A call came in recently for ‘proficient kayakers’ to support the inaugural Reading on Thames festival which was to take place on the Thames in front of Caversham Court/ the promenade on Saturday 16th September. It sounded intriguing, especially when they mentioned there may be fireworks and pyrotechnics involved. As the weekend approached a strange array of giant floating creatures appeared at the club along with a vast number of crew and technicians. Our interest was spiked further! A diverse team of seven club members aged between 14 and 60 responded to the call and arrived at the first rehearsal feeling rather nervous at what was expected of them. We were briefed to ‘act and move like fish’ whilst paddling behind the professional kayakers, (who by the way were going to have fireworks strapped to their boats), and just follow the large fish until we saw the monster fish. At that point we were to ‘MOVE BACK SWIFTLY and go to the side, out of the way…….GULP!
So on we went, and followed the fish, up and down, around and around, in the dark for two evenings in a row. We couldn’t see each other, (let alone be seen by people on the river bank) but we had fun. One thing we were sure of from our viewpoint on the water – the story and show were going to be spectacular as long as it all went all right on the night.
Saturday came and to the delight of the three juniors Sam, Lili and Phoebe we were handed costumes – workmen safety suits in white or blue to wear OVER our lifejackets etc. (Where did Michelin men come in the story we wondered, but at least we would be incognito). We were also given white lights to illuminate the boats inside – the white plastic boats looked a lot like glow worms or perhaps like the shimmering fish we were supposed to represent. And at least we could now see each other! We were also handed safety goggles as we slid into the water … to add to our already somewhat ‘special’ look. Well, we were paddling behind fireworks!
We sat under Caversham bridge waiting for the story to start, admiring the giant swan lit up, which let off giant sparkler style fireworks from its bottom as it glided up the river. Then it was our turn as the giant fish potted up to greet the swan and we shimmered and wiggled behind it. We circled and paddled to the music, amongst the smoke, under the pops and cracks of the fireworks coming out of the fish’s nose and from the back of the pyrotechnic kayakers in front of us. Then the green glowing monster appeared and we took our cue to scarper to the side where we had the best view in the house of the fireworks, pyrotechnics and giant animals … and so the story was over. It was fun – a visual and auditory delight.
We hope it comes back again!