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Would-be Canalival revellers heed police warnings

PUBLISHED: 11:37 02 June 2014 | UPDATED: 10:02 03 June 2014

A lone dinghy in Haggerston on Saturday. Photo Ian Shacklock, Friends of Regents Canal.

A lone dinghy in Haggerston on Saturday. Photo Ian Shacklock, Friends of Regents Canal.

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Would-be revellers heeded warnings not to launch their dinghies in the Regent’s Canal at the weekend for a sequel to Canalival, which had left a trail of environmental destruction in its wake last year.

Riot police van parked up near Branch Place, case of any trouble. Photo Ian Shacklock, Friends of Regents Canal.Riot police van parked up near Branch Place, case of any trouble. Photo Ian Shacklock, Friends of Regents Canal.

Organisers of a licensed Canalival event made a last minute bid to cancel it in June 2013, when its popularity spiralled out of control and 9,000 revellers signed up online to take part.

But boozy revellers turned up anyway and, accompanied by noisy sound systems and fuelled by alcohol, they travelled down the canal from Shoreditch Park to London Fields.

They used communal gardens as makeshift toilets along the way, destroyed wildlife habitats and nests, and left litter, punctured dinghies and broken glass in the water and strewn across tow paths.

The Canal and River Trust feared a raucous repeat could happen again this year, after a Facebook page was set up proposing a time and place on Saturday.

A lone dinghy near the City Road basin. Photo Ian Shacklock, Friends of Regents Canal.A lone dinghy near the City Road basin. Photo Ian Shacklock, Friends of Regents Canal.

Supported by the police, it warned fencing would be put up along the canal, and would render any organisers responsible for public liability.

“We’re all for people having a good time by the canal, as long as it’s safe and doesn’t have a negative impact on others,” it said in a statement.

Police vans were on hand near Shoreditch Park and London Fields, and the marine unit was in the water, with police on foot patrolling the canalside

The Canal in Hackney User Group used a narrowboat to block off the entrance to the Kingsland Basin to protect the swans and cygnets sheltering there.

View of Canalival from Met Police helicopterView of Canalival from Met Police helicopter

The idea for Canalival sprung up from 2012’s alternative Diamond Jubilee pageant, the Jubilegal, which saw hundreds of royally-dressed partygoers sail the same route.

Organisers and Hackney residents, Chris Gourlay, his sister Hannah and her boyfriend Mike O’Shea had hoped to transform the popular concept into a fully blown event last year with stewards, lifeguards, portaloos and post-event cleaners.

Mr Gourlay, who was “gutted” at the way things turned out last year, made it clear he did not condone attendance at any unlicensed event last weekend.

He said: “I understand both sides, I understand the concerns of residents about litter and so on.

“Unfortunately it’s got into a situation where that’s become a bit untenable and it’s stuck between a position between a proper regulatory tidy version which can occur with the support of the authority, and that people want to do this regardless and go out and have fun. It’s turned into a classic fight.

“There’s obviously a job to be done to get the thing back into a state that could command the respect of the authority, I just don’t have the time to do it.”

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