12 September 2010 - Thames Festival

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The weather was kind to Kettle Bridge for our eagerly anticipated dance out with the renowned Hammersmith Morris Men who had kindly invited us to join them at the Mayor of London's Thames Festival.

The two sides are connected in a number of ways. Tim, the husband of Caroline of Kettle Bridge, used to be a member of Hammersmith who kindly arranged for him to appear as a guest dancer for the day. Peter from our band is also a former member but he wisely stuck to his day job.

We met up for our first stand at Gabriel's Wharf which is a small traffic-free area situated on the south bank of the River Thames and not a loading dock for angels as you might have thought. Instinctively, the Kettle Bridge dancers and band congregated at a convenient coffee shop on the Wharf for a fortifying beverage and comfort stop. Suitably refreshed, we joined Hammersmith for the first performance.

Also accompanying us for the day was Melanie Barber, a solo North West stepping clog dancer. This provided another dimension of variety to the entertainment and everyone enjoyed her accomplished performances. Click here to see a video of her in action.

The first stand took place under a gazebo with the performers taking turns in time honoured fashion. Kettle Bridge entertained the small but appreciative crowd with Annie's and Sidcot. This was interspersed with Hammersmith's trademark energetic performances and a couple of dances from Melanie.

Then it was time to pack up and move a few hundred yards to the Observation Point which was right by the river. From here we had an excellent view of the beach which seemed to have been created just for the occasion. The performance area was immediately in front of a helter-skelter which everyone somehow managed to resist. The site attracted larger and more enthusiastic crowds as it was on the main Thames-side path. Here we danced Colne, Aughton and St. Helens to rapturous applause.

Leaving the seaside and funfair behind, we continued our odyssey by voyaging upstream through the crowds to the Stone Circle, just outside the National Theatre. Highlights of this stand were undoubtedly Hammersmith's spectacular leap-frogging dance (surely called "Hammersmith Flyover") and Kettle Bridge's Churchtown that featured a small set of volunteers (or should that be a set of small volunteers?) from the audience. Click here to view the delightfully chaotic performance.

A chorus of rumbling tummies indicated that it was time for a lunch break and a well-earned rest. We split into groups to forage for refreshment and find somewhere to ease aching limbs.

All too soon it was time to reassemble for the next stand at the Royal Festival Hall. This was an excellent location with the steps providing a natural amphitheatre and crowds lining the balconies above and on the nearby bridge over the Thames. This must have been one of the largest audiences that Kettle Bridge have ever performed in front of. Despite the far from ideal dancing surface, the dancers gave their all in Cossington and our signature dance Yellow Rose, both receiving loud and prolonged ovations.

The final stand was at a more traditional location, namely a pub, the Mulberry Bush which is just behind the London Studios and very close to our starting point at Gabriel's Wharf. There was very little space to dance safely outside the pub so we could only manage a static Churchtown. This was the final action of a long but exceptionally enjoyable day.

Many thanks are due to everyone involved in the day but especially to Hammersmith for inviting us. This has fulfilled an ambition of many years standing.
And we must never forget the contribution made by the band without whom there would be no dancing! This was definitely a day to remember.