DUCKS, swans, coots and the odd kingfisher will be wondering what’s happening on their patch when the tranquil green corridor that is the Oxford Canal comes to vibrant life tomorrow.

A hidden favourite with walkers, commuters, boaters and cyclists, this watery Oxford throughfare will be revealing more of itself when the Oxford Canal Festival celebrates the history, communities and attractions of one of Oxford’s best-kept watery secrets.

A colourful and exhilarating mix of free music, food and entertainment for all ages provides the backdrop for a canal-inspired afternoon. Talks and stories, together with guided walks along the towpath, and boat rides up and down the canal, courtesy of the new Gerry Ferry ( and the Inland Waterways Association are highlights.

Canal crafts, including Roses and Castles enamel painting and a working blacksmith’s forge from Tooley’s boatyard, Banbury, will be on show, while the nearby MakeSpace project is opening its doors for hands-on craft sessions and a young people’s music project.

A rare chance to see unusual archive footage of life on and near the Oxford Canal will be showing at nearby St Margaret’s Institute Festival Cinema, where the winning entries in the festival’s video competition will also be screened. Open to young people under the age of 15, the one-minute films, inspired by the hidden life of the canal have been recorded on their mobile phones.

Visitors will have the opportunity to find out more about Oxford’s waterways and the life that goes on and around the canal, plans for the canal’s development with information and traders’ stalls and experts on hand to answer questions. Oxford’s canalside community has also been invited to decorate boats and gardens along the towpath.

The day’s programme includes Canal Olympics, and a fancy dress competition, all with a watery theme, plus a return of the popular dog show. Children’s activities include swing boats, Boo Boo the clown, craft activities and face painting.

Steph Pirrie, co-director of the Festival said: “The canal has been a wonderful source of inspiration for so many people, from pre-Raphaelite painters to the writer Philip Pullman. We want to put the canal on the map with music, stories and celebration. All the money raised will go towards the restoration of a narrowboat that can also be used as a performance space for the community to enjoy.”

The festival’s main event takes place tomorrow from midday to 6pm at Aristotle Lane recreation ground.

To launch the festival an open music evening is also being held in the White Hart, Wolvercote, from 7.30pm tonight, and to close, a ceilidh with the Big Canal Ceilidh Band will take place in, St Barnabas Church, Jericho, from 7.30pm on Sunday.