Reading or Middlewich? The decision was easy and I had a pleasant drive up to Middlewich taking the long way round to avoid the Silverstone traffic on this British Grand Prix weekend.
I won’t attempt to write a review of the festival as I didn’t go to see any particular band, and anyway the main acts take place in the town centre, away from the canal. However I did find the “Fringe” to be worth going for on its own – so many pubs put on a full program of free music anyway, not to mention numerous Morris Dancers and ad-hoc sessions, that the whole town was alive with music regardless of the main stages.
The boats take second place to the music, as this is really a music rather than a boaters festival but there was still a good turn out and lots to see for the visiting public. The number of trading boats was particularly high.. The Cheese Boat, The Fudge Boat, Teila the floating shop, Mountbatten and Jellicoe, Constance Irene to name but a few. The only problem, if that is the right word, is that with such a lot of trading boats (many of whom arrived up to two weeks ago and remained on 48 hour moorings throughout) there is no room for more than half a dozen visiting boats which mostly had to remain above the Kings Lock or below Big Lock. Mmmhh….
The working boats on display included Saturn, Gifford, Sweden – of Middlewich ancestry, Shad, Thea, Anne, Bittell and Lindsay all looking very well turned out but sadly static, unlike say Braunston where this weekend coming there will be an ever moving carousel of boats.
In fact Middlewich through the day was comparatively devoid of passing boats – some crept through at first light and some braved the daytime crowds, but on a good day a hundred or more boats can pass through town and I would estimate only twenty or thirty came through today.
Back at Big Lock, where Zulu lives, was a major hive of activity around the newly redecorated pub. Several bands played on the stage, as always located on the other side of the lock, while the Trent and Mersey Canal Society manned the lock throughout the weekend. It was a pleasure to see that despite the dreaded words “health and safety” , the event still went ahead without anyone even being remotely in danger, or being forced to protect us from the lock with fencing or worse.
The sun shone for at least some of the time, and the rain mostly held off, making it a very pleasant weekend for wandering around from pub to pub taking in the atmosphere and I would certainly say it makes a very nice day out.
Middlewich so badly needs events like this to boost its image. The Middlewich Guardian local paper churns out headline after headline relating to graffeti, stabbings, broken windows, dog poo, fights, robbery, car crime, accidents, the Incinerator, Tesco and so forth. It paints a hugely negative view of the town. So did they promote the festival atmosphere to compensate? Sadly not. They carried a small online article just before the event and then nothing. Come on guys – this is the biggest event of the year and you should be talking it up big time!!
UPDATE 29 JUNE
OK so the Middlewich Guardian finally wrote Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival hailed a great success on the Wednesday, followed by the more predicatable Five arrests for disorder at Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival on the Friday. I think this means it was an official success.
Reading on the other hand promoted the Waterfest to the fullest, with posters and banners all around the town and the local paper will print a souvenir this week. Meanwhile the Mayor can be seen online, presenting the best dressed boat award and generally writing up a very good report of the event, the twentieth Waterfest since the reopening of the Kennet and Avon in 1990. I’m still glad I drove 400 miles rather than staying local though.
Finally I was not the only blogger there.
Narrowboat Starcross wrote a very well written and objective report. Its interesting to see what a visitor to the town observed – see their article At Middlewich Festival .