LIVELY music filled the air and countless narrowboats moored on the towpaths as Middlewich welcomed around 20,000 people for the Folk and Boat Festival.

Mark Radcliffe and the Family Mahone and Stan’s Magic Foot sold out the British Legion to kick off the event with performances on Friday night.

Then a procession rolled through the town centre at 11am on Saturday.

Bands and artists played at most of Middlewich’s pubs and venues throughout the weekend, including TV star Ade Edmondson and his folk-punk band The Bad Shepherds.

Elsewhere, canal boat enthusiasts transformed the waterways into floating art and craft galleries.

Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival, which was highly commended in the Visit Chester and Cheshire annual awards, is a charity which raises money for school and craft workshops in the town.

Marketing director Tim Turner said: “It was a buzz, it was busy and more importantly it made some money.

“We had some amazing concerts and the boats were great when people were walking around the towpaths.

“It’s one thing for people to have a great time but when people come up to you and tell you they’re having a great time, it just feels amazing as that’s why we do it.

“It’s what Middlewich needs – it keeps people in the town.”

During the weekend, people had the chance to meet Nigel Jay, a BBC presenter for 16 years who now lives on a canal boat.

He signed copies of his first book, And No Wings, a novel about God’s plan to tackle global warming.

Before the festival, town centre events manager Dave Thompson, heritage worker Kerry Fletcher and council clerk Jonathan Williams invited dignitaries to an exhibition at the Town Wharf.

The guests, including Cheshire East Council mayor Margaret Simon, saw the Bisto Kids sculpture that was saved from the RHM factory and observed the regeneration project for the wharf before enjoying a special boat ride.

Middlewich mayor Pam Farrell added: “It was out of this world. I had phone calls from three mayors who said how impressed they were.”

The festival started in 1990 and next year is its 20th anniversary. To celebrate the milestone, Tim hopes that as many of the original artists from two decades ago return to the stage in 2010.