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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 June, 2003, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Full-house at river festival
The tall ship - Grand Turk
Several tall ships are docked in Liverpool for the festival
The UK's biggest maritime festival was underway in Merseyside on Saturday with 300,000 people expected to attend the event.

Demand for the 23rd Mersey River Festival was so high that full-house signs went up in the city's famous docks and new ships were directed to the city's marina.

Event organisers put the popularity of the festival down to a tourism boom sparked by the city winning the competition to be European Capital of Culture in 2008.

More than 160 vessels are registered for the four-day event, including a replica of the 15th century tall ship, the Matthew of Bristol.

A number of ships will be open to the public during the festival, which began on Thursday.

Culture capital

Guided tours of the Pier Head - the UK's only nomination for World Heritage status in 2003 - are also available.

Councillor Warren Bradley, of Liverpool City Council, said: "The Mersey River Festival is one of the highlight's of Liverpool's calendar and a fundamental celebration of our culture.

"Now internationally recognised as one of the best of its kind, its development was a major advantage for the city in bidding to be European Capital of Culture 2008.

"The culture judges noted the city has one of the finest track records in welcoming and entertaining tourists and the River Festival will play a huge role in our celebrations in 2008."

Culture city starts hard work
05 Jun 03  |  Merseyside


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