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London International Ice Sculpting Festival

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by Erin Connelly (subscribe)
I am a medievalist in the process of completing a PhD (involving medieval medicine). I travel as much as possible at home (UK) and abroad. I'm always ready for new experiences!
Event: -
Delicate art, snowball fights, and wintry fun
In January 2013 the highest calibre ice sculptors from around the world are coming to Canary Wharf to compete in the International Ice Sculpting Festival. This interactive (and free) festival, celebrating the best of ice art, really does transform a dreary London January into a winter wonderland. The 2013 festival is shaping up to be the largest event yet with 12 international teams entered into the live competition, as well as 3 days worth of ice sculpting masterclasses, snow activities, art displays, and a winter market.

Ice sculptors busy at work. Photo by Christine Matthews.


The live competition requires sculptors to race against each other to create a themed sculpture in a set amount of time. Themes in previous years have included Love London, Team Spirit, and Winter Sports. This is the most exciting aspect of the festival as the professional teams skillfully attack 2x2m blocks of ice with chainsaws and chisels until a shimmering work of art suddenly emerges.

London Ice Sculpting Festival 2009. Photo by Christine Matthews.


Ice is one of the most delicate and volatile mediums to sculpt with and, particularly with London's recent mild weather, the sculptures usually don't last for very long. The festival is a great opportunity to witness an intricate art form in person that otherwise can only be immortalised by photography. The sculptures are especially beautiful as the daylight fades and the ice is illuminated with soft lighting, which gives the whole area a soft purple glow.

Sculptures by the Christmas tree. Photo by Christine Matthews.


The ice sculptures remain on display for the length of the festival. In addition to the overall winners selected by the panel of judges, spectators can vote on their favourite sculpture for the Public's Choice Award.

After watching the experts compete, you can try your hand at ice sculpting in one of several masterclasses. These courses are free and open to anyone over the age of 12. Spaces are allocated on a first come first served basis and you must sign up in person on the day of the event.

Ice sculpting master class. Photo by Emily Pintern.


A highlight for many children (and adults) is the giant snow pit in Montgomery Square for building snowmen or having a raucous snowball fight. There is also a Banksy-inspired ice wall for carving graffiti and a supersized outdoor chess game constructed entirely of ice. The chess game is intended for the public to play actual matches. The winter market spread across the shopping centre contains plenty of food and beverage stalls to warm you up after a day of playing in the snow.

Frosty leaves. Photo by Erin Connelly.


A treat for the whole family, this free festival infuses London with a bit more winter cheer at the close of the holiday season.
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Why? A fun winter day out for the whole family.
When: January 11th to 13th, 2013 (morning to evening)
Where: Canada Square Park, Montgomery Square, and Jubilee Place Shopping Mall (Canary Wharf)
Cost: Free
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