Angel Fest

A light mist hung over the water, the sun breaking through to reflect on the glass-clad, high-rise buildings overlooking the Regent’s Canal. There’s an eerie feeling being in heart of the City in the early morning, walking beside a nineteenth century canal at odds with the modern, buildings that overshadow it.

The canal was built to link the Grand Union Canal with the Thames at Limehouse Basin. We stopped to watch the narrowboats manoeuvring into position, just as they would have done over 150 years ago.

Angel Fest
A selection of my books

I had booked a stall at The Angel Canal Festival, held at the City Road Basin in the heart of Islington, to sign and sell copies of my two books.

The Angel Canal Festival, (now in its 29th year) is a free event celebrating the culture and tradition of Britain and the canals. It was the brainchild of Crystal Hale in the 1980s who wanted to set up a fundraising event to buy a narrowboat to give city kids the opportunity to experience boat rides and to visit the countryside. The narrowboat was to be named ‘Angel’.

Angel Fest

The Angel

‘The Angel’ was a 16th century inn situated on the corner of the High Road and Pentonville Road in Islington. Named after The Angel of the Assumption, who appeared on the inn sign, the actual building has undergone several incarnations and is now used to house offices and a bank. However, the name has not been lost as there is now a pub called ‘The Angel’ on an adjacent site.

Angel Fest
Crowds milling

The Angel Canal Festival, like all festivals is a hub of lively activity, providing fun, games, food and frivolity. Islington, once a poor down-at-heel area, is now home to prominent writers, artists, musicians and even politicians. Here abject poverty exists alongside extreme wealth and the disenfranchised rub shoulders with the privileged.

Our first port of call when we arrived was to find our pitch. We were helped by the ‘Angels’ –volunteer boaters wearing red T-shirts who were on hand all day to give directions, help and advice.

And what lovely friendly people they were!

As a first-timer at the festival it would have been easy to have been overwhelmed by it, but they made everything seem easy and enjoyable. It was too early to start setting up, so, the next the order of the day was bacon butties all round from one of the burger vans.

Angel Fest
The birds of prey

We took a walk around the site and saw the birds of prey being set up ready for their display later in the day, bouncy castles being blown up and further on – donkeys!

Angel Fest
Donkey ride anyone?

Community is the heart of the festival and Angel Central sponsored The Seaside in the City with deckchairs, sand and a pirate ship on site. Youngsters from the Community Challenge handed out free programmes.

We found our site on the bridge overlooking the canal. This consisted of a long canopied table which we shared with another stallholder. We had fun laying out our tablecloth and setting up the books to display them to the best advantage.

Though I say it myself, our stall looked pretty good!

Before long all the stalls were set up and people began to arrive. I hadn’t been here before so I was a bit apprehensive. I needn’t have worried. The festival officially opened at 11.00 am. I’m delighted to say I sold my first book at 10.55 am. We were in a row of stalls between a lady selling beautifully decorated glass-wear, and one selling toys. An Ice Cream Van was parked at the end of the road.

Angel Fest
Enjoyment for all ages!

Soon the crowds began to arrive. It was great to see so many families out enjoying the day. Activities on offer included boat trips, donkey rides, arts and crafts and face painting. Events on the water included canoeing, sailings and boat handling competitions.

Angel Fest
Morris dancing in the streets

The sun shone, we ate ice cream and candyfloss and listened to the live music from the bands playing throughout the day. There were displays of Morris Dancing and street theatre. Where else would you see a man with a huge Brown Owl walking the streets?

Angel Fest

Pearly Kings and Queens

We were thrilled to see the Pearly Kings and Queens of Islington, and I got a chance to chat about books to a lovely lady, Councillor Kat Fletcher, the Deputy Mayor

It was lovely to meet so many book lovers and talk to them about what they liked to read. A constant stream of people passed our stall. We hardly stopped for lunch. The hours flew and we were quite sad to have to pack up at five, although I’m pleased to say that I sold a book at five past five, just as everyone was leaving.

Angel Fest
Musicians enjoying themselves in the sun

Looking back on the day what I remember most is the friendliness of the people, the colour, the lively entertainment, the fun we had and the beauty and tranquillity of the waterways in the heart of our city. Overall it was a brilliant day out and I’ll definitely be back next year.