Food and stallholders desert IWA Festival debacle

Published: Thursday, 29 August 2019

MY WIFE and I attended the Inland Waterways Association Festival of Water, last Sunday, writes David Probett.

With one exception, the Festival appeared to be very well organised, as usual.

From talking to stall-holders, local IWA personnel and members of the public, it appears that, despite the efforts of local IWA volunteers, ‘Head Office’ took their eye off the ball and failed to advertise the event properly.

Hardly any other publicity

Apart from a few mentions in their own Facebook group, we saw hardly any other publicity.

From conversations, it appears that HO treated the event as a ‘local’ Hertfordshire event, paying little attention to the nearby residents of (West) Essex and none at all to the 15 million residents of London.

No interviews with journalists, nothing in the local newspaper group, nothing in the newspapers, the London Evening Standard, nor the Metro.

Stumbled upon it by chance

Locals whom we met seemed to have visited the park and stumbled upon the event ‘by chance’. They seemed amazed and delighted.

We understand that some of the stallholders approached the ‘management’ on the Saturday evening about the situation and sought stall fee reductions, but were rebuffed.

Consequently, some left that evening.

Convoy of food retailers left the site

Things were so poor that, around 18:15 on the Sunday, a convoy of the major food retailers left the site.

The effect of this was that when boaters emerged from their boats for their traditional fish & chips, prior to the evening’s entertainment and the Illuminated Boat Convoy, they were astonished to find approximately two much smaller, but excellent, food stands only too keen to serve them.

During the evening events, we could see no sign of ‘Security’ and no-one appeared to be checking wristbands upon entry to the site/marquee. Hopefully, to comply with the terms of the alcohol licence, the bar staff were keeping watch for wristbands.

Lovely Festival marred by few visitors

All in all, it was a lovely Festival marred by very few visitors, certainly not by members of the public.The hot weather may have deterred a few casual visitors; my phone app registered 91F on the field at its height.

It seems as if the IWA failed to prioritise this event at national level. The organisers did excellently at local level but were hamstrung.

Such a difference to the previous two Festivals at Ilkeston and St Neots. The next Festival is supposed to be at Worcester. I don’t know whether to bother going.