Saturday was fun – we had a booking to take a private party all the way from Little Venice to Broadway Market which is usually a three to four hour one way cruise. I wasn’t very happy to discover Canalival was being promoted on the same day, but as the organisers cancelled the event, we set off from Little Venice with absolutely no idea what to expect on the way.
We almost made it – there were few signs of what was to come up here in Little Venice apart from an early morning arrival of a solitary inflatable boat whose occupants had misjudged the location and had no idea that the Regents Canal extends beyond Maida Vale.
It was a gorgeous day too – at last the nice weather has arrived and it wasn’t long before we were working down the Camden locks amongst the crowds and made very god time, without any delays.
When we got to Angel though, people started running up to the boat to ask if we were really going any further…. “You do know whats going on down there…” or words to that effect but we managed to pass through Sturts Lock without any problems. Beyond Sturts is Gainsborough Studios, the starting point for the Canalival and everything was pretty quiet apart from the mess on the towpath which looked like a mobile festival had swept through like a tornado. Suddenly the canal was full of balloons and bags, and the towpath looked like a bin van had burst open as it drove past.
As we turned the next corner we were catching up with the tail end of the Canalival, which to be fair to most of the people, was exactly what they had hoped for – a floating party on the water – bring a boat and some drinks and drift along. But the whole thing fell apart when the necessary arrangements to take care of everyones toilet needs, rubbish disposal and general well being were totally absent, so desperate for the loo, any piece of canalside land became a public toilet, and as they bumped and crashed along the canal the boats dislodged our nesting birds and produced a tsunami of discarded inflatable boats and toys which washed up all along the canal, with an ever growing mountain of bottles and cans at every possible place on the towpath.
We had to stop before we reached the first of the boats, as very soon the whole canal was filled side to side with literally hundreds of boats, if not thousands. Our passengers were very forgiving and happily continued the rest of their journey by foot, but even the towpath was almost impassable and quite dangerous with simply too many people, and I have to question whether the bottle which fell at my feet from a balcony above was accidental. If this was what it was like at 6pm then I didn’t fancy hanging around a minute longer.
The party apparently went on until the next morning, with a sterling effort by volunteers to clean up the mess, which lasted all Sunday. What didn’t get cleared up though was how this was allowed to happen. Did Canal and River Trust make it all the worse by discouraging and eventually forcing the organisers to cancel? Do the locals who live along the canal distinguish between genuine boaters and this flash mob internet powered party goers who have no interest in the canals other than somewhere new to party?
If organised properly this could have been a damned good promotion for the waterways, but as it stands I guess more harm has been done than good and if it ever is mentioned that this could become a regular event Im sure there will now be a lot of opposition. But then will that stop them? We often see police at Camden stopping casual drinking on the canal-side, involving two or three people. The most disappointing thing for me is that given a little freedom to continue this party the participants simply don’t know how to behave and fuelled by more and more drink the whole thing spiralled out of control.
So for a properly organised floating party I hope you know exactly where to come – Lady A of course! Bring your friends, food, drinks in moderation and music and hire Lady A from £240 for a two hour private cruise and enjoy the canals for what they can offer without destroying the environment or your reputation.