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Bookies slash odds on Thames freezing over

London SE1 website team

As Bankside prepares for its third annual Frost Fair, William Hill have cut the odds on the Thames freezing over this winter between Westminster and Tower bridges from 100/1 to 50/1.

Attractions outside Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe include a beer tent, street entertainment, ice sculpting, stalls selling festive food and gifts, local and professional bands, childrens activities, street theatre and choirs singing Christmas carols. A frozen ice bar will be serving mulled ale and wine.

A new feature is a 40 metre real ice slide (bigger than last year's snow sllde), sponsored by Land Securities, which will remain on Bankide until the end of the New Year holiday weeekend. The Ice Slide costs GBP 3 for two slides and will be open from 10am to 6pm but until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Councillor Columba Blango, Southwark Council's executive member for tourism, said: "Bankside is the place to be this Christmas. The Frost Fair is perfect for soaking up the festive atmosphere and picking up last minute Christmas gifts.

"The Ice Slide and Frost Fair is a fantastic activity for all the family, as well as a great way for companies to start off their office parties – and it doesn't involve booking ahead.

“Being able to bring the historic Frost Fair back to life has been a great achievement and will guarantee to make Bankside sparkle."

The first Frost Fair was held in 1564 during Elizabeth I's reign when the River Thames froze due to London Bridge's narrow arches holding back the flow of water and the wider river channel slowing the tides. Games included archery on ice and printers sold poems "printed on the Thames". The last Frost Fair held on the river was in 1814.

This year's third revived Frost Fair on the riverside is likely to be the biggest free winter event in London with organisers hoping to attract more than 100,000 visitors. Last month Southwark Council won a silver award at the Visit London Awards for the Frost Fair.

Confusingly, Shakespeare's Globe is once again operating its own event under the Frost Fair name with a winter market open every December weekend before Christmas.

• The fair starts on Friday 16 December at 4pm with a lantern procession from Southwark Cathedral and remains open until 10pm. On Saturday the opening hours are 10am-10pm and on Sunday the fair will operate 10am-6pm.
• For a full programme see the Visit Southwark website.
• 2006 calendars featuring images from the London Wall Project by local photographer Steve Hollingshead will be on sale at the fair.

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