The Independent London Newspaper
10th December 2018

'The motorway of its day' celebrates its 200th anniversary with the Regent's Canal Festival

    A Thomas Shepherd print showing the two locks at City Road

    A Thomas Shepherd print showing the two locks at City Road

    Another Shepherd print from about 1826, showing Regent’s Canal Lock
    Del Brenner

    Del Brenner

    Published: 12 July, 2012

    IT would take eight years to build, cost an estimated £32,000,000 by today’s standards and suffered from criminal embezzlement.

    But on July 13, 1812, The Regent’s Canal Act was finally passed by Parliament, and construction began.

    Exactly 200 years later a three-day festival filled with more than 100 artists, musicians and performers will kick off tomorrow (Friday) to celebrate the history of the founding of what became one of the busiest waterways in London.

    At strategic points on the canal in Camden, King’s Cross, Little Venice, Angel, City Road Basin, Broadway Market and Mile End, The Regent’s Canal Festival will feature a myriad of events including an opera of the canal’s history, a Guinness World Record attempt at sailing the largest origami Armada fleet (made out of 36,000 pieces of paper), a recreation of Venice complete with gondolas, and giant sculptures created out of waste fished from the depths of the canal itself.

    Visitors will also get the chance to travel inside the Islington Tunnel by boat to watch a moving image history projected onto the brick walls.
    Festival organiser Kleber Ruiz said the event would “celebrate a story long forgotten.”

    Today the banks are lined with luxury flats, offices, million-pound homes and the MTV studios.

    But from 1820, when it was finally opened, until the 1960s, when the last commercial loads passed through, it was a vital link for trading – connecting to the Grand Union Canal, Limehouse Basin and the Thames.

    Designed by Regent’s Park architect John Nash it cost £772,000 to build – twice the original estimate – and was plagued by problems, including its original proposer, Thomas Homer, siphoning off funds.

    Del Brenner, of the London Waterways Commission and Friends of Regent’s Canal, added: “The building of the canal had a huge impact on London and we are extremely proud of it.

    "It was the equivalent of building a huge motorway and is part of the reason north London expanded the way it did and became so affluent.

    “We hope people will come down to the festival and celebrate a very important part of our history.”

    The three-day Regent's Canal Festival

    Friday July 13

    A PREVIEW of folk opera Regent’s Canal will be performed by Musical Flying Squad and London Irish Theatre at the London Canal Museum at 7.30 pm. Tickets cost £6 and early booking is advised.

    There will be guided walks around Camden Town by the Canal Museum. Booking required.

    Saturday July 14 and Sunday July 15

    SAIL in a gondola with on-board musicians from noon-10pm in Little Venice (tickets cost £13, booking required) before browsing an Italian food market filled with troubadours and The Puppet Theatre.

    Tales from the Tunnel – an audio-visual chronology of the canal’s history – will be played from a boat inside Islington Tunnel at 6pm on Saturday and from 2-6pm on Sunday (tickets cost £7, booking required).

    Art workshops run by Pieces for Peace will take place on the canal, near the City Road Basin.

    Volunteers are being encouraged to help create a 36,000 piece “origami Armada” from noon-6pm on Saturday to float down the canal from the City Road Basin at around 5pm on Sunday.

    It will represent an attempt to break the world record.

    On Saturday, on the towpath near Broadway Market, artists will be creating works for sale.

    On Saturday evening, at 9pm, a surprise film will be screened in the open air at The Art Pavilion.

    There will be dance and music from noon-9pm in Mile End Park on Saturday and Sunday.

    Sculptures of a duck, fish and bear created from materials found in the canal will be on display at various locations along the canal all weekend.

    • Full details at The Regent’s Canal Festival and tickets in advance at and



    I went to this Festival on Saturday evening to help out a friend who was presenting a dance piece in front of the Art Pavilion at Mile End Park . I was really dissatisfied by the organisation of the event and even more by the unacceptable behavior of the organizers and the PI personel. The last band that was playing was invited to play for 45 min but was only allowed to play for 10 min and the members of the group were told off by the PI because they expressed their disappointment. As for the organizers, they were not even there! Very disrespectful behavior towards artists that go there to present their work for free!

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