Fears over Canalival flotilla following last year's trail of destruction
PUBLISHED: 12:29 30 May 2014
Police and the Canals Trust have warned would-be sailors not to launch their dinghies in the Regent's Canal this weekend for a sequel to the Canalival, after last year's chaotic carnival spiralled out of control, leaving a trail of environmental destruction in its wake.
Last June Canalival organisers made a last minute bid to cancel the planned event, when its popularity spiralled out of control and 9,000 revellers signed up online to take part.
Most of them still turned up however, with one participant, student Tristan White, stating on the event’s official Facebook page: “It’s not yours to cancel. This is a people’s festival.”
Accompanied by noisy sound systems and drinking alcohol of thousands of boozy revellers travelled from Shoreditch Park to London Fields, using communal gardens as makeshift toilets along the way, destroying wildlife habitats and nests, and leaving litter, punctured dinghies and broken glass in the water and strewn across tow paths.
The idea had sprung up from 2012’s alternative Diamond Jubilee quirky 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 with stewards, lifeguards, portaloos and post-event cleaners.
But the Canal and River Trust, which owns the waterway, raised “serious concerns” about inadequate planning, and when it became clear how many people planned to turn up police refused an application for a licence to sell alcohol, meaning the Canalival organisers were unable to secure insurance.
Locals now fear a repeat of last year’s alcohol-fuelled unlicensed festival, after a now-deleted Facebook page was set up proposing a time and place.
The Canal and River Trust has warned any event would be unauthorised and its organisers would be rendered liable 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.
They plan to put fencing up along a stretch of the canal, and to join forces with the police to prevent people from getting on the water.
Hackney MPS tweeted this week: “The message from @CanalRiverTrust is fairly unequivocal - they won’t be allowing #canalival - we will be there to support them.”
Boat owners have also threatened to blockade the canal to prevent a flotilla from passing through.
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 this weekend.
“The idea has obviously spread, and it’s a funny one, because this is fundamentally a very simple idea about getting on boats on the canal and having fun, which people have always been entitled to do,” he said.
“Sitting as it does in a funny kind of legal and regulatory penumbra, it’s not something that can be regulated in a local authority in the way a local park can, in terms of noise, and that combined with the simple physical legality creates a funny kind of situation.”
He continued: “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.”