Liquid History

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The annual Thames festival culminated on Sunday evening with something quite unexpected and thought provoking. An opera, but not in the usual sense!

A fleet of nine beautiful historic vessels took to the river and performed the main act of ’1513: A Ships Opera’ in front of Tower Bridge on the River Thames as part of the Thames Festival 2013.

The instruments of the Ships’ opera were wholly made up of traditional steam whistles, bells, horns, hooters, sirens and cannon, which created the most unique sounds.

Lightship 95 from nearby Trinity Buoy Wharf led and conducted the operatic performance and lit up the historic ships on the river as they tooted horns, sirens, bells and whistles.

The result was both charming, and quite a refreshing surprise. It was as if the river itself was calling out, finally allowed to express itself after so many years of silent struggle.

And indeed the dear river that has given birth not just to a sprawling metropolis that takes centre stage in the world, but has also, as some would argue, like so many other rivers have throughout the ages, given meaning, focus and indeed life to whole civilisations, and has so much to tell us.

From prehistory, (30 million years ago the Thames was a tributary of the river Rhine!), through the ice age when it was 10 times its current size, finally settling into its current meandering pattern a mear 3000 years ago, the river has literally forged the landscape that we know today.

And of course, the river has been a magnet for life, and for habitation, since animals and hominids first encountered it; water, one of the absolute requirements for life to exist, providing an essential source of substanance, taking on the role of a provider, the giver of life and prosperity, taking on a ritualistic meaning in the very earliest societies and civilizations, something that is echoed, in fact copied still today in both western and eastern religions and cultures, thus continuing to play its role as a giver of good tidings in the mindset of many people today.

So next time you see a river, no matter how great or small, just ponder and seek out it’s journey, it’s story, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

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