Director’s Diary: Piers & Races & River Crossings

Last week was busy, despite the hurricane: three school groups met Brunel in person (our costumed actor), five heritage boat trips and three windswept riverside walks and a well attended concert of Renaissance music. I am relieved to say no structural damage at the Museum. On Tuesday I was guest at The Annual Dinner of The Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames, a lavish affair held in the Fishmongers’ Hall overlooking London Bridge. One of the Great Twelve City Livery Companies, so their Great Hall is very opulent. The guard of honour were champion oarsmen from the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race, who lined the staircase in their fine red coats with large silver badges on one arm. Their race is the world’s longest continuously-running sporting event and at nearly 5 miles the longest boat race in the world. This year it is held Tuesday 25th July, best view from Brunel’s Boat trip. I tell one of the guards I am also a racer. I was last at Fish Hall for the Totally Thames Festival, when I received from the River Police a flask of water taken at the source of the river. I took the same under the river through Brunel’s Tunnel, and dutifully passed on to Greenwich National Maritime Museum. Not gruelling, I explain, but nevertheless this was a Thames River Relay: from Source to Sea

At the foot of the staircase stands a fierce wooden statue, life size, brandishing a dagger. This is City fishmonger Sir William Walworth, Lord Mayor of London. In 1381 (in the presence of King Richard II) he stabbed Wat Tyler to death and so ended the Peasants’ Revolt. We are all flattered by the courtesy and ceremony at Fish Hall, but we are also on our best behaviour…

I am also here because The Brunel Museum is part of a group lobbying for a Mayflower Pier, opposite the museum and close by the jetty from where the Pilgrim Fathers sailed. We are aiming for completion 2020, in time for the four hundredth anniversary of the famous voyage. Interesting that the centre of London has moved back east, along with the Greater London Assembly, the financial institutions at Canary Wharf and many new residents in new housing developments, both in Southwark and further east on the Olympic site. East London needs more crossing points, be they bridges or tunnels or river piers, and a Rotherhithe Pier will regenerate the area and bring visitors and inward investment to this pretty part of London. We have been talking to The Company of Watermen and Lightermen about the new pier, and now I am guest at their Annual Dinner. From Fishmongers’ Hall the view of London Bridge is stunning, and just downstream is Tower Bridge where last week I blogged a bridge lift, viewed through the glass walkway. Transparency is very important planning river crossings.,

BBC1’s TABOO has now ended, to plaudits for a derring do series finale and some flinching for brutal encounters. In case you had not realised, The Guardian
explains the programme’s resonance for us here at the heart of a new imperialist darkness. The burden of the story is the East India Company, and we expose something of their doings on our boat trips five times every week, but the other inspiration for our hero Delaney is Marlow in James Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. As you will know if you have walked with us on a Sunday, Monday or Wednesday (Bermondsey to Rotherhithe), the heart of the darkness is not in Africa. And notice that Delaney’s East India ship is not heading east, but like Brunel’s Great Eastern, it is first going west to America. And via the Azores. Brunel Museum and London Walks, your first stop for geo-politics…

This week we have school visits, and the usual heritage walks and boat trips, and on Thursday the first in a series of concerts of Russian music. Details below:

Sunday 26th February
10.40 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Monday 27th February
10.40 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Tuesday 28th February
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Wednesday 1st March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
18.15 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Thursday 2nd March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
16.00 Mayflower Pier meeting
17.00 Focus group Primary School teachers
19.30 Mussorgsky and Rachmaninov: first of four monthly concerts in partnership with the Anglo Russian Culture Club

Friday 3rd March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Saturday 4th March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
13.30 lunch at the Tunnel Club, Mayflower pub upper room

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