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Angel Canal Festival ‘could close’ after 31 years

PUBLISHED: 15:22 02 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:53 05 June 2017

The Angel Canal Festival in 2013. Picture: Dieter Perry

The Angel Canal Festival in 2013. Picture: Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

Angel Canal Festival needs fresh blood – or it could face closure.

Outgoing Angel Canal Festival organisers Beryl Windsor and Sasha Mears. Picture: Beryl Windsor Outgoing Angel Canal Festival organisers Beryl Windsor and Sasha Mears. Picture: Beryl Windsor

That’s the message from Beryl Windsor, who is stepping down as lead organiser this year after suffering health problems.

The popular free festival celebrates the heritage of the Regent’s Canal. It takes place in the City Road Basin on the first Sunday of every September and attracted 6,000 at its 30th anniversary event last year.

But Beryl, 78, was in hospital for 10 days over December – and her colleague Sasha Mears has already stepped down after open heart surgery last year.

They had both led the organising committee since 1999. Beryl said: “I don’t know what’s going to happen beyond this year, and that’s the awful thing.

“I should have sorted this [found a successor] a long time ago. The problem is the committee is largely made up of St Pancras Boating Club members, who are either young and too busy with full-time jobs, or older and too busy with other things.

“So we need someone to take over as main organiser.

“Sasha was really upset to step down. But she nearly died, so to be alive at all is great news. It’s going to be a wrench for me, but I had an ultimatum from my family after my health problems at Christmas.”

Beryl said the worst case scenario is the festival not continuing beyond this year.

“That would be a huge loss to Islington,” she added. “It’s one of the longest continuously-running events in Islington and shows off the best of our canal, which has had a nasty reputation in the past for being dodgy.

“But this festival brings people together, from the Boris Johnson end with posh houses to those in sheltered accommodation at the other end. Last year, I asked a 12-year-old boy what he thought of it as a 12-year-old boy is always going to say what he thinks. He said it was really good as it was the first time he’d ever met his neighbours.”

Beryl even weighed in on Islington’s moped crime epidemic: “It’s a really carefree day, and crime is extremely rare. There’s no way these moped riders can snatch phones there, as there are too many people.”

The 31st Angel Canal Festival takes place on September 3. Visit angelcanalfestival.org for information on volunteering.

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