Galley Begger, Rochester Sweeps


Finally got down to Sweeps – the sun was shining this morning so we set off down to Rochester. However when we got there we discovered that there wasn’t a lot going on and there were very few Morris sides around. There were all of the local groups like Loose Women, Motley, Bishop Gundulf and of course Wolf’s Head & Vixen but that was about it. So whereas the streets are normally teeming with colourful Morris sides they were virtually empty apart from the crowds that had come to see them.

It was suggested that a lot of the sides had cut and run on the Sunday morning because of the dreadful weather – I hope that was the case as I would hate to see the festival slip any further away from it’s original format towards a general “spring festival” with just the fairground and other tat to attract the crowds. We stayed for the parade but it was so short. I remember when I used to do it, we’d always be at the back and we’d get to a point of the route and you’d be able to see the front coming back round again. Today it went past in about 5 minutes – most disappointing.



The fact the parade went so fast meant that I had longer to wait to see the band I was hoping to catch on the stage in the castle grounds. The stage had changed from previous years into a bandstand affair that offered the bands little protection from the weather. In previous years it had been in a marquee with chairs which meant that people could sit and watch bands even if the weather was rubbish. Even today when the sun popped out occasionally it was still hard work to keep a crowd watching for the whole set.

I’d spotted that Galley Beggar were playing two spots today, one at 12:30 in the Man of Kent and again at 4pm on the castle stage. I’d heard their last CD which I was sent as a possible band for the Summer of Love Party in July and from that we had booked them but I wanted to catch them today as well to check them out. I couldn’t really go to see them in the MoK as the pub usually isn’t very kid friendly so I decided to try and catch the appearance on the castle stage. I did pass the MoK when they were playing on my way back to get coats from the car when the weather took a turn for the worse and considered popping in for a few minutes on my way back. However there is another thing that stops me going in there and that is the fact that my ex-wife sometimes drinks in there. So even though I was actually wearing my MoK t-shirt that day I couldn’t bring myself to go in, just in case!


We wandered round the fairground and let Ben go on the bouncy castle and then I wandered over towards the stage to see if they were on yet only to find the godawful Trouser Trumpets were still playing – who books these novelty bands anyway for a folk festival – can’t help but think it’s to appeal to the hoy polloy who can’t cope with real music! Thankfully it turned out to be their last song and they started clearing their equipment off the stage. i was starting to despair about seeing Galley beggar at this point.

However I’ve never seen a band so keen to start playing! They were chomping at the bit to get going and almost as soon as the last mic was plugged in they were off! And considering they’d just come from playing an earlier gig they were very keen. They were a lot more rocky that I was expecting but they can play really well – they did a version of John Barleycorn and followed that with a track that I think was a instrumental that Fairport used to play. The reminded me of what I always expect Fairport to be like – which to my mind is good.

Unfortunately the gig was spoilt somewhat by the usual pissheads who seem to frequent these events. I used to think it was because there was all day drinking when I first went and it was that which attracted those sort of people who only seem to be able to “enjoy” themselves when they are so drunk they can barely stand. However this theory was ruined when the licencing laws changed and they still turned up. They always want to take the piss out of the music or have to dance like idiots crashing into people who are genuinely interested in the band. Still at least one of them didn’t try and stroke my beard this time!

So after about half an hour and concious of Sarah and ben sitting on a bench feeling cold and bored I decided I’d better go and find them and head on home. Still I’m glad that we’ve booked them for SoL and that I’ll get to see them again soon (in the company of people who want to listen!)

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