‘The Mayor’s Thames Festival’ runs annually and aims to stage an inspiring series of events that celebrate the iconic river through art, music, and educational events (both on the water and along its banks and bridges). We joined a Blue Badge Guide called Brian, who promised to reveal the secrets and stories of the short stretch between the Monument and Tate Modern.
We were sceptical of the two-hours that were scheduled – my personal experience of city tours, walking or otherwise, is of surprisingly long distances and surprisingly little information; we couldn’t quite figure out how a walk that would usually take 15-minutes could last the evening. Brian soon put our minds at rest when his introduction at the meeting point was a good 10-minutes alone.
Knowledgeable and entertaining from the outset, before we had even taken our first step, Nicola had already decided that “he’d be the perfect person to get sat next to at a dinner-party” with interesting facts and amusing stories aplenty.
My personal experience of city tours, walking or otherwise, is of surprisingly long distances and surprisingly little information.
A motley crew of both tourists and locals, young and old (including one pushchair), followed Brian across “New” London Bridge and, after three informative stops, we found ourselves in Southwark. We soon learned it to be the ex-party district of the capital – for several centuries everybody who worked in the city to the north of the river would cross (usually by boat) to the south for ‘play’, and it was this playful side to the area which was our main theme for the night.
We snaked our way past The Mudlark and towards the The Shard, on to St Thomas’s Hospital, The George Inn, Borough Market, The Clink, Southwark Cathedral and The Globe among many other points of interest.
The amount of information (and entertainment value) was a pleasant surprise, and it was a great chance to spend a bit more time standing in the spots we might usually pass by in a hurry. There are stories to hear about every single street in the this wonderful city, but it certainly helps to have someone like Brian around to tell them.