Thames Traditional Boat Festival back with 4 days of pure indulgence


Traditional Boat Festival back with 4-days of pure indulgence
The Thames Traditional Boat Festival is usually held in July but it will run over the late Summer Bank Holiday weekend this year

The popular event gets the ‘green light’ for 27 to 30 August at Henley-on-Thames. So put the dates in your diaries, polish up your vintage cars, children, dogs, even your boats!

The 42nd Thames Traditional Boat Festival – popularly known as ‘The Trad’ – will go ahead again this year following the lifting of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

“Finally, we can announce that the four day festival will take place after missing last year for the first time in 41 years because of the pandemic,” said festival co-chairman Lady Judy McAlpine, in a joint announcement with co-chairman Adam Toop.

The four-day festival – one more day than usual – will run over the late Summer Bank Holiday weekend, starting on Friday 27 August and ending on Bank Holiday Monday 30 August, on the picturesque Fawley Meadows at Henley-on-Thames.

The festival is usually held in July, but Lady Judy explained: “We have had to move it to the August Bank Holiday weekend because we are dependent on the Royal Regatta for the use of the Meadows.

“We have all fingers crossed that the weather will be kind and that no other events will be taking place in Henley that weekend to detract from our spectacular four-day festival of family fun, food, drink, music, shopping and antiques. Oh – and don’t forget the BOATS!

“We were very sad to miss 2020 because of the pandemic, but this year the event will be even bigger and better with plenty of special treats for visitors.”

About Thames Traditional Boat Festival

‘The Trad’ is the largest gathering of classic river craft in the world, and with the Dunkirk Little Ships dressed overall, they are a wonderfully picturesque sight, with vessels and owners primped and polished and itching to show off their beautiful craft.

And after they have shown off their boats, the participants can even enter their four-legged pets in the dog show events.

“We are expecting big crowds again, and the festival has grown over the past four decades to attract people from all over the world,” said Lady Judy.

“It will provide a quintessential English summer weekend by the river, with bars and street food including the Crooked Billet pop-up pub with great music to transform each evening into the best Bank Holiday party.”

The dates to remember

  • Friday 27 August – a ‘soft opening for the weekend’ but still a party night;
  • Saturday 28 August and Sunday 29 August – full-on festival all day long until 11.00pm;
  • Monday 30 August – another full-on day and the music continues until 10.00pm.

Boats eligible to take part in ‘The Trad’ have to be of traditional wooden construction, built in hot or cold moulding techniques, or can be composite crafts with metal frames and timber planking, built of riveted iron or steel, and also those built of canvas on a wooden frame.

The strict rules mean that any boats built wholly or partly of ferroconcrete, fibreglass or plastics are not eligible for the rally. But there is a special interest class for those boats of special historic or constructional interest that are otherwise not eligible to enter.

The event now incorporates the traditional values of many other trades and crafts from a bygone era. It also provides for a great fun day out for all of the family.

There are discounts for booking tickets online, and tickets can be purchased at the gate for each day or a four-day ticket.

More from The Oxford Magazine