A Modern Day 'Frost Fair' Comes To London In December

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 16 months ago

Last Updated 01 December 2022

A Modern Day 'Frost Fair' Comes To London In December
An artists's idea of what a previous frost fair might have looked like. We don't know where to start. Image from the film 1814 Frost Fair, produced and directed by Julia Fullerton-Batten, courtesy of Better Bankside.

A modern version of an old Thames frost fair opens in London this winter — with less ice but a lot more AR tech than the original events.

Back in days of yore — or as recently as 1814, to be precise — frost fairs were a regular occurrence. Londoners would make the most of a frozen-solid River Thames, setting up markets and entertainment on the ice.

The odds of the Thames freezing over this winter are, of course, extremely slim indeed, and health and safety probably wouldn't allow the ice-based japes these days. So, the Bankside Frost Fair will take place on dry land. Bankside is the area on the south bank of the river opposite the City, around Shakespeare's Globe.

Ice there may not be, but organisers are doing their best to recreate the authentic frost fair experience, using augmented reality (AR) technology. A series of AR installations, street art murals, animations, films and digital art will be dotted throughout the area, depicting historical scenes and telling the stories of Bankside residents who took part in the frost fairs.

There will also be events, workshops and food and drink experiences, including special frost fair menus at some of the local restaurants and businesses, and themed music and club nights. Keep an eye on the Bankside Frost Fair website (which they certainly didn't have in 1814) for details as they're announced.

It all kicks off at 18.14 (see what they did there?) on 1 December, when the myth of an elephant walking across London's frozen river will be recreated using AR. Oo-er.

If that's a bit too high-tech for you, look out for old-fashioned guided tours throughout December and January, covering the games, events and markets that took place during London's frost fairs.

Bankside Frost Fair takes place 1 December 2022-31 January 2023. It's free to visit, though any donations received go towards supporting local homeless charity The Manna Society.