We are delighted to welcome the four speakers for this day of talks all about the River Thames. Find out about the history of the Port of London, once one of the busiest ports in the world, uncover the story of Agnes Beckwith the ‘premier lady swimmer’ of her day, explore the oldest tunnel in the world and discover the story behind an ambitious art project which looks to illuminate the bridges of the Thames.
Sarah Gavanta – The illuminated River Project
Sarah Gaventa Director of the Illuminated River Foundation will talk about the concept by US artist Leo Villareal (with British architects and London Society Supporters Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands) to create a subtle kinetic LED light sculpture that will unify and light up the bridges of central London from Albert to Tower. Once complete, this will be the longest public art commission in the world at 2.5 miles in length.
The artwork will link the bridges along the Thames to one another visually and enhance and respect the architectural character and history of each structure. . It aims to help improve the quality of access to the bridges and help knit them into the wider public realm. This will be a completely free and publically accessible art project which forms part of the Mayor’s planned cultural strategy for the Thames and a renewed cultural and public realm focus on the river.
The project is an opportunity to contribute to a more sustainable environment for the Thames and its wildlife. By removing excessive light spill on the bridges and direct light into the river, it will help improve the natural environment for the flora and fauna of the Thames. The Illuminated River will also encourage debate about the role of light and light quality in London.
Peter Stone – The History of the Port of London
In the 1930s London was the largest port in the world, with ships connecting every part of the globe. A third of the nation’s trade passed through London’s docks and riverside wharves. Despite enemy bombing during the Second World War and much destruction, a new peak was reached in the 1960s. Yet, as Peter Stone explains in his recently-published book ‘The History of the Port of London’, within two decades most of the port lay idle.
In this talk the author will take us through a brief history of the port, from the Romans to the modern Docklands. Peter will be happy to sign copies of the book.
Caitlin Davies – Taking the Plunge: Forgotten Female Swimmers from Victorian times
In September 1875, a young girl called Agnes Beckwith plunged into the River Thames at London Bridge and swam all the way to Greenwich. Agnes became the ‘premier lady swimmer of the world’, but her story has been lost to history – until now.
Join Caitlin Davies for an illustrated talk on the inspiration behind her latest novel, Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World, based on forgotten aquatic champions from Victorian times. What records did they set, how was their legacy lost and why are they now being rediscovered?
Daisy Belle is published by Unbound on September 1st, the anniversary of Agnes Beckwith’s first Thames swim.
Kevin Larder – Brunel Museum and the Thames Tunnel
The Brunel Museum is directly above the Thames Tunnel, Oldest Tunnel in the Oldest Underground System in the World. This is a very important site for engineers and is the birthplace of mass urban transport and the world city. But the tunnel has an eccentric story as the world’s first underwater banquet hall, the first underwater shopping arcade, the first underwater fairground!
The Brunel Museum and Thames Tunnel is an educational charity run by volunteers and tells the story of one of the world’s great engineering dynasties.
Detail from Thames Bridges
Watercolour and Acrylic 2014
By John Duffin