diamond geezer

 Sunday, September 07, 2014

Only a mile apart, and held on the same afternoon, two Islington festivals are very much the same and yet completely different. The Angel Canal Festival takes place on the first Sunday in September, and has done since 1987. Originally a narrowboat fundraiser, it's grown over the years to become a fully fledged community event based around the City Road Basin. The Mayor of London lives only a few hundred yards away, but it's always the Mayor of Islington who arrives by narrowboat to open the festival. This year that's Theresa, and she duly alighted near the ukulele band before setting off on her meet and greet around the stalls. Various local organisations had come up trumps - the Scouts had cakes, the Angel Association had tea, and the Inland Waterways lot had a tombola based on disused canals. The towpath got a bit narrow in places, especially when cyclists attempted to push through, but there was always space to peruse the books, trinkets and N1-based advice, or just disappear up to the pub. Further stalls led off down Graham Street, the road marked by spray string where one stallholder's product had got a little out of hand. In the pocket park a parliament of owls was tethered up, and much admired, while littl'uns got to follow the Bee Trail or gawp at three visiting Pearly Queens. A proper community spirit was evident, of the kind that many places outside London might take for granted. And yes, you've completely missed it until next year, but as one small girl on her mother's shoulders exclaimed, "I wish this happened every day!"

The people of Barnsbury don't have a canal to linger by, but they do have the Caledonian Road and this has been closed all day for the Cally Festival. Considerably more streetsmart than its Angelic twin, the Cally excelled at food, sporting action and entertainment. A boxing ring had been set up at one end, while a highly imaginative bus-stop themed dancefloor pumped out toetapping disco tunes further up. Rappers held forth on a stage up one sideroad, while the poetry stage could only have been located on the extremely apposite Story Street. The whole event was ripe for punnage - "Cally Ho!" said one sign, "Super Cally" another. And against the backdrop of betting shops and kebaberies, an entirely cosmopolitan mix of local people had turned up. They sat on roofs, they scooped up trays of noodles, and they kicked footballs between the Arsenal In The Community goalposts. You'll know which of the two events you'd have felt more comfortable at, but the Callyfest was indisputably the more Londonish.

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