Appointed as PR agency for the national waterways festival

Client: Inland Waterways Association
Focus: Outstanding national and regional media coverage


The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) held a national festival for more than six decades, but was struggling 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. We were tasked with reaching local and regional media, as well as the leisure sector, and attracting families to the festival.


  • FCM was appointed following a competitive pitch, just six months before the event. We quickly devised a PR strategy that aimed to reach the target audiences. Specific key messages, highlighted by IWA, were used consistently across the campaign.
  • Because the event was held at a different canal side city or town every year the main priority was to build awareness of the event locally, build excitement and get local people involved.
  • The annual event involves 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 on-site press office at the event.


  • 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.
  • More than 100 pre-event editorial articles (not paid for) promoted The Waterways Festival and the host town of Burton upon Trent.
  • 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; BBC TV filmed at the event; the boating trade press ran significant post event features.

Figures from The IWA conclude:

  • 25,000 visitors attended the three-day event.
  • 360 boats were 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.


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