A 21-ft hippo was spotted floating on the Thames near Royal Docks yesterday. The gigantic animal is not an escapee from the zoo, rather a piece of art created by Florentijn Hofman the renowned Dutch artist who built the sculpture as part of the month long Totally Thames festival, which runs throughout September.

This is the first UK commission for Hofman, entitled HippopoThames. The art was towed up river from Royal Docks yesterday to its end resting place at Nine Elms on the South Bank where it will stay until 28th September.

Hofman is known for his large-scale sculptures, such as Rubber Duck which has been travelling around the world since 2007. His sculptures often originate from everyday objects, but the design of HippopoThames has been inspired by the unusual history of the River Thames and the hippos that used to inhabit it.

Battersea restaurant Doodle Bar, which sits next to Nine Elms, will be supporting the installation with a talk on 9th September by poet and arts producer Tom Chivers, Natural History Museum Paleontologist Victoria Herridge and guerrilla geographer Daniel Raven Ellison, who will be taking guests through the history of the real hippos that used to live in the Thames. 

Hofman has said of his sculpture, “I am thrilled and excited to be using the Thames as the location of my first UK commission. The purpose of setting my sculptures in the public domain has always been to give members of the public a break from their daily routines, to inspire conversation and to cause astonishment. I hope the location of my sculpture on the Thames will inspire passers-by to engage with its surrounding area of Nine Elms on the South Bank, and to discover the various other events within the Totally Thames programme celebrating London’s river”.

Hippopo Thames by Florentijn Hofman

Florentijn Hofman with his hippo in the Thames yesterday

Totally Thames runs until 28th September, with arts, music, regattas and festivals celebrating the river and taking place across all 17 of London’s riverside boroughs, with many free things to do too. 

Here’s our pick of the top 10 events taking place during Totally Thames:

Totally Thames Festival, The Fire Garden by Carabosse at Battersea Power Station

The Fire Garden by Carabosse at Battersea Power Station

1 Source to Sea River Relay
The journey of one bottle of water will be explored, travelling 200 miles from the source of the Thames in Gloucestershire through London and out to sea via the Thames Estuary. The journey will involve runners, swimmers and walkers who will pass the bottle from hand-to-hand over two weeks.

2 The Fire Garden by Carabosse
The Fire Garden at Battersea Power Station will celebrate the site’s industrial past with booming fires, the smell of wax, hiss of steam and heat and glow of flames. Globes of fire and thousands of flickering flames will light up the Power Station while musicians play a mix of old-style Parisian music and moody improvised sounds in what promises to be one of the most dramatic events of Totally Thames.

This is a balloted event and all the slots have been allocated now but a lucky few will be able to enter on a one-in-one-out basis on the night.

Friday 5 – Saturday 6th September; 6.30pm– 10.30pm; Battersea Power Station, 188 Kirtling St, London SW8 5B

Any pyro-lovers who miss this event head along to Firing on the Foreshore on Saturday 13th September an event that looks at the ancient London tradition in which pots made from Thames river clay will be fired in two bonfires constructed on the foreshore from Thames driftwood, before they are covered by the incoming tide. Leading Thames archaeologist Dr Fiona Haughey will be on hand to answer any questions.

Saturday 13th September; 12pm – 5.30pm,Thames foreshore, Bankside, London SE1, Opposite Shakespeare’s Globe, free.

Blue Ribbon Village at Totally Thames Festival

Storytelling at the Blue Ribbon Village

3 Blue Ribbon Village
The Blue Ribbon Village is Totally Thames’ environmental zone, where there will be family-friendly events such as pond-dipping workshops, lessons in bee keeping, street food stalls and creative workshops.

Saturday 13th – Sunday 14th September; 12pm – 6pm; Potters Fields Park, SE1 2AA; Free

4 The Thames SENSEation
The Thames SENSEation is designed by the House of Gastrophonic in partnership with The Northbank restaurant and will draw Londoners into an immersive gastro experience of sights, smells, tastes and textures of London’s bygone eras. Inspired by the historic names of London’s streets, Bread Street, Saffron Hill, Leather Lane, the event will take visitors through an Aromatic Time Tunnel, have cooking demonstrations in a Sensory Hub and an exhibition of 3D-printed London landmarks.

Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th September; 12pm – 7pm; Victoria Embankment Gardens, London WC2N 6PB; Free

5  River Works – Jacques Limousin
For more than fifty years, sculptor Jacques Limousin has developed a taste for rubbish, collecting and then assembling objects, finds and remains in often delightful and surprising ways, giving waste a new life as art. For this intriguing exhibition of curiosity and beauty at The Crystal, Limousin has transformed Thames foreshore flotsam into art.

Friday 5th to Sunday 7th Sept, 10am – 5pm; The Crystal, Royal Victoria Dock, E16 1GB; Free

Totally Thames Festival

Celebrate the greatness of our river at the Totally Thames Festival

6 The Floating Cinema: St Katharine Docks Residency
The Floating Cinema will come to St Katharine Docks for five days of screenings, artists’ workshops and talks on the theme of water. Taking place on a canal boat, this residency will feature artists such as Tracy and Hobbs’ Bureau of Lost and Found, Neville Gabie, Tania Kovats and Lise Autogena.

Wednesday 10th to Sunday 14th September; St Katharine Docks, 50 St Katharine’s Way, E1W 1LA

7  Late London: Sonic City – Bridging the World with Scanner
Late London: Sonic City is an evening of immersive sound, music gigs and sonic exploration by international artist, Scanner. Visitors will be transported to ‘bridgescapes’ from London to New York City, Shanghai to São Paulo, before ending the evening with an after-hours viewing of the Bridge exhibition and a late night bar.

Friday 5th September; 7pm – 10pm; Museum of London Docklands, West India Quay, E14 4AL; £8; book at totallythames.org or 020 7001 9844, over 18s only

8 The Great River Race 
The Great River Race is London’s River Marathon, a spectacular race for traditional boats up the River Thames from Millwall in the east to Ham in the west. Over 300 crews from all over the globe will compete in the river race, showing off their boating skills, as well as a fun element of fancy dress and charity stunts. The winner will be crowned the UK Traditional Boat Champions.

Saturday 27th September;12:30pm – 7pm; Free; For viewpoints check greatriverrace.co.uk

Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival at Totally Thames Festival

Tall Ships create a dramatic skyline in Greenwich

9 Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival
The Royal Borough of Greenwich will celebrate the largest fleet of Tall Ships to visit London in 25 years with five days of free festival fun across Greenwich, Royal Arsenal Woolwich, Greenwich Peninsula and West India Dock. A dramatic line of Tall Ships will be moored along the Greenwich waterfront, in the evening there will be fireworks displays (Friday 5 and Saturday 6 September), plus look out for free cultural performances, music and entertainment at the festival villages, with the festival launch and a closing Parade of Sail, not to be missed.

Friday 5th to Tuesday 9th September; Free; Check Royal Greenwich website for timetable and locations

10 Barge Driving Races
The annual Steve Faldo Memorial Barge Driving Race is a chance to see traditional lighterage skills being carried out as they were up until about 50 years ago, and is manned by professional watermen and lightermen who, to this day, still operate the many tugs and passenger vessels on the tidal Thames.

Sunday 14th September; Riverside locations between Tower Bridge and Waterloo Bridge