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By Ben Hemery |

2022 Bedford River Festival – 48 hours to go

The final preparations are being made on the Embankment and Russell Park – less than 48 hours before 250,000 people arrive for the 2022 Bedford River Festival.

This year’s River Festival kicks off at 10.30 am with Dragon Boat Race Heats until 5 pm at St Mary’s Gardens.

The River Festival will see the return of lots of the Festival’s old favourites, from the music stages and funfair, the dragon boat and raft races on the river, and lots of stalls and activities to get involved with across the Embankment, Mill Meadows and St Mary’s Gardens.

For the first time in the River Festival’s history, Bedford High Street will be closed for the weekend to bring the fun and celebrations into the town centre. The High Street, sponsored by BedfordBID, will host the Festival of Motoring, with over 100 unique and eclectic vehicles on display. On Town Bridge we’re also introducing Bands on the Bridge where you can enjoy the rousing tunes performed by some of the best bands in Bedfordshire and nearby towns.

Working with our Festival bars provider 3B1G Events Ltd, the Festival will also operate a reusable cup scheme across all nine of the Festival bars. There will be a £1 charge with the first drink for the cup. You can return that cup back to any of the Festival bars and get a clean cup with your next drink.

And, to cap a brilliant end to the first night of festivities, the Illuminated Boat Parade will be enhanced to end the Saturday night in an amazing visual display.

Elsewhere, the enormous site comes to life:

  • Russell Park features the River Festival’s Main Stage, sponsored by the Harpur Centre with top performances from a wide range of bands and acts throughout the weekend. 
  • The Sports Island is sponsored by the University of Bedfordshire and will feature sporting and martial arts demonstrations, a stage full of action with acrobatics and dance performances, ‘have a go’ activities and more. 
  • Mill Meadows is a hub of activity during the River Festival, with trade stalls galore and the ever-popular Community Stages, sponsored by the Harpur Trust, showcasing fantastic performances from the community of Bedfordshire. 
  • New for 2022, Mill Meadows will feature ‘Inclusion Island’ which is designed for visitors with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
  • St. Mary’s Gardens is the new home of the heritage re-enactments, featuring ‘Pirate Island’, sponsored by HSBC UK. There are plenty of adventurous activities for the kids brought to you by Canoe Trail, and you have a prime viewing spot for the dragon boat races.
  • Castle Mound will host the BBC Introducing Stage and a brand new Vegan Fair. Catch some local up-and-coming talent and browse the range of vegan gifts and homewares on offer. 
  • On the Embankment you will find the Festival Market full of craft and food stalls from around the world, along with The Dance Music Stage, sponsored by Gallagher Developments, with an amazing line up of world famous DJ’s

Additional bus and train services will be running throughout the weekend. 

Mayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson, said: “After the postponements due to COVID-19 Bedford River Festival I’m delighted that we are now getting ever closer to our first River Festival in four years. 

“It’s fantastic to see how the Festival has grown since 1978 to become one of the biggest free events in the country.

“Everyone has been working incredibly hard to make 2022 the best River Festival ever. It’s another reminder of our great community spirit and brilliant local enterprise that means this even grows every time and I can’t wait for the events to get underway.”

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