A Bright Idea: Reflections On The Royal River – Part 1

A computer-generated image of the recent Reflections flotilla, a picture produced before the event in order to give an idea of what the planned procession of illuminated motor and rowing boats processing along the Thames through central London at dusk would look like. Picture: Thames Festival Trust.

11 October 2022

By Tim Koch

Here in Part 1, Tim Koch gives some background to the Reflections flotilla. In Part 2, Malcolm Knight, one of the organisers, will give his behind-the-scenes perspective and, in Part 3, Daniel Walker will write about what it was like to actually take part in the flotilla.

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, it was decided that the proposed river procession, Reflections, originally designed to celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee, would still go ahead on the evening of Saturday, 24 September.

Reflections was organised by a group of people who played a central role in the delivery of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012, all working under the banner of Thames Alive, a loose association that “celebrates and promotes the River Thames.” The flotilla was part of Totally Thames 2022, “an annual season of unique, diverse and accessible arts and culture throughout the month of September with activity taking place on, beneath, and along the River Thames.”

The Thames Festival Trust website previewed Reflections with the following information:

Taking place at dusk on 24 September, the Reflections Flotilla is a tribute by the river community marking the passing of Her Majesty the Queen and the accession of King Charles III… 

The illuminated flotilla comprises a hundred and fifty… vessels, both manpowered and motorised, all of which will be decorated in white lights. Her Majesty The Queen’s Row Barge, Gloriana is the flotilla’s centrepiece. Chris Livett, (formerly the Queen’s Barge Master) will be at the helm, and Gloriana will be rowed by… past winners of the historic race for Doggett’s Coat and Badge.

The flotilla starts by Albert Bridge and from there it will float downriver through central London, passing beneath Chelsea Bridge at 19.00, Westminster Bridge at 19.30, and arriving at Tower Bridge at 20.15. 

The Reflections flotilla will pass under the seven Illuminated River bridges and these will be beautifully lit up in a special display by the lighting artist Leo Villareal. Reflections culminates in the raising of Tower Bridge which will be bathed in purple light.

A screenshot of an image on the website of Illuminated River. It says, “Illuminated River is a long-term art installation transforming the Thames at night with an orchestrated series of light works that span nine bridges in central London.” Albert Bridge is top left, Tower Bridge is bottom left.

London’s River Thames has played an important role in many Royal and State occasions over the centuries, and this memorable event will continue this age-old tradition. Reflections is thought to be the first illuminated flotilla to be seen on the Thames for over three hundred years…

The event will raise up to £20,000 for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, supporting the construction of a new lifeboat station at Waterloo Bridge.

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

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