Think you've got some top Thames knowledge? Matt Brown, London aficionado will put that to the test at the Big London River Quiz on Wednesday 27 September. We caught up with Matt to find out about his wealth of knowledge on all things London and what people can expect from this thamestastic event.
Hi Matt, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
I'm a full-time writer, mostly specialising in the history and culture of London, but ready to dip my toes into anything with a sparkle of interest. I love exploring - my only rule in life is that I have to go into a new building every day... which usually just takes me into a new coffee shop, but sometimes gets me into really interesting spaces. I'm former editor of Londonist, and still work for the site three days a week as a features writer. Otherwise, I'm busy being a daddy, and writing a series of myth-busting books that began with Everything You Know About London is Wrong.
This isn’t the first time you have hosted a river quiz for Totally Thames. How did you gain so much river knowledge?
I've been writing about London professionally for well over a decade now. I guess I've picked up my Thames knowledge by osmosis... (soaking it up like a sponge would be a cliche too far). But I've also had the privilege to meet many of the people who work and live on the river - from barge owners to the river police to the remarkable individuals who crew London's lifeboats.
new this year/what makes this quiz different to others? What can people expect?
Like most years, the quiz will take place as we sail up and down river, with questions relating to whatever's outside the windows. To spice things up a bit, this year we'll have a guest round written and delivered by a genuine yeoman warder (beefeater) from the Tower of London. We'll also be hearing from the Snottledogs, a sea shanty band.
What is your favourite bridge on the Thames and why?
Hmm, good question. I think it'd have to be Waterloo. Yes, it has good views, but it's more about the history. The bridge was designed by none-other than Giles Gilbert Scott, who also gave the capital Battersea and Bankside power stations, and the red phone box. It was built using mostly female labour during the Second World War. Best of all, its stones are absolutely teeming with fossil impressions from millions of years ago. Look out for them next time you're crossing.
Do you have any fond river memories?
Many. I've kayaked from Limehouse to Greenwich, piloted a boat under the central London bridges (under close supervision!), taken a boat out to the WWII forts at the mouth of the estuary, and walked beneath the river in the little-known tunnels below the Thames Barrier. My fondest memory, though, is the simplest. Sitting in the beer garden at the White Swan, Twickenham, and watching as the rising tide slowly cut us off from the pub. Fortunately I had a full pint to savour while we waited for the waters to subside.
Do you often find yourself on or by the river?
My office is in Shoreditch and my home in the extreme north of London (OK, Hertfordshire), so my daily routines don't naturally take me close. That said, I do end up seeing the river at least twice a week for various reasons. It has a natural draw. Even when you're away from the Thames, you may still be under its influence. Many of the capital's old roads were shaped by the river. Borough High Street and Bishopsgate, for example, were both approach roads to Old London Bridge, while the curve of Fleet Street and Strand obviously follows the Thames.
> Join Matt afloat for a two-hour cruise quiz in the Big London River Quiz on Wednesday 27 September.