Attracting 25,000 people to The Waterways Festival

Client: Inland Waterways Association
Focus: Attracting 25,000 people to The Waterways Festival



The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) has held a national festival for over six decades and in recent years it had suffered due to low attendance numbers. The IWA appointed FCM to promote the festival which took place in the brewing town of Burton upon Trent.

The overall goal was to attract 25,000 people to the event with a particular request to generate media coverage outside the boating community e.g. families, reaching local and regional media as well as the leisure sector.


Appointed following a competitive pitch, just six months before the event, the FCM team quickly devised a PR strategy to reach the specialist audiences required. There were specific key messages which the IWA wished to communicate and these were used consistently across the campaign.

The event is held at a different location every year so particular priority was given to building local awareness of the event, build excitement and get local people involved.

The annual event is run by 300 volunteers and FCM used this network of keen enthusiasts to build a pool of stories.

We also built productive relationships with the North London IWA head office PR and marketing team. Regular meetings were held with the commercial team and FCM created an onsite press office at the event too


The volume of coverage FCM generated for The Waterways Festival was unprecedented in the festival’s 60 year history and attracted the desired 25,000 visitors.

Figures from The IWA conclude:

  • Approaching 25,000 visitors attended the event over the three day period.
  • 360 boats moored along the Trent and Mersey canal – stretching 1.5 miles in either direction of the festival site.
  • A record breaking 28 historic boats were on show.
  • 350 camping units stayed on-site.
  • 300+ volunteers were involved in staging the festival.
  • Almost 250 organisations exhibited – ranging from boat builders to local craftspeople.

Media coverage included:

  • Over 100 pre-event editorial articles (not paid for) promoted The Waterways Festival and that Burton upon Trent was hosting the event.
  • BBC Radio Derby presented its afternoon show live from the event.
  • ITV Central presented the weather offering scenic views of Burton upon Trent.
  • BBC Radio 4 covered the event in news and BBC TV filmed at the event.
  • The boating trade press ran significant post event features.
  • w


    As chairman of The Waterways Festival, I cannot praise enough the splendid work done in promoting and publicising the event. I appreciate the time and effort involved in the promotion of this year’s Burton based festival. 


    Harry Arnold MBE