Caught by the River

The Museum of British Folklore at Caught by the River Thames

14th June 2016

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been detailing the daily lineups for Caught by the River Thames stage by stage. Now, allow the honey-tongued Roy Wilkinson to introduce the section of the programme curated by The Museum of British Folklore. Ticket information available here.

The Museum of British Folklore presents ‘Sweet Thames, Flow Softly: from mudlarking to swan-upping’.

Exhibition, events and talks celebrating the folklore of England’s sacred river.

Founded in 2009 by artist and art director Simon Costin, The Museum of British Folklore (MoBF) is intended as the first centre dedicated to seasonal British traditions. The MoBF has curated exhibitions at galleries and museums including Whitechapel Gallery and Eastbourne’s Towner Art Gallery. Here the MoBF will present artefacts, events and talks celebrating the folklore of the Thames.

Saturday 6 August


Live music: Sam Lee
Mercury Prize-nominated singer, folk-song collector and promoter with the award-winning Nest Collective, Sam Lee will perform an acoustic set inspired by the Thames and river lore.

Robert Crouch – Bargemaster to the Queen
Bob Crouch was apprenticed at 17, as a third-generation Thames waterman, and was appointed Bargemaster to the Queen in 1989. Bob will be sharing his experiences of a life on the Thames and talking about the origins of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge boat race.


Philip Mernick – medieval Thames forgeries
Philip, chairman of the East London History Society, will be talking about his collection of ‘Billy and Charleys’ – the forgeries of medieval lead objects created by 19th-century mudlarkers.

Sunday 7 August


The Gentle Author in conversation with Simon Costin
A discussion of Thames life and traditions, including the annual swan-marking ceremony carried out by the Vintners’ and Dyers’ companies. The Gentle Author started the Spitalfields Life blog in 2009. Since then, books including Spitalfields Life and The Gentle Author’s London Album have been published.

Homer Sykes – Thames photography
With nearly 40 years’ experience, Homer Sykes is a pre-eminent photographer of British life. Here he will share the background to his photographs of Thames traditions, including swan-upping, the Doggett’s Coat and Badge race and the Knolly Rose Ceremony – in conversation with MoBF director Simon Costin.


Live music: Sarah Angliss
The folk song Bonny Bows (aka The Twa Sisters) alludes to murder by drowning. Composer and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Angliss will perform her interpretation of the song on carillon and theremin in the MoBF exhibition space.

Both Days

MoBF Thames Festival exhibition
This exhibition will contain objects, photographs and artwork connected with the folklore of the River Thames – presenting the beliefs and customs associated with this legendary stretch of water. The exhibition will include photographs of traditions such as swan-upping and mudlarking taken by Homer Sykes, Brian Shuel and The Gentle Author. There will also be peep boxes from the MoBF collection relating to London folklore.

The exhibition will include objects associated with ritual and sacrifice, such as a Bellarmine witch bottle. Nursery rhymes such as ‘The Thames Lions’ and ‘London Bridge Is Falling Down’ will be represented.

The exhibition will also include contemporary illustrations and artwork inspired by Thames traditions, plus ‘Folk Songs of the Upper Thames by A Williams’ – a display of lyrics and information regarding folk-song collector Alfred Williams, who amassed over 1,000 songs from the Thames. A selection of books and ephemera relating to the Thames will be available at the Museum of British Folklore Library.