13 September 2023

IWA returned to Pelsall this year for the first time since 2016. We welcomed visitors to our annual Festival of Water which was held at Pelsall North Common over the August Bank Holiday weekend. The event attracted many hundreds of visitors throughout the weekend and was especially popular amongst families. Children enjoyed a range of activities – from having a go at driving a digger to testing their skills in the Arena with Giant Jenga, Connect 4, football and tug of war! Visitors didn’t go hungry, with an incredible choice of food and refreshments available including stone-baked pizzas, gourmet burgers, Caribbean street food and ice cream. Plenty of traders attended the festival, with numerous stalls selling everything from toys and books to marine engine parts, pet portraits, jams, chutneys, cookies and even bonsai trees. There were a number of charity stalls too with many promoting specific restoration projects in the local area and beyond including the Birmingham Canal Navigation Society (BCNS), Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust (LHCRT), and the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust.

The bar served a fantastic choice of beverages including ciders and ales. Trade was steady throughout the weekend and was spurred on by a good turnout for the Open Mic Variety Show and a superb programme of entertainment. There was never a dull moment in the Entertainments Marquee where local artistes and festival favourites performed including Miles & Margaret, The Buskateers, and Reflections.

Over 70 boats – from traditional working boats to modern narrowboats – all adorned with bunting, banners and flags – were moored on the Wyrley and Essington Canal in Pelsall. The variety and sheer volume of boats attracted a great deal of interest while the static Illuminated Boat Display proved very popular as festivalgoers enjoyed strolling along the towpath on Sunday evening to admire the vibrant spectacle.

Councillor Chris Towe, Mayor of Walsall, opened the festival on Saturday, saying how delighted he was to open the event and thanked the Inland Waterways Association for returning to Pelsall, remarking “what better a location than the Wyrley and Essington Canal”. The Mayor went on to explain how the canal is a valuable asset to the local community, having been there for 230 years.

Wendy Morton, MP for Aldridge-Brownhills, also attended the Opening Ceremony. She welcomed everybody to Pelsall and hoped that they would have a great time as visitors did back when the event took place in 2016. She continued, “I know how important our canals are to us, not just in Pelsall and in Walsall but right across the Black Country and the West Midlands. Once a key part of our industrial heritage, they are now part of our local communities. We see them playing a part in the restoration of many of our local towns as well.”

Later on in the weekend, Jane Elwell, Chair of the organising committee, said: “We have between 70 and 80 boats here, all of whom have booked to come to the festival, including eight boat traders. There are also about 60 camping pitches.

“It has been a successful event. I think there would have been bigger crowds if the weather had stayed fine but that’s always the problem.”

At the Awards Ceremony on Monday afternoon four awards were presented:

  • Best picture coloured by a child aged 4 – 8 years was awarded to Alice
  • Best picture coloured by a child aged 9-13 years was awarded to Issy Patrick
  • The Ray Dunford Trophy for the best illuminated/decorated boat was awarded to Terry Smith for his narrowboat Moranwyl Phyllis, with commendations going to Bob and Mary Metcalf of Chedoona
  • The Offley and Slack Propellor Trophy, for the highest number of boats attending the festival, was awarded to the Boaters’ Christian Fellowship, with 14 boats

Thank you to everyone who attended Festival of Water 2023.

We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and will look forward to seeing you again next year!