AN ANNUAL celebration of one of Reading’s key waterways is marking its 30th anniversary with an amazing day of fun activities and entertainment this Saturday (June 15).
Water Fest has been highlighting the significance of the Kennet and Avon Canal in Reading for three decades and has become one of the most popular free events in the town’s calendar.
This year, visitors will be able to take in the sights and sounds of the festival, organised by Reading Borough Council with the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, as they wander around Forbury Gardens, Abbey Ruins, Chestnut Walk and Riverside Walk.
Following the official opening of the Abbey Ruins last June, a variety of musicians and dancers will be performing in this special place, including Reading Let’s Sing winners Reading Community Gospel Choir as well as traditional favourites such as Kennet Morris Men and Shinfield Shambles.
A team from Reading Museum will also be on hand to demonstrate how to stone carve and will be inviting passers-by to give it a try. Visitors might also bump into a few characters from the past, dressed in full replica costume, as they wander around Reading’s historic quarter.
The museum team will also be holding free fun drop-in sessions in the Forbury Gardens where Blue Collar Street Food will be staging Feastival with a great selection of food and drink from around the world.
Of course, the focus of Water Fest is the Kennet itself and there will be a display of more than 25 beautifully painted boats moored along the length of the site, trips on a traditional narrowboat and an extra special duck race.
A huge array of traders, charities and community organisations will line the Kennet. Visitors will have a chance to browse hand-crafted items such as jewellery, jams, prints and toys along Chestnut Walk.
Local charities and community groups will line Riverside Walk where musical entertainment will be provided by Big Al’s Jazzers. Entertainment is also being laid on at Bel and the Dragon where visitors will be able to catch the newest Kennet and Avon Canal Trust trip boat Matilda.
As always, children will be well catered for throughout the festival, with activities including the Abbey Historic Treasure Trail and Wild Art, Wild Workout and History Hike with Nature Nurture.
Cllr Karen Rowland, Lead Councillor for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said: “Reading’s waterways played a significant part in the development of the town and it is fabulous that we have consistently celebrated that fact for 30 years.
“Water Fest has become a hugely popular and much-loved event for the people of Reading and brings in visitors from miles around.
“With a magnificent programme of entertainment and activities lined up, there is no doubt we will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Water Fest in style.”
Entertainment in the Abbey Ruins starts at 11am with the last act on stage at 4.10pm.
We would like to thank Berkeley Homes, Prudential and Bel & the Dragon for helping make this year’s Water Fest possible.
Notes to Editors
History of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust
The Kennet and Avon Canal links the Thames at Reading with the sea at Bristol, 87 miles away. Originally built to carry freight, the canal declined in the face of competition from railways and roads. By the 1960s many of the locks were unusable and the waterway was being overgrown by weeds. Closure seemed probable but, thanks to voluntary fundraising and physical effort by the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust and their supporters, the canal was gradually restored. In 1990 through navigation was again possible along the whole canal and Her Majesty the Queen performed a reopening ceremony at Devizes where 29 locks take the waterway down a steep hill.
The Kennet and Avon Canal is now part of the national inland waterway system. The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust continues to campaign to maintain and improve the canal for quiet recreation by all kinds of visitors, whether on land or in boats, and to ensure a secure future for this wonderful waterway. The towpath is perfect for short strolls and longer walks and much of it is also part of National Cycle route 4. The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust also operates 4 trip boats on the canal, has visitor centres at Aldermaston and Newbury (plus 2 more further west) and runs the historic steam powered beam engines at Crofton, near Bedwyn, which can still pump water into the canal.
Please visit the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust stand at Reading Water Fest and/or our website www.katrust.org.uk for more details of ways to enjoy the Kennet and Avon Canal – Reading’s wonderful local waterway.