A festival will be held this summer to encourage people to get out and about on the city's waterways.

Alex Martin, of Grandpont in Oxford, has for 16 months been planning a string of events for the area's rivers and canals.

The Go with the Flow festival is his attempt to entice as many people as possible to take up water-bound pastimes.

Bangladeshi boatmen in traditional costumes, Venetian gondolas, lifeboats, underwater film crews, punts and many more will be gathering in Oxford for the launch the event on Bank Holiday Monday, May 7.

Mr Martin, 53, an author who writes fiction and education books, thinks it could be the spark for people to get into a boat or out with a fishing rod.

He said: "Waterways are the lifeblood of the county, and have been for centuries.

"I want kids to get a sense of the magic of the river and join a canoe club or a fishing club, and discover what a wonderful resource it is."

One of the highlights will be Oxford's first glimpse of Bangladeshi canoe racing.

Oxford restaurateur Aziz-Ur Rahman, who runs restaurants in Cowley Road and at Folly Bridge, wants to bring the sport to Britain.

He approached Mr Martin and is currently in Bangladesh having two 40ft canoes built for the summer.

The boats will be hand painted with flowers and traditional symbols.

They will be air-freighted to the UK in five sections and assembled in Oxford ready for the Bank Holiday event, where they will be raced with other boats from around the world.

The acting High Comm- issioner of Bangladesh, Ashraf Uddin, will be a special guest on the canoes, which have a crew of 12 rowers and two musicians.

Mr Martin said: "We are hoping to attract a lot of Oxford's Asian community to the waterways.

"Go with the Flow starts with a relaxing hour of T'ai Chi by the water in Oxford University's Botanic Gar- den."

The day will also be raising money for the charity WaterAid, which aims to provide water, sanitation and hygiene education to the world's poorest people in Africa and Asia.

A narrow boat, called Mrs Noah, has been converted into a secondhand bookshop and members of Writers in Oxford are donating books.

Everything sold will be donated to WaterAid.

The event's main sponsor is Thames Water, but other backers include First Great Western, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council.