Islington Green: Thank Crystal for our canal

Angel Canal Festival earlier this month. Picture: SJORNA ASHBY/KIM GILL

Angel Canal Festival earlier this month. Picture: SJORNA ASHBY/KIM GILL - Credit: Archant

Do you ever visit Islington’s bit of canal?

This long hot summer, the towpath and sit spots around City Road Lock have been busy with people drawn to the water.

Regent’s Canal is only a few minutes’ walk from Angel Tube, yet feels a globe away. Even on your own there’s plenty to enjoy – barges, Hanover Primary School’s garden, the six-cygnet swan family or the peaceful splash of a passing paddleboarder.

Back in the 1960s, the British Waterways Board proposed filling the then unloved City Road Basin with housing. And they’d have done it, too, if it weren’t for Islington resident Crystal Hale’s formidable vision.

When journalist Crystal Hale moved to Noel Road, her dream was to transform the area into an adventure paradise for children.

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Crystal convinced locals to get behind the campaign; in her 1999 Guardian obituary she’s called the “god-earth mother of the Islington chattering classes”.

Working together, the community saved City Road Basin from infill, so it’s now one of Islington’s biggest open spaces.

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Crystal also set up two fab organisations that still get people on to the water: Islington Boat Club (which has taught three generations of kids to kayak) and the Angel Community Canal Boat Trust.

Angel Canal Festival is just one enjoyable day a year – so here’s to the people who got behind Crystal Hale’s “save the canal” campaign, which gives us all – whatever our age – a chance to relax by the water any day we want.

What a great example of people power.

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