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Birmingham community project picks up top award

A project to encourage more people from Birmingham’s South Asian community to take advantage of the health and wellbeing benefits offered by the city’s waterways has scooped a major award.

Dragon boating racing in Birmingham

Nowka Bais, a ‘cultural extravaganza' which saw 25,000 people flock to Edgbaston Reservoir in July 2017 for a celebration of traditional Bangladeshi dragon boat racing, collected the award in the ‘Engaging Communities' category at the Living Waterway Awards. The awards – known as the ‘Oscars of the waterways' - seek to recognise the most exciting and inspiring waterway-based projects across the UK.

In giving the award the judges recognised the success of the event itself but also the important role it has played in getting more people from South Asian communities, including women and children, to participate in water sports activities on the reservoir and the surrounding canals.

Celebrating Bangladeshi heritage

The event saw 18 teams from all over the UK participating in boat racing, as well as Bangladeshi street food stalls, live music and entertainment and a procession by children on celebrating Bangladeshi heritage and culture.

Since last year's Nowka Bais there has been an increase in the number of people from the South Asian community taking part in sailing, canoeing and kayaking, both on the reservoir and the neighbouring canals. There have also been a number of community canal boat trips and groups of people from Smethwick, Lozells and Aston walking and cycling on the canal towpaths as a means of improving their health and wellbeing.

One group, from Community Connect Foundation, have even adopted a 1km stretch of canal in Smethwick, committing to help us on a regular basis to look after their local waterway.

The project was organised by the Nowka Bais, Community Interest Company and supported by us, Birmingham City Council and a wide range of partners from the voluntary and private sectors. Nowka Bais has become a popular annual event with the 2018 race again attracting hundreds of competitors and tens of thousands of spectators.

Bringing communities together

Commenting on the project, the Living Waterway Awards judges said: "This hugely successful, innovative and inspiring project has brought together the city's diverse communities in a fun and sociable environment. Previously unengaged communities are now enjoying the water environment. With a modest budget and a lot of community input, an event has been created which people talk about and look forward to each year."

Johur Uddin, chairman of the Nowka Bais, Community Interest Company, said: "We are delighted to win this award and it's a testament to the work the team puts in, not only in organising the event, but actively engaging communities from inner city areas to participate and benefit from the wonderful waterways we have in Birmingham."

Bashir Ahmed, development & engagement manager for the Trust, said: "Our research tells us that time spent by the water can help us all to lead happier and healthier lives but sadly many people don't currently use the waterways on their doorstep.

"That's why Nowka Bais has become so important because it attracts thousands of people to the waterside who may never have visited their local canal before. The real beauty of this project is that it then encourages them to have a go for themselves and they can then start to feel the health and wellbeing benefits that our waterways offer.

"We're delighted that Nowka Bais has won this award, it's very well deserved, and we can't wait to see the plans for next year's event."

Family activity guide

Free family activity guides

Download a free booklet of canal-themed activities that you can enjoy by the water or at home

Family activity guide

Free family activity guides

Download a free booklet of canal-themed activities that you can enjoy by the water or at home

Last Edited: 07 December 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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