End of the 'National'

Published: Saturday, 19 October 2013

THE continued poor performances of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) National Waterways Festival, known as the 'National' has forced the association to end the event.

There have been around 60 such events since its first one at Market Harborough in 1950, but the one at Autherley Junction in 2008 marked its decline followed by one at Red Hill on the Soar (pictured) the following year, both recording a loss in revenue and dwindling support from both exhibitors and visitors.

£40,000 loss

The official announcement is that there will be no 'National' next year, but with the one at Watford this year leaving the association with a loss of over £40,000, it is accepted that there will be no more such events.

Year upon year there have been dwindling attendances, as the recession bites and less income from exhibitors as many cease trading.  Then of course there is always the vagary of the English weather, as shown in the picture below at the 'National' at Burton, where it was impossible to bring boats onto the showground.

The official statement from the association tells us '[it has] decided against planning festivals of this type for the foreseeable future, as the financial risks for the Association are too great'. Instead, like many other associations, it will take space at the established events, such as the Crick Boat Show.

Falling membership

The IWA can no longer afford such losses, as income from membership is also falling, as from its heyday of over 27,000 members, by 2005 it had plummeted to 17,000.

Since then, figures have not been published, but it is thought that the fiasco of the association hijacking the only four boaters' places on the new Canal & River Trust, did it immense harm, with members telling us they objected to such a cavalier attitude, and not renewing membership.