Saturday, 20 June 2015

Longwood Canal Festival 2015

Longwood Canal Festival 2105
June 2015

We are trading at two festivals over successive weekends and as I type this account of the Longwood Festival the lyrics of "We're the kids in America" playing in the Norton Brewery next door mix with the distant beat of The Stones floating up from the stage opposite Big Lock. Yup, we are at Middlewich Folk and Boating (FAB) Festival, and what a contrast.

Longwood Boat Festival 2015

Middlewich is a huge, heaving music based festival attracting thousands to the town with its main stage and its many fringe stages which occupy every nook and cranny.

By contrast Longwood Boat Festival was a very homespun affair based around the small Longwood Boat Club which occupies the arm at the top of the Rushall Locks and numbers no more than 30 boats. There is not usually a lot of action out on the northern reaches of the BCN but every other year a festival takes place at Pelsall Common which serves the joint interests of the local boating community and the local population. 2015 was scheduled to be an "on" year but unfortunately the festival infrastructure has been allocated to the 200 year celebration of the Worcester Birmingham Canal, so Longwood Boat Club stepped up to the plate and decided to run their own gathering, the first time such an event has run for 13 years.

The Jam Butty in full sail at Longwood Boat gathering 2015

The Cotswold Cruising Club were touring the BCN with about a dozen boats and attended the event en mass, swelling the number of boats to about 35 and adding significantly to the vitality of the proceedings.

A crowded Longwood Boat Club

The field next to the club was leased, land based stall holders were invited, along with various attractions like vintage cars, a dog show, a canoe club and all was set fair - till the weather intervened. You cant predict the weather in a UK summer and the Saturday dawned dark and wet and a big blob of rain sat over Walsall all day and it rained unremittingly.

Atlas and Malus on dispaly

At any other event we would have thrown on the towel and just turned up on the Sunday but this is our home club and they had kindly given the Jam Butty the prime spot on the lock wing wall outside the club house. We had erected the gazebo over the boat on the Friday so decided to press on and play our part in giving the attendees something to see. And so we spent the day with the stall shrouded three sides looking something like a building under repair - but better that than no trade. Business wasn't exactly brisk but the final tally was as good as it gets by wet day standards. I cant say if this was a sympathy vote or just because we had a captive market as they ducked in out of the rain!

Swallow moored in the lock

By contrast Sunday was clear and fair and the residents of Aldridge flocked onto the site and the event heaved, redressing the balance from Saturday. The high point for me was the duck race.... This can be attributed to our position which afforded me a ducks eye view of the race with the little plastic creatures propelled by a mix of the raffle ticket sails on their backs and the flow into the lock.

The nail biting duck race!

It was also great to spend time with the local and visiting boaters who gathered each evening in the beer / entertainment tent. The entertainment was home grown and familiar, which all added to a distinctly chilled vibe. I was particularly pleased to spend time with Ivor who has a soft spot for The Jam Butty and spent an hour or so explaining the practicalities of horse boating which he had picked up from Chocolate Charlie. It all fascinating stuff and the evening ended with Ivor donating some self created decorative rope work which is now part of the Butty's best dress on show days.

Ivor's rope work

The event ended with a two hour run to Brownhills, ready for a big push on to the Shropshire Union and a four day journey to Middlewich.

The event may have been small, but it was perfectly formed and provided a memorable event which even the worst of the weather could not spoil.

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