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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

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Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Much missed - the Bankside Frost Fair 2003 - 2008

Boat lantern

Frost fairs were an irregular feature of The Thames in mediaeval times, during the Little Ice Age, when the water would freeze and people made the most of it, selling stuff to each other and practising archery. 

This no longer happens as changes to London Bridge (it now has considerably fewer supports holding it up) means that the river now flows more quickly and is less able to freeze. 

The last freeze was in 1814 but in 2003 London decided to bring back a non-frozen version of the riverside Frost Fair with a carnival of music, theatre, shopping, sculpture, workshops, food etc. I went to an Elizabethan-themed one, or at least I spent a lot of time in The Globe Theatre's undercroft which was full of people dressed Elizabethan-ly and plenty of sackbuts. It was wonderful and it all stopped in 2008, I assume thanks to the financial crash - I'm sure it didn't help. 

Bankside still has its Winter Festival (also a Summer Festival) though this is more inland (eg in the lovely Borough Market) and of shorter duration. I hope something can come back to the river though. 

Because the Frost Fairs happened largely before "everyone joined Twitter" there aren't that many tweets about it (there's one from me in 2009 bemoaning the lack of a Frost Fair that year). Internet archaeology is a bit sporadic but good bets are YouTube and Flickr as both were in existence at the time of the Fair, and the Internet Archive has captured some of the content written about it. I'm also grateful to the SE1 website where I found loads of stuff. 

Frost Fair

Photo collections

The photos linked here are all "All Rights Reserved" so I don't think I can embed them here (the ones above have a different "Some Rights Reserved" licence so are OK.

Frost Fair returns to Bankside
(22 December 2003) 
Frost Fair brings crowds to Bankside (22 December 2003) - this was the first fair and was possibly held on one day only.

Here's what the Evening Standard said, on 22 Dec 2003 in its "In London Tonight" section, about the Frost Fair "2003 - Frost Fair - A Carnival by the Water Bankside Riverwalk (by Shakespeare's Globe), SE1. Tube: Southwark. Entry: free.
With street theatre, shopping, carols - in fact everything to get you in the Christmas mood. There are kids' events all day, but for the adults, entertainment goes on well into the evening with a Frozen Ice Bar serving cranberry-vodka shots in ice glasses, mulled ale and wine, festive music and late-night craft and food shopping at The Globe.

A giant slide made an appearance at the Tate Modern.

Badged as an Elizabethan Frost Fair on Bankside, the opening times for the 2004 fair were listed in The Independent on Sunday, 19 Dec 2004: "The event and takes place from 10am-8pm on 20 December."

Frost Fair 2005 in pictures
(19 December 2005) - lantern procession, ice slide, third fair, the river flooded its banks too. In Nov 2005 the annual Fair was nominated for a Culture Award.

Arctic explorer launches fourth Bankside Frost Fair (16 December 2006) - this was the fourth annual fair.

"Southwark Council has organised a Frost Fair on the riverside outside Tate Modern each December since 2003, reviving a tradition that dates back to 1564 when the Thames froze over during the winter months allowing a market to be held on the ice.

In 2005 the Frost Fair attracted more than 100,000 visitors."

Frost Fair 2006 15 - 17 December - archive of Visit Southwark's page - the fair took place on Riverside Bankside, SE1 - outside Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe and featured huskies, wreath-making workshops, oil blending with Neal's Yard - music, food, shopping, workshops, Thames Cutters boat procession, workshops in Mongolian yurts. Also these are the archived pages for information about the traders, music, Cutters (boat racing) and hug a husky

Opening times for the 2006 fair, from The Guardian on 16 Dec 2006: " Today 10am-9pm; tomorrow 10am-6pm. and last night."

Shakespeare’s Globe opens revamped exhibition
(11 Dec 2007) - free visit during Frost Fair 2007, 14-16 Dec

Bankside Frost Fair (2007)  - husky dog sled rides for children, ice sculptures, music, theatre, winter market, mulled wine etc, featured a Disney DVD Dream Dome and a lantern parade at 4pm on Friday, Thames Cutters boat race on Saturday and free entry to the Globe's undercroft with demonstrations of Elizabethan dressing, and I'm pretty sure I remember sword fighting too.

Bankside Frost Fair 2007: photos (18 December 2007)  - fifth Bankside Frost Fair, husky dogs returned.

Opening times for the Frost Fair in 2007 were listed in The Daily Telegraph, 22 Nov 2007: Open: Dec 14, 11am-9pm; Dec 15, 10am-9pm; Dec 16, 10am-6pm.

This is a short video taken by TV3 Televisió de Catalunya (TVC) / Spain of the 2007 event.

This is what Time Out said in December 2008 - "
Around 50 stalls take up residence on a section of Bankside near Shakespeare's Globe and Tate Modern, offering crafts, presents and seasonal drinks and nibbles over ten days. There are husky-sledding rides for under-12s (£5) and husky-hugging photos opportunities for everyone else (£4; Fri-Sun only on both weekends). Other highlights include a lantern procession involving 270 local schoolchildren (Fri 4pm) and the Thames Cutters boat procession from the City to Bankside pier (Sat 11am). Guided walks run by London Walks exploring Bankside's theatrical heritage and connection with the river depart from Mansion House tube on Sat 2.30pm, Sun 10.45m and Dec 20 2.30pm (£5;"

Opening hours listed on Time Out were Mon-Wed 10am-7pm; Thur-Sat 10am-8pm; Sun 10am-6pm (the Sunday in question was 21st Dec 2008).

The UK Student Life website has a great review of the 2008 event with photos.

Other posts in the Much missed series

Image credits
Boat pic -
Lanterns pic -



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