… well, sort of!
September sees a month-long celebration of the River Thames in London through the Totally Thames Festival with lots of different events and activities along the river.
One of the displays, located on the South bank of the river at Nine Elms, is a rather large semi-submerged hippopotamus. Obviously not a real one as a real one would be off shopping and catching a show rather than just floating about with the rise and fall of the tide!
Some background to the project can be found here.
However, back to the title – the hippo was actually made alongside the King George V lock in London’s Royal Docks over a period of several weeks in late August.
Work started with the arrival of a pontoon on which the hippo now sits along with large quantities of wood and equipment to be used by the build team.
As the days passed the shape of the head and body became more recognisable and then the ears were made and attached along with a tail – by now it was looking very big and just a little surprised (but then any hippo finding themselves in Newham would probably be equally bemused!).
Given that this art installation was meant to be secret it was a bit of a surprise that the construction was done with its head towards the public road because, as the build progressed, it became an increasingly eye-catching sight – but made for better pictures for me and other passers-by.
The most exciting part (and risky for the organisers) was moving the hippo and pontoon from the dockside in to the water – a crane, some men and ropes and a bit of shouting and Hippo was afloat and safe in its more natural habitat.
During the morning of 2nd September the artist visited his new creation just to check all was well.
Then mid afternoon the Hippo was towed out to the Thames for its transit up to Nine Elms behind tug ‘Mad dog’ and workboat ‘Bulldog’.
Oh, and in case you are wondering why a hippo? – it is due to the fact that in prehistoric times (over 400,000 years ago) this part of the world was home to ancient hippos. We know this due to remains having been found during a dig at Trafalgar Square some years ago – so a fun and educational piece of artwork.
Once again the KGV Lock played host to a major event preparation project and made its contribution to the Totally Thames event. A video of the build can be seen here.
It is unfortunate that neither Newham Council nor the Royal Docks Management Authority have made much mention of the Thames festival events going on in the area – a real shame and a lost opportunity to be part of the celebration of the great river that is at the heart of London.
Update 09/09/14 – A few of pics of Hippo at Nine Elms: