Passion for waterways led to running Angel Canal Festival for two decades
24 January, 2020 — By Calum Fraser
BERYL Windsor, who worked tirelessly for two decades running the Angel Canal Festival, has died at the age of 80.
The festival is one of Islington’s largest outdoor family-friendly events and it was started in 1986 by the late Crystal Hale.
It commemorates a successful campaign to save the City Road Basin and it has helped to sustain the use of the basin by thousands of young people for boating activities.
When Crystal fell ill in 1999, Beryl stepped in to help fellow organiser Jim Lagden to ensure the festival’s survival.
Ian Shacklock, who chairs the Friends of Regent’s Canal group, said: “By then, Beryl had made friends with fellow boater Sasha Keir at St Pancras Basin and they were able to combine their energies, ideas and social networks to build on the festival’s existing success.”
Beryl and Sasha, as unpaid volunteers, took full responsibility for organising the festival some time before Jim Lagden died in 2009.
This continued until September 2017 when they both stepped down and passed the baton to the Canal and River Trust. Throughout these years the festival attracted thousands of visitors, hundreds of stalls and dozens of volunteers.
Inevitably, Beryl’s task spanned the entire year, not just the day of the event and a major job was raising in excess of £20,000 each year to stage the event.
She received the Mayor of Islington’s Civic Award in 2014 in recognition of her contribution to the community of Islington.
Mr Shacklock added: “Beryl proved to be an impossible act to follow when she finally decided to call it a day. One of the high points of her life was in 2012 when Beryl was awarded the British Empire Medal in recognition of her role as organiser of the Angel Canal Festival.”
Beryl’s passion for the waterways was triggered by the sight of canal boats moored at St Pancras Basin alongside the railway. She passed these every day when commuting between Northampton and Regent’s Wharf in King’s Cross, where she worked as a PA for Gratte Brothers over 30 years ago. Around that time she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and while battling with the disease she wrote a wish-list of things to do in the event that she survived the fight. Buying a narrowboat was top of that list.
Beryl recovered and bought a Springer narrowboat. She found a mooring in St Pancras Basin and named the boat “Anne-Louise” after her two daughters.
At St Pancras Cruising Club she met two other boaters who were to play a significant part in her life.
One was Sasha Keir and the other was Steve Burt, who also joined the Angel Festival team and later married Beryl.
Steve and Beryl moved to a house with a mooring for his boat “Brasso” on the Stratford Canal in Solihull.
It was here that Steve recently carried out a major refit on Beryl’s boat Anne Louise. In summer 2019 Steve and Beryl cruised the boat back to its home mooring at St. Pancras.
Beryl suffered a recurrence of the ovarian cancer within two years of her retirement from festival duties. She died in Solihull on October 31 and her family said that she would be sorely missed.