Thursday, August 18, 2022

Robert Aickman meets Market Harborough Urban District Council

Robert Aickman is celebrated by discerning readers as one of the modern masters of the uncanny. But he was also one of the pioneers of the revival of Britain's canals, becoming the first chairman of the Inland Waterways Association in 1946.

In 1950 the IWA held its first national rally, billed as a "Festival of Boats and Arts", on the Market Harborough arm of the Grand Union Canal. It attracted 120 boats and more than 50,000 visitors.

There was no national rally in 1951, but a story in the Leicester Mail (8 January 1952) shows that the IWA was hoping to hold one in Market Harborough in 1952:

Harboro' £300 appeal to secure water rally

A public appeal is being launched in Market Harborough today for £300 - the amount required to ensure that the Inland Waterways Association's rally and festival is held on the local canal this summer. 

The association last month asked the urban council for financial support, but the council has decided they could not go beyond making a public services [sic] available at the canal and helping to pay for advertising and publicity.

Mr R.P. Aickman, founder member of the association, told members of the council's Publicity Committee yesterday that unless the association received aid to the extent of £300 the rally could not be held In Harborough. 

The association wanted to know by the end of the month whether the money would be forthcoming. 

Coun. C.E.C. Vecqueray, member of the Publicity Committee and also of the Waterways Association, told The Evening Mail, "I consider the 1949 [sic] Festival was the best publicity Harborough has ever had." 

Meantime the public appeal in Harborough and district was launched today.

It seems the appeal failed, because there was not another IWA Festival until 1953, when it was held in Macclesfield.

I was surprised, incidentally, that the old urban district council had a publicity committee. There was nothing like that when I was elected to Harborough District Council in 1986. though we did take some tentative steps towards promoting the district while I was a member.

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