some of the costumes that the paraders were wearing. I didn’t really like the costumes themselves, women in feather decorated bikinis, but they represented the enthusiasm that so many people had for this event. I soon got tired of it all though, and after trying to get through the crowds of drunk and high people, the closed subway stations just got me even more frustrated.

But the Thames Festival! It was like a five year olds birthday party compared to what I went through at Notting Hill. Like the previous festival there were vendors, but here there were much more and they offered a lot of different foods and crafts. It wasn’t exclusive to one neighborhood, so people were selling everything from Greek food, to pizza and from Japanese, to sweet and tasty churos. Lots of vendors sold toys, like bubble makers and glow wands, while other offered paintings and clothing. As I walked along the shore of the Thames, under the London Eye, I moved through the foot traffic easily and listened to a concert that was off on the grass close by. The paths along the river were busy, but there were no traffic jams. There were people holding clear plastic cups of beer, but that was really the extent of the drinking. I didn’t notice anyone that I thought was wasted. Anyway, the big event of the night were the fireworks. I found a spot on the bridge next to the London Eye and waited half an hour for the fireworks to start. Sadly, I was on the wrong side, and blocking my view of the show were the steel supports for the train track that ran through the middle of the bridge. From what little I saw, but more from the “ohs” and “ahs” of the huge crowd watching, I assume the fireworks were incredible. The tube station and the bus stops were remarkably uncrowded, so the trip back home took as long as it would any other day.

Two different experiences, one a little more comfortable than the other, but both well worth attending. The Thames Festival, if it happened every weekend I would go. For the Notting Hill Festival, I think once every three to four years would be okay.

Categories: 2010 David · Uncategorized

4 responses so far ↓

  •   maryc // Sep 13th 2010 at 04:42

    I attended both festivals as well, David! I agree that the Thames Festival was more enjoyable, since I, like you, prefer the less crazy parties. I loved the parade, food, and music too, but I wasn’t so sure what the theme of the Thames Festival was. The Thames parade included dancing snowflakes, an octopus, a pyramid, and a number of pharaohs–where’s the connection among these? On the other hand, the theme of the Notting Hill Carnival was much more evident, even if it did get muddled by the excess of drugs and alcohol.

    Nonetheless, I agree watching the fireworks on the Thames from Millennium Bridge was most definitely an unforgettable moment!

  •   becca136 // Sep 13th 2010 at 13:56

    Hey! I was on the Dickinson Humanities trip last year and attended both the Notting Hill Festival and the Thames Festival. I loved them both but the Thames festival holds a special place in my heart and was my favorite night in London! I do agree with you to some degree, I guess the Thames festival was a bit tamer. However, after about 9 pm things kinda turned from a kid friendly atmosphere to more of an adult atmosphere. Did you see the parade? Like in at the Notting Hill festival, the Thames festival had a distinctly adult theme (to put things mildly). In fact, here are a few of my pictures from that night file:///Users/rebeccarodgers/Desktop/IMG_1080.JPG file:///Users/rebeccarodgers/Desktop/IMG_1086.JPG file:///Users/rebeccarodgers/Desktop/IMG_1093.JPG
    A lot of these costumes were not exactly child friendly. Some of them were a bit racy, while others seemed as though they would give children some pretty scary nightmares. I also witnessed a fair amount of drinking and drunkards that night. However, nothing compares to the man selling nitrous oxide on the side of the street at the Notting Hill festival.

  •   guya // Sep 14th 2010 at 15:25

    I think the tameness of the Thames Festival (Tame? Thames? I see opportunity for a pun) has a lot to do with location and government involvement. From my understanding, the city of London oversees and pays for much of the Thames Festival, and as a result they have much more control over what goes on there. The Notting Hill Carnival began organically from a community celebrating their heritage, so it does not have as much governmental oversight(except police, who were everywhere that day). Also, the Thames Festival is right on the river, where touristy attractions like Millenium Bridge and London Eye are. As a result, the event is likely much more geared to appeal to families and potential tourists. In contrast, the Notting Hill Carnival took place outside of the “tourist” section of London, and as a result could be a little more risque.

  •   bowmanc // Sep 14th 2010 at 17:31

    I agree with pretty much everyone else – I liked the Thames festival far better, at least partially because it was sort of like a town fair set on a huge river in one of the biggest cities in the world. It’s the best of two things! I don’t know whether that is the smaller-town American in me speaking, but I was overwhelmed by the crowds at Nottinghill. I know at least you and I are not from cities Dave. Do you think this had an effect upon our perspective and inclination? Folks from the city – what’d you think of the two carnivals?

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