An Interview with Caught by the River Thames

Caught by the River is an online publication focused on decidedly non-digital pursuits, including but not limited to: literature, adventure, poetry, walking, fishing, looking, thinking, birdsong, beer, and – of course – ocean-bound waterways. Its founders will expand into new territory this August with the debut of Caught by the River Thames, a festival created in collaboration with Robomagic that will celebrate music plus all of the above.

Insights spoke with Jeff Barrett, the festival and publication’s Co-Founder, about the influences and features that run through the River.

Festival Insights: Aside from Pitchfork, I can’t think of any other media platforms off the top of my head that have launched their own festivals. What was the impetus for Caught by the River to do so?

Jeff Barrett: We like to throw a party! We were invited to curate a Caught by the River stage at Port Eliot festival in 2008 which gave us the opportunity to bring our website to life. It worked.

FI: Caught by the River’s editorial output encompasses everything from music to literature to fishing to birds. Will the programming of CBTRT predominantly focus on one medium or activity?

JB: Nope. It will take in most if not all of the Caught by the River touchstones. To the ones you mention above add beer, field recordings, folklore and poetry.

FI: Stationing the festival by a river is a nice touch. Was the location immediately settled upon, or was there a scouting / deliberation process before deciding upon the Thames?

JB: Since taking what we’ve learned at Port Eliot and doing our own events we always do them close to rivers. Last year we headed to far west Wales and got Caught by the River Teifi, we did an event in Bristol – Caught by the River Avon – and if the Boxing Day floods hadn’t wrecked the town we would have been in Hebden Bridge the other weekend curating a three-day arts festival. Suddenly Caught by the River Calder seemed the most inappropriate name for a festival ever.

Caught by the River Thames has been a dream of ours for several years but we thought it was going to happen in Berkshire or Bucks, not London. Being long-time London residents and knowing the city very well we couldn’t think of nor find a suitable site. We expected our London festival to be beside one of the other rivers of London, probably the Lea, or perhaps the Wandle.

Rob Hallett found the site. He likes what we do and the way that we do it and invited us to take a look. It’s perfect. And now we have a partner.

FI: Will CBTR’s love of nature be apparent in the aesthetic and experience of the event?

JB: Yes. It’s the nature of the beast.

FI: Caught by the River has been involved with Port Eliot and The Good Life Experience in the past. Did these experiences inform the way you approached creating your own festival?

JB: Very much so. Port Eliot gave us a dream opportunity. I think it’s safe to say that we seized it.

FI: What is it about Caught by the River Thames that you feel will distinguish it from competing events?

JB: We are just different full stop. Take a look at the website. There’s nothing like that out there either. Everything that features on the site we give a crap about. We like to learn, we like to discover and we like to share. Plus we attract good people.

FI: Any closing comments?

JB: Get on board and give it a go. We know that you won’t regret it.

Caught by the River Thames