Stratford prepares for 11th River Festival

Picture by Dave Fawbert

Boat-lovers and landlubbers alike will be treated to a spectacular nautical sight at Stratford River Festival this weekend when more than 100 striking boats adorn the banks.

Avon Navigation Trust, organisers of the river during the festival, are full to capacity, with a huge selection of eye-catching narrow boats, wide boats, tugs and more will be on display throughout the weekend.

Visitors have the chance to win a free boat trip when they vote for their favourite in the Best Boat Competition.

This year, scores of vintage Russell Newbery engine enthusiasts chose to hold their annual rally in Stratford upon Avon for the very first time, to coincide with the festival.

Avon Navigation Trust Engineering Director Roger Clay said: “The boats bring another dimension to the festival. People are fascinated by them and love looking at them and talking to people who live, or spend a good deal of their time, on boats. They want to know what life is like on the waterways.

“In terms of water-based festivals, the River Festival is probably the most popular and has the biggest attendance. The location is a major draw, and the fact that there’s a prime tourist town within walking distance.”

Boat owner and Russell Newbery rally organiser Andrew Laycock : “As a veteran river festival visitor myself, I know how fantastic the event is and how big the crowds get. It has such a unique atmosphere, so laid back, with such a range of good food and of course good music.”

Tens of thousands of visitors are expected to descend upon the town this weekend to enjoy a weekend of live music, family activities, food & drink.

The two-day festival, now in its 11th year, boasts 92 stalls offering some of the best food and drink the town has to offer, as well as an artisan craft market, and stalls promoting charities and local businesses.

An eclectic mix of local musical talent will entertain the crowds at the bandstand and the acoustic tent again this year, catering for lovers of soul, ska, jazz, Motown, folk, rock and more.

Saturday’s entertainment will, culminate with the festival’s spectacular fireworks display, for the first time presented by the team responsible for the stunning display at the London Olympics.

Festive fun isn’t confined to the river banks, with activities spilling into the town at Bell Court with a Beside the Seaside themed free face painting & live music.

“The River Festival only takes place thanks to the fantastic 420 Stratford town centre businesses who fund this popular special event.” said Stratforward Marketing & Events Manager, Tor Wilkes. The River Festival gives visitors a brilliant opportunity to soak up Stratford’s hospitality and the atmosphere of Stratford’s bustling town, its many independent shops, high street stores, restaurants, cafés and bars.

The River Festival is organised by Stratforward BID, which works to support businesses in the town.