Canalival - 1st June 2013

On Saturday 1st June, at around midday, a seemingly sponteneous event kicked off on the Regent's Canal. Thousands descended to Hackney equipped with inflatable dinghies and they partied into the night. Regular canal supporters (such as the IWA and Friends of Regent's Canal) knew nothing about this event until it was underway or over. There were no posters, no planning applications, no council notices; it was organised online. The Canal and River Trust must have known about it, because they had refused to support it in its proposed form, but their decision was not circulated to the people who were likely to be affected.

With hindsight, if we had known about this in advance, then we would have lobbied the authorities to enforce their decision. They had two options - to support it or prevent it. Unfortunately, no preventive action was taken and a lot of effort was spent trying to rectify the damage.

There needs to be a post mortem, to find out how this was organised, whether a similar type of event could - or should - happen again, the reasons why it was cancelled, the timeframes for organising and cancelling it, the capabilities of the police or enforcement staff to intervene, the existing laws for licensing unpowered vessels on the canal, and so on.

There were good and bad features during this event. It was very colourful, and at first most passers-by thought it was an impressive spectacle providing a lot of harmless fun. But it was uncontrolled and it caused distress to residents, regular towpath and canal users.

Opinions are divided on whether anything like this should ever happen again. The Evening Standard has published a range of comments and these are available below. Some people might think it should be repeated in exactly the same way next year and their stance is that the litter and nuisance is irrelevant. Some might think that the canal is unsuitable for any type of event involving large numbers of dinghies, regardless of the controls in place. Others believe that the concept of a floating carnival is a good one, provided that it is organised and stewarded properly. So one of the questions we should be asking ourselves is "what would it take to allow a family-friendly carnival to take place on the canal that both promotes and protects the canal and its environment?"

Please click on the links/buttons below to see images of the event, news reports and other comments.

Photographs of the event

Promotional Material

Letters in the Press

Stories in the Evening-Standard

Story in Waterways World

If you want to comment on any of this, then please send an e-mail to

If you want to join in a more interactive discussion, then please visit the following social media sites:-

Return to home page