Press Release

A free festival with street food and dragon boat racing is returning to Birmingham this summer.

The 10th National Nowka Bais will be held at Edgbaston Reservoir in Birmingham on Sunday, July 29, 2018, it’s been announced.

Nowka Bais means a traditional dragon boat race as seen in rural villages of Bangladesh after the monsoon rains have filled the rivers. It was introduced to the UK by Aziz Rahman in 2007 as part of a 1000 years celebration of Oxfordshire.

Each boat is traditionally 40ft long, painted bright red, white, yellow and green, and paddled by a 16-man crew in brightly-coloured robes who follow the beat of a drummer in the prow of the craft.

The race, which is the largest of its kind in Britain, is the centrepiece of a community festival that also offers Bangladeshi street food, arts and crafts stalls, a funfair, sports activities, rowing and sailing taster sessions, as well as live music and dance.

Bangadeshi and UK artists will be performing at the event, which include urban/rnb/bangla Artist ‘Nish’ with his hit single ‘Bangla Medley’ as well as many Bangladeshi artists.

John Uddin, Nowka Bais CIC Director, said: “This is a very traditional sport in Bangladesh and is influenced by the waterways which are an important element in Bangladeshi life.

“Nowka Bais is a jubilant, colorful, lively, action-packed event in Bangladesh and it is a joy bringing it to Birmingham once again.

“The return of the Nowka Bais to Birmingham promises a day of fun, food and entertainment for all, along with the opportunity to learn about other cultures in an atmosphere of goodwill and in a spirit of cooperation.

“It’s one of Birmingham’s premiere events and one that’s attended by more than 20,000 people."

The event starts from 11am, with the first race expected to start at 11.30am. In total, 18 teams will compete in races throughout the day, with the final contest of rowing speed and skill taking place around 6pm.

You can register your team via the Nowka Bais website

Cash prizes, medals and certificates will be awarded to the top three winning teams. The best dressed and most entertaining team will also receive a prize.

There’s no admission charge to this event and free parking is available nearby.

Parking will be available at the following places:

Tower Ball Room Car Park
Reservoir Rd, Birmingham B16 9EE, 400 parking spaces

Canal and River Trust Car Park 
Icknield Port Rd, Birmingham B16 0AA, 160 parking spaces

The H Suite
Icknield Port Rd, Birmingham B16 0AA, 160 parking spaces

The Nowka Bais has support and sponsorship from charitable groups, community organisations and businesses including Canal & River Trust and Midlands Sailing Club.

“We are delighted to welcome the Nowka Bais back to Edgbaston Reservoir as it’s a really fun event and really brings the local community together," said Bashir Ahmed, Canal & River Trust spokesperson.

“The Nowka Bais is great fun and we’ve entered a team of local volunteers in the race and we hope they do well and clinch the winner’s trophy."

Abdur Rahman Co-Founder & Director Nowka Bais CIC Director, said “Since Nowka Bais came to the heart of the UK the Midlands, the event has gone from strength to strength. Celebrating our 10th year, this rural village sport has been bought back to life in the United Kingdom – we should all be proud of what has been achieved"

Nowka Bais 2018 is also one of the events of Birmingham City Council’s Utsav: the Year of South Asian Culture. Utsav is an old Sanskrit word meaning festival or celebration.


How it all began (Source, Alex Martin Author)

In 2007 the county of Oxfordshire celebrated its 1,000th birthday. was asked to organise Go with the Flow, a festival of the waterways and reminders of a slower pace of life to this busy part of England. fishermen, sea scouts, navy cadets, the Glasgow lifeboat, the actor community and university boat clubs, we had a memorable day One of its highlights – and for many the most thrilling event of Bangladeshi canoes, or Nowka Bais, along the Thames in Oxford. long, painted bright red, white, yellow and green, with an eight-paddling furiously to the beat of a drummer in the prow. Spectators paddles threw up arcs of spray, the pointed beaks of the boats surged jostling for the lead. The riverside was on fire with excitement.

The event was a great success. Everyone wanted to know where who were the crews, how did we put the whole thing together?

The idea had come from Aziz ur-Rahman, a well-known Oxford and a keen supporter of the Cowley Road Carnival and other community offered to build two traditional racing canoes in Bangladesh and time for the big day. He would also supply crews, prizes for the television news team. With luck, he said, the High Commissioner He was as good as his word. The canoes arrived in dramatic fashion, race, in a Thai Airways Boeing 747. Each boat was in three sections, together. I remember the scene as we manhandled the sections was a cold May evening, late and dark, and the canoes and the cannoes semed loaded with lead but we managed it somehow.

The next day a team of carpenters assembled the sections and nailed metal plates over the joins to make them watertight – a much trickier business than we thought. During the races, the hulls were one-third full of water by the time they reached the finishing line, but in the jubilation of the moment it didn’t seem to matter. I was glad, though, that all the crews wore buoyancy-jackets – just in case they went overboard – and that the Glasgow Humane Society lifeboat was in attendance.

Since 2007, Nowka Bais has continued in the city with the founding in 2008 of the Oxford Bangladeshi Boat Club (OBBC) based at the Falcon Rowing and Canoeing Club, which organises training on the river, and two annual race meetings – one run by OBBC, the other by Aziz. Together these events offer a great opportunity for Bangladeshis from all over Britain to practise this healthy, traditional and immensely exciting sport in a new context.

Nowka Bais continued with its great success with the running of the national race on a annual basis. Organised by Aziz Ur Rahman and his sons from 2008-2013, notably #NowkaBais2012 being dedicated to Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. Her Majesty personally sent a message to Aziz Ur Rahman for the great work and contribution they gave to their supported charities.

Since 2015 the race has been hosted in Birmingham, and organised by Nowka Bais and its steering committee. 

Nowka Bais in the UK is set up as a Community Interest Company (Nowka Bais CIC) and has been created to promote and organise Bangladeshi style boat racing by creating leagues throughout the UK. 

Our aim is to become the governing body for Nowka Bais style racing as a sport and recreation, and will aim to get it recognised by the UK Sports Council. The membership of the Nowka Bais UK will consist of registered teams, individual members and associate members. 

The Nowka Bais UK Executive Committee will be responsible for the policy, organisation and administration of the sport.


To promote, develop and control Bangladeshi Nowka Bais boat racing as a sport and a physical education in the United Kingdom and to encourage promote and organise Nowka Bais boat races and to select representative teams at local, regional, national and international levels; 

To promote and develop a Bangladeshi cultural and recreational aspect to the sport of Nowka Bais boat racing and to maintain the Bangladeshi traditions and cultural value of Nowka Bais boats; 

To encourage Nowka Bais boat racing by the promotion of competitions, tournaments and regattas, the giving of prizes and any other means which may from time to time be determined by the Nowka Bais Executive Committee; 

To encourage all age groups and ability or disability groups to take part in Nowka Bais boat racing as a form of their physical education at a level suitable to their skill, experience and ability or disability.

To give advice and encouragement to schools, supporters and sponsors of Nowka Bais boat racing;