Last week I stumbled out of work and went to meet my friend Natasha. ‘Come to Waterloo,’ she said, ‘it’s half way between us.’ It had been a long week of late nights and this combined with the hot weather meant a rather sleepy wait for her at the main steps of Waterloo station.
She was full of energy. ‘We’re going to go to the south bank,’ she said, ‘there’s loads going on.’
I’m a big fan of the south bank; I feel I know it pretty well and nothing much it can do would surprise me. However, walking onto it last week, I was taken a back by the sheer and sudden vibrancy of the scene. An embodiment of everything you’d like London to be in the summer, the south bank has gone all out this year with a plethora of pop ups, revamped fixtures and multicolored sand.
The South Bank has really taken off in the last 8 years. As if it wasn’t enough to have the BFI, Royal Festival Hall, Hayward Gallery, National Theatre and the South Bank Centre all in such close proximity, it now regularly plays host to London’s various festivals and new creations.
The multicolored sand is part of the Thames Festival and the Festival of Britain. 70 meters of sand have been laid out with the aim of creating a feeling of nostalgic British seaside-ness. As well as deckchairs and a pop up café, the beach boasts 14 beach huts that have been artist commissioned specifically for the South Bank. Also part of the Festival of Britain are a network of outside spaces, including a vintage funfair, a band stand in South Bank Centre square and a reimagined British countryside landscape. To top this all off, there’s a good old school fish and chip van.
Continuing the fairground theme, E4 Udderbelly (you’ll know this as the colossal upside-down purple cow) has put on a new amusement ground of thrills, circus acts and sideshows. The E4 Udderbelly festival has run from April and comes to its climactic close this weekend. The 400 seater cow has played host to an impressive range of comedy, theatre and music acts.
For those wanting more, the National Theatre is holding its annual Inside Out Festival. Think giant green chairs and sofas, people lounging on Astroturf with beers, and deckchairs you don’t have to pay to sit in. Each evening sees free national and international live performance taking to the stage with a warm up of music and dance acts.
Beyond this, our newly discovered pop up culture is rife along the river – highlights include both the BFI outdoor burger and beer bar and Dishoom Chowpatty Beach: a café wallowing in reconditioned Bombay Beach culture, made from reclaimed and recycled materials and serving a medley of exotic street food and drinks.