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Sweeping in for spring

Date: 18/03/2008           Category: Events

One of the country’s largest May Day bank holiday celebrations is preparing to sweep into Rochester once again. Now in its 28th year, the festival recreates the revels of chimney sweeps at their traditional holiday. It was one occasion in the year when they could leave the dirt and soot behind and inject some colour and fun into their lives. Medway’s festival attracts musicians and Morris sides from far and wide as sights and sounds transform the streets of Rochester. The festival begins at dawn on Thursday, 1 May with the traditional Jack-in-the-Green awakening ceremony at Blue Bell Hill. The sweeps used to wake this legendary seven-foot tall character to join them in their revelry. This ritual has continued since Gordon Newton revived the festival in 1981. The long weekend of music and dance reaches its final with the Sweeps Festival procession beginning at Rochester Castle Gardens at 2.45pm on Monday, 5 May. Highlights of this year’s festival include the concerts held at 7.30pm at Rochester Castle Gardens concert marquee. On Friday, the entertainment is provided by Denny Laine, who co-wrote and performed with Sir Paul McCartney in Wings, plus support from Ruby. Saturday sees The Battlefield Band supported by The Dealers, winners of The Folk Factor 2006. Show of Hands, supported by Wheeler Street entertains the crowds on Sunday. Late night extras take the form of a Ceilidh on Saturday and the Sweeps Ball on Sunday at the Corn Exchange. Throughout the weekend, Morris sides will fill the High Street and dancers and musicians will perform at a variety of locations in Rochester. The Corn Exchange will hold its traditional musical instrument fair. Children can enjoy the traditional Victorian funfair in the castle gardens where real ale and stalls will be providing refreshment for adults. Portfolio Holder for Community Services Cllr Howard Doe said: "The Sweeps Festival keeps up a wonderful tradition of celebration. This year's event looks as busy as always, with lots of Morris sides participating and many musicians too. I encourage everyone who hasn't been to the Sweeps Festival before to go along. Those who have been on previous occasions will know just how good it is, we hope, they too, make a return visit.'' For more details, phone Medway Visitor Information Centre on 01634 843666 or email visitor.centre@medway.gov.uk or visit www.medway.gov.uk/sweepsfestival ends