Review: London’s Caught by the River Festival

By August 15, 2016


L1001438To misquote Kenneth Grahame, there is nothing so wonderful as messing about by the river, and even more so when the sun is beating down, the sounds are spreading through the air, and you’re in amongst gardens and trees. Right in London, too.

It had the feel of being a party in someone’s garden. Albeit a fuck-off-impressive party in a Bishop’s Palace, as the beautiful 1300-year-old Fulham Palace was the location for the first Caught By The River Thames festival. Starting out nine years ago, Caught by the River began life as a website that encouraged racing urban dwellers to switch off and find some more campestral joys. It’s roster now includes a book publishers, a magazine, a record label, live events, and this, a boutique and rather beautiful festival.


An eclectic mix of music, art, literature and talks, it delivered in line with its ethos of education and entertainment, with sessions from Chris Packham, Amy Liptrot, Iain Sinclair and the London Sound Survey all attracting punters away from the main stage and the sun drenched lawn. The Faber Poetry Chapel brought Jack Underwood and Joe Dunthorne to the stage, and The Palace Picturehouse was the venue for art exhibitions, with The Keartons: Inventing Nature Photography juxtaposing nicely with another entitled Dark Satanic Mills.

When it comes to the music, Saturday saw the multifaceted twinkling of Tuareg band Imarhan and the rather bizarre yet fitting whirr of Be Play One’s ambient music, backed by the sound of an amplified honey bee colony. Ryler Walker brought his golden growling harmonies to the afternoon sun, and Beth Orton, who recently made a return to electronica after an acoustic hiatus, managed to bridge the urban/ rural juxtaposition of the surroundings perfectly. Day one was headlined by Low’s impressive and incandescent soundscapes.


On Sunday the fizzy electropop of Gwenno confused and delighted as she sang in Welsh and Cornish, and curly haired Temples’s accessible psychedelia should have gone down well, but failed to set the majority of the crowd alight. Riff-heavy festival rock territory this isn’t, but, being west London, everyone was super polite.

And well, Super Furry Animals. Always a joy. Clad in white boiler suits, they relished the opportunity to share some new tracks, like comeback single Bing Bong as well as the old classics of Rings Around The World and their encore The Man Don’t Give A Fuck.

It’s not easy to bring a new festival to market, and in London we’ve got plenty. Caught By The River carved a distinctive space, bringing together art forms in an accessible way without dumbing them down. It’s a bit posh but not pretentious. You don’t have to camp but it’s not in a car park. And it drips with talented acts.

Utter winner. Looks like the team have just added another string to their bow.