This is a great event whether you are a boater, a family, or just appreciate canals and rivers…..

Stratford River Festival 2012 River View

View east across River Avon from town side

The two day annual event, 30 June and 1 July 2012, is a showcase for the historic town of 23,000 inhabitants.

Does Stratford need this attraction being world famous because of its Shakespeare history? Well yes. Visitor numbers have been falling in recent year (as elsewhere in the UK). This is partly due the declining tourist trade but also because, when viewed from afar, there are not that many reasons to make the trip off the beaten track with poor rail connection. I visit about twice a year and have found it less busy of late.

Visitors find a welcoming and well maintained and pleasing urban place. They are relaxed in the atmosphere of a river and canal, parks and gardens, ancient buildings, the Royal Shakespeare theatre and abundant  history.

So, the River Festival adds grist to Stratford’s mill, and in no short measure, if only for two days. Perhaps they should add other events like the now ubiquitous but very popular Food Fair.

This is no superficial marketing exercise. It is a thoroughly thought out event of much substance and socially deep in who it reaches out to. Around every corner of the event and town centre something new is happening before you can even begin to get bored. The spectacle is always colourful and contrasts well with both the greenery of the riverside park as well as the ancient red brick architecture of the town centre and its famous Shakespearean buildings.

Given fair weather, which every outdoor event needs, this is a splendidly enjoyable way to spend a day or two if you have your own boat.

Hopefully my slideshow will convey the atmosphere and spectacle and I recommend a visit next year.