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Bedford River Festival 2016

People travel from all over the world to attend this event, which is just on your doorstep if you live in the borough! Bedford’s hugely popular River Festival will take place on Saturday 16th – Sunday 17th July. The 2014 festival saw visitor’s numbers reach an amazing 250,000 and with over 100 boats already signed up this year’s event promises to be bigger than ever!


Mayor of Bedford Borough Dave Hodgson said “One of the reasons why the River Festival is so special is the fact that it is a genuine community event, with countless ways for individuals and groups to get involved. The carnival parade is not just spectacular to look at, but great fun to be a part of, while the same applies to other activities on and off the river.  So I would encourage people to have a look at the opportunities to take part, and to get in touch.”


The Bedford River Festival is free to the public and offers numerous opportunities to participate in, or just to relax and enjoy shows and performances from over 65 local bands and groups across three stages on the a 105 acre site.


What’s On

River Events

Events on the river include - the ever popular illuminated boat parade; the kayak slalom; a Jet Boots displays and the River Swim. In addition, the River Festival hosts two new events this year, a hover craft display and a paddle board race. Twenty two Dragon Boat teams and twenty two raft race teams have already signed up, but places are still available for those wishing to take part.


Heritage Village

This year, in celebration of the 850th anniversary of Bedford Borough being granted royal charter, there will be a Heritage Village on Castle Mound recreating 11th century Bedford. Events across the weekend include battle re-enactments, weapons demonstrations and storytelling.


Food and Drink

A wide variety of food and drink will be available in the Market Village and throughout the site, however; for those wishing to get away from the busy atmosphere for a while, restaurants in Castle Quay and Bedford town centre are only a short walk away.



Enjoy shows and performances from over 65 local bands and groups across three stages on the 105 acre site.

Main Stage – Saturday night’s headliners Symphonica ft. Mr Switch fuse together two different worlds. Expect to hear classic tracks played by a full orchestra and accompanied by critically acclaimed DJ, Mr Switch, to create a stunning musical experience. Sunday night’s headliners are both a Specials, and a Madness Tribute band! Special Kind of Madness combine both bands greatest hits to create a set that is guaranteed to get the audience up on their feet. Other acts on the Main Stage include local band The Wholls; The Mariachis Band (as seen on the Dorito’s advert); as well as many other bands, choirs and dance groups.

Community Stage – Acts on the Community Stage include acoustic musician Kam Singh; traditional Punjabi drumming and singing group the Rhythm Blasters; local dance school Kinetic Vibes; and many more local groups to keep you entertained all weekend.

Jazz Stage – This year’s acts include the Cool Jazz Collective; and Bedford based five-piece band Rachel and Friends, as well as many more across the weekend.

Sports Village – Once again the Sports Village is sponsored by the University of Bedfordshire and there all kinds of activities to get you moving - aerobics, dance and fitness displays; sports demonstrations; a martial arts area; come and try sessions and much more.


Getting There and Getting Around

Car Park

Parking is free for up to 2 hours every Saturday in all council owned town centre surface and multi-storey car parks. Please note that you may still be required to obtain a parking ticket and display it in your windscreen.

Lurke Street and River Street multi-storey car parks are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, over the weekend of the River Festival 2016 Allhallows multi-storey car park and Queen Street multi-storey car park will be open continuously from 6am Saturday 16th July until usual closing on Monday evening 18th July.

Normal prices will apply to all car parks and usual opening and closing will be in place at all car parks not mentioned above.


Park and Ride

Elstow Park & Ride is located in Progress Park, on the A6 just north off the A6 junction of the A421. This location is ideal for those who are travelling to the River Festival from outside Bedford. The Park and Ride is open over the weekend with buses departing from the spacious car park in Elstow throughout the day. For more information, including times and fares, please click here.

Additional Park & Ride services will operate from the University of Bedfordshire on Pohill Avenue between 11am and 10pm on Saturday 16th July and 11am to 9pm on Sunday 17th July. As the buses are only travelling a short distance there will not be a specific timetable but instead buses will operate constantly throughout the day.

As well as these services there will additional buses to both sites after the fireworks on Saturday night.


Road Closures

For information about road closures over the weekend of the River Festival please click here. Residents of the roads in question have been sent details of access over the weekend.


Rail Travel

The Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership (MVCRP) is delighted to announce that they have special services for the Bedford River Festival again this year. As well as normal services the MVCRP are offering a late evening ‘Fireworks Flyer’ leaving Bedford at 11:10pm on the Saturday night and an hourly Sunday service

MVCRP will be having a stand in the Waterspace Village (situated on Mill Meadows) at the Festival. Please pop in and say hello! Please visit http://www.marstonvalecommunityrail.org.uk/ for a copy of the timetable.  Groups of 3 to 9 adults travel for a third off with GroupSave.

As well as these services, trains will run as usual from Bedford Station.


For information on accommodation or to purchase rail tickets, please contact Bedford Travel and Tourism Centre on 01234 718112 or touristinfo@bedford.gov.uk

Copies of the Event Programme are available by clicking here and are also available to collect at the Travel and Tourism Centre, located in Bedford Bus Station, from Number 13 bar and café on St Paul’s Square, libraries and the Customer Service Centre on Horne Lane.




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