IWA Festival gets lowest attendance for 60 years.

IWA 2013 Festrival

There was a low turn out of visitors and small number of trade boats at the 2013 IWA Festival; was it the wrong location, the wrong sort of event, or is canal business just poor because of the economy?

Despite three days of perfect weather and a location on the edge of the major population area of Watford visitor attendance figures for the Inland Waterways Association’s (IWA) annual Waterways Festival – held on the Grand Union Canal in Cassiobury Park from 19 to 21 July – were some of the lowest in the event’s 60-year history.

Organisers issued a footfall figure of around 15,000 visitors, but said that this was not only from Watford residents, but also from the hundreds of boaters, campers and exhibitors who attended; so a large deduction can be made for these.  Speaking to Boating Business a number of unhappy traders also questioned this figure.

Factors such as the main enclosed site – which was small compared to previous years – being a 15-minute walk from the canal through the admittedly beautiful but confusingly-pathed park certainly didn’t help.  Once you did get to the canal there was a very good turn-out of 300 private boats.

But there were just five trade boats, fortunately all outstanding examples of their type:  A Viking cruiser on the main site and two wide-beam and two narrowboats afloat on the canal.  As at the Crick Boat Show, both ABC Leisure Group and BC Boat Management were exhibiting extremely good versions of their shared ownership products.

Both wide beam boats came from the same stable, the Aqualine brand at the New & Used Boat Company.  A well appointed one shown by the company itself and a quite outstandingly fitted out and equipped hotel boat, Kailani, exhibited by its new owners.  Kailani – which won the Lionel Munk Award for the best commercial boat at the event – will transport just four passengers in comfort for holidays on the wide waterways of southern England.

As usual, over 300 volunteers worked really hard to mount this festival.  One must ask would they be better employed on some other aspect of waterway campaigning?  It is time that IWA took a long hard, business-like, look at the event’s future.  Especially with the 2014 commitment to celebrate the twin anniversaries of two of probably it’s greatest restoration achievements at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Thanks to theHarry Arnold and Waterways Images for some of content and images.

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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