This year’s Wandsworth Arts Festival and Fringe is going to be bigger and better than ever before. The council’s arts team have been working tirelessly for months, and the line-up of homegrown talent and visiting artists is diverse and interesting. There will also be a Festival Hub programmed by The Brick Box. Designed and built by the award-winning Assemble Studio, temporary structures will appear on the banks of the river Wandle for two weeks this May. The concept for the build is a cabinet of curiosities, inspired by the gifts of the stream from which Wandsworth takes its name, defined by the folk of the borough. But first we needed to find the gifts…

The River Wandle runs from Croydon and Carshalton to meet the Thames at Battersea. Once famed for its crystal waters and scenic fishing (Lord Nelson reportedly fished at ‘Paradise Merton’), the river was officially declared a sewer in the 1960s when the bank-side tanneries flushed dyes downstream.

More recently some excellent human beings began to do something about the pollution. The Wandle Trust is an environmental charity dedicated to restoring and maintaining the health of the river. Amongst other things (I might mention their brilliantly named schools programme Trout in the Classroom), the trust holds monthly community clean-ups during which a brave band of volunteers spend their Sunday dragging stuff out of the river and cleaning up the banks.

And this is what I did with my Sunday, in the name of art and trout. Luckily for me, I have a friend called Jessie with a highly-developed sense of fun which means she said yes when I asked her to come with the cry, ‘you know how I feel about waders!’ She is amazing and I will love her always.

So we got to work rootling through the rubbish and boy were there some treasures…


This bike was so arty it was immediately deemed to be an installation called ‘Festooned’ by one of the volunteers.


Her cup runneth over: Jess finds some legs.


A particularly exciting moment with a grappling hook and old pram frame.


Some disgusting river dweller and an abandoned toy.


Wandle fauna. There is also a good eel population in the river although Sunday’s eel count was 0. Thankfully.


Jess and the rubbish clearance team. These guys are hardcore.

We got a great haul of filthy but soon-to-be-cleaned items so come by the Festival Hub in May and see them for yourselves.

And finally, a huge thank you goes to everyone at The Wandle Trust for making us feel so welcome. I doff my cap to you all for the dedication, cheeriness, cake and utterly brilliant pun which I just had to use for the title of this blog post. See you at The Hub!

It’s a Wandleful Life!