Sweeps Festival


It’s been the annual Sweeps Festival in Rochester this weekend and as usual the street have been filled with the sounds of Morris men, the jingle of bells, the clashing of sticks and a myriad of folk tunes played on accordions, whistles, guitars fiddles and mandolins. From the white shirts and hankies of the Cotswold sides, through the clog dancers to the black faces and tattered jackets of the Border Morris men, there are traditional dances and dances with a modern twist every where you look.

Musical Interlude

As well as the music in the street music spills from almost every pub and street corner, folk singers, folk bands, hurdy gurdy players, traditional folk, folk rock even folk punk! There’s a marquee in the castle grounds and an open air stage in a car park or you can just catch impromptu performances under a tree or in a beer garden.

This year, because of the way the dates fell, the festival opened with the traditional Jack in the Green awakening ceremony at the top of Bluebell Hill. The ceremony starts at sunrise which is at 5:32 am, in a ring of fire sits the jack in the green who has been slumbering through the winter. At the appointed time the members of Motley Morris carrying sticks shovels form a circle around the Jack and sing the Jack in the Green song to awaken him. Once the jack is awoken they dance around him before making way for other Morris sides to dance in their own particular way. The Loose Women, Wolf’s Head and Vixen, The Gong Scourers, Beltane Morris and Bishop Gundulf and others dance in their own particular styles.

Jack in the Green

I’ve been going to the May Day ceremony since 1992, first as a member of the audience and then as a member of Wolf’s Head and now as a member of the audience again. I danced the Wolf’s Head signature dance, The Four Seasons, for the first time here in 2003 and I was glad to see them dancing it again this year. Over the years I’ve taken my camera and this year was no exception. I also took my video camera this year and hopefully will put together a short video of the morning soon.

Ragged Crow

In the meantime you can see my photographs taken with my Fuji S9600 or my HTC Magic cameraphone using FxCamera here



Originally uploaded by UNKIEPAUL.

Today is Beltaine and I should have been up at Bluebell Hill at 5:28 this morning for the Jack in the Green Ceremony but 13 days without a day off has left me a bit knackered and I didn’t get out of bed.

To compensate here is a picture of the side I used to dance with Wolf’s Head & Vixen taken by unkiepaul at about 5:30 this morning.

The annual Sweeps Festiavl takes place all weekend in Rochester