On Saturday 16th September 2017 the sensational Thames Sailing Barge Parade rolled into town on the river Thames upping the ante on what they had done the previous year.
Ten barges, all around eighty feet in length, snaked their way through the Thames from Canary Wharf to Tower Bridge into the Upper Pool lead by Sailing Barge Gladys, then Ardwina, Centaur, Victor, Reminder, Thalatta, Repertor, Kitty, Will and Edme bringing up the rear.
The river Thames is their old trading ground from the days of the Industrial Revolution, covering 18th and 19th centuries, when the barges were sailed by just two crew members; a skipper, his mate and a dog for security and companionship. This year the barges brought with them a canine crew with a difference in the form of a popular festival band named Track Dogs. The band was introduced to the parade organisers by the Gransden family, who own Sailing Barge Edith May, after they produced a-wonder-of-a-performance on board Edith May at the Faversham Nautical Festival in Lower Halstow, a village and civil parish in the Swale district of Kent, England.
Their performance turned the parade into a carnival that the onlooking public highly enjoyed, a delightful highlight, one that the organisers will revisit to make musical artists an attraction in future events.
Track Dogs were exceptional and really lifted the barges personalities out of the water, entertained the sailing barge crews watching on deck and soothed the spirits of all the onlookers revelling to their infectious tones, all whilst the barges were in the Upper Pool stemming the strong ebb tide that tidal Thames produces.
The skippers had to do this skillful act of treading water with their vessels for 30-40 minutes whilst they waited for Tower Bridge to reopen. During this time, Track Dogs belted out their percussive beats and melodic songs from their new album, Serenity Sessions, as well as favoured tunes they perform at festivals.
The day before this historic event was planned, an "improvised explosive device" was detonated in the Friday morning rush hour, at Parsons Green station on a District Line train from Wimbledon in south-west London. However, the blast failed to impose the full impact that it meant, but it still injured 29 people.
The effect it had on London and Londoner’s was plain to see from the physical observations of those who bravely ventured out on parade day. The tube trains were drastically down on normal numbers at 10:30 Saturday morning, indicating that people were put off from traveling throughout the tubeline network. The roads were also much quieter than usual with heavy security visible everywhere.
Jonathan Fleming, founder of the parade, was heading into central London by train to meet with the Port of London Authority (PLA), as a guest on their launch boat, so that Charity Needs Foundation, an organisation that promotes, markets and profiles the voluntary sector, could attain some great images to publicise the Thames Sailing Barge Foundation (TSBF — a non-profit organisation seeking to raise awareness, through the event as its campaign, for the good of Thames Sailing Barges and its community).
He noticed it certainly had an effect on the turnout in numbers for the parade, but for those who were there defying the threats, the parade was a treat to behold.
You can still do that at any time, however, by donating to www.thamessailingbargeparade.com#donate The parade has gained a lot of traction in the short time it has run, but it was sad that many Londoners were put off of venturing out because of that terrorist attempt. It’s easy to want to say to everyone, “don’t let them affect your life”, when it’s life they are after taking, and so the organisers understood the situation. Regardless, TSBF wanted all of those who could not make the live event to still be involved by bringing you some fabulous images of the day, in the hope they will wet your appetite to defy the bad guys in future with your staunch support.
Although the PLA have strict rules and regulations in place for safety on the river, they are all in favour of supporting traditional vessels and events that present these types of craft. And now that they have seen two highly successful events pass with the Thames Sailing Barge Parade, along with the historic connection that Thames Sailing Barges have to the PLA, they are keen to engage with that history into the future.
This means the event can become a truly traditional public affair free to access for everyone.
The next parade is expected to be in 2019 as the parade will now become a biannual event, but watch this space, there has already been popular demand for the event to happen annually, so there is a discussion to be had later this year between the barging community and the foundation.
Scan the ThamesSailingBargeParade.com social media outlets for updates.
“The view from London Bridge was amazing”, said event photographer Nigel Pepper and those that were in his position would have had the best view of a marvelous sight of barges snaking into the Upper Pool with Tower Bridge Bascules opening their way. Views from both the north and south banks were equally appealing as they watched the parade contort itself into the Upper Pool while Tower Bridge lowered behind them penning the barges in.
It was typical that as soon as the last barge, Edme, was about turned and heading for the reopened Tower Bridge destined for West India Docks where they would become a live Popup Museum, the sun would break out into clear blue sky and fill London’s landscape with that brilliant glow that just leaves you agasp at the views of London from the river. The weather showed glimpses of the sun breaking out of the thick clouds to bath London’s landscape with that glorious shimmer which brings the terrain alive, and when it did for the few brief moments that it did, you could marvel at what a beautiful sight the barges presented when they made their way out of the Upper Pool.
That said though, it was one of the organiser’s, Jane Harman, who really should be praised for her dedication and interest free loan donation to the Thames Sailing Barge Foundation so that the parade event could actually take place, with agreements set so the loan does not put the fledgling foundation in debt.
Without her unwavering input throughout the year the event would not have been possible after losing out on sponsorship through a conflict of interest and later finding another sponsor of interest, but one who needed 9-12 months of setup time which was not feasible with the remaining time until the event date.
It is sponsorship that is really needed for the next event to take place in 2019 and it is asked of any commercial sector organisation or individuals who believes they can provide a real benefit to the event, to step forward and present themselves to the organisers who can then divulge the marketing value of such a prestigious association, if such is required. Contact can be made through http://thamessailingbargeparade.com/contact—us page.
The numbers of active barges are in the low tens, but with public and commercial support to boost fundraising opportunities, TSBF can make this event a real tradition as part of the barges history and as part of British Heritage which they deserve. Full sponsorship will help to keep the barges campaign alive and the public up-to-date with the progress of every barge remaining, be they active in commission, or inactive decommissioned awaiting repairs or restoration.
Last year there wasn’t a single charitable organisation at the parade or popup museum and there were calls for them to be more evident as part of the event. That was achieved this year with Thames Sailing Barge Trust (SB Centaur), Sea Change Sailing Trust (SB Reminder) and East Coast Sail Trust (SB Thalatta) in attendance. All of these organisations, and others, who could not make it such as SB Cambria of Cambria Trust, would seriously benefit from continuation of the event and its ability to highlight the plight and needs of Thames Sailing Barges, so please show your support wherever the barges are found.
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Head picture by Nigel Pepper (nigelpepperphotography.co.uk)
Released 20th September 2017 at 14:00.
Modified 25th September 2017 — Barge names added in second paragraph
Credits from CNF:
- For CNF’s photographic needs:
Martin Carpintero of CVP.com who was first to offer a needed camera for Charity Needs' feature articles.
Dan Leggett and Raj Khepar (from Canon) at Jessops in Brighton who also helped the charity with this equipment.
Plus, Clock Tower Cameras, Brighton who offered a needed accessory at cost.
Thanks guys for helping Charity Needs grow into the future to promote essential campaigns.
- PLA: Thanks for helping us get some great vantage point images
- City Hall (Mayor of London): Lieran Stubbings and Luke Brew for assisting CNF into London’s Living Room for such a stunning shot of the barges coming through Tower Bridge with that view all the way back to Canary Wharf.
- Nigel Pepper (photographer) — for capturing the images we wanted for TSBF (nigelpepperphotography.co.uk)
Credits from Thames Sailing Barge Foundation (TSBF) for the Thames Sailing Barge Parade (TSBP):
- Livetts Tug Boats (livetts.co.uk) — for their supply of tug boats, staff and services.
- Adam’s Brewery — for supplying the community with one barrel of free beer for the post parade celebrations.
- Ed Gransden (Edith May) — also for supplying the community with two barrels of free beer for the post parade celebrations.
- Canal and River Trust for discount on locking and mooring
- Paul Winter and Co — discount for insurance
- Nice—Guys printers for flyers and posters
- Simon Devonshire — donation
- Society of Sailing Barge Research — donation
- East Coast Sail Trust — donation
- Rolfe Judd — donation
- Richard Titchenor and Hilary Halajko — donation
- Topsail Charters — donation
- SB Kitty — donation
- Sam and Andy Howe — donation from Prize draw
- Sharon Apps — donation
- Iolo and Mary Brooks — donation
- Edme Crew — donation
- Wes — skipper of SB Victor — donation
- Basil John Brambleby — donation
- Toby and Linda Lester — donation from tea room
- Sam Navistitch — donation
- Rachel Ropework — donation
- Jane and Geoff Gransden — subsidising the band Track Dogs
- Lucy Harris for the cargos banner artwork
- David Renouf — exhibition of barges history and a donation collection
- Steve at St Osyth Village hall for loan of exhibition stands
- Fiona Brown Brightlingsea Sailing Club — loan of tables
- Ian Wilson — loan of PA system
- Dave Mastman Models — loan of marquees
- Huge thanks to Gary Diddams for organising the parade itself and liaising with other river users to ensure a smooth passage for the barges
- Additional thanks to all those who supported the event: other stall holders, skippers, crew and friends
- Tower Bridge Staff