Rochester’s annual Sweeps Festival recreates the joy and laughter enjoyed by chimney sweeps at their traditional holiday.

It was the one time of the year that the sweeps could leave the soot behind and have some fun.

The Sweeps holiday was traditionally held on 1 May. Locally, they used to mark the occasion by staging a procession through the streets of Rochester.

This year, the Sweeps Festival took place from Saturday 4 May to Monday 6 May 2019.

What's on

Jack-in-the-Green awakening ceremony

The awakening ceremony found Morris dancers and sweeps bringing Jack to life at the crack of dawn.

Splat! The Sweeps big picnic

Splat! returns with a mixture of free and affordable fun including family craft workshops, children’s shows and roaming performers during Rochester Sweeps Festival.

Sweeps procession parade

The Sweeps parade featured the Jack in the Green from Star Hill on the High Street, ending in the Castle Gardens.

Sweeps parade down the street

In the castle gardens

We have a range of entertainment including:

  • artisan produce fair
  • folk-art and psychic fair
  • children's fun fair
  • real ale tent and fully licensed bar
  • the festival's main stage
  • vegan fair

Folk singers at Sweeps

At Boley Hill

At Boley Hill there will be:

  • a musical instrument fair
  • a recollect record fair
  • more of the artisan produce fair
  • performances at the Boley Hill Stage

In the High Street

Entertainment includes:

  • Morris dancers
  • roaming performers
  • festival stages with live music
  • plenty of food and drink to enjoy

Female morris dancer

Morris dancing

Morris dancers from around the country come together to perform across the High Street. More than 80 teams will perform.

Rochester Cathedral tours

Free tours and pilgrimages - search for green men and other medieval symbols hidden in this 1400 years-old building.

Morris dancers in the high street

Walking tours of Rochester

There will be conducted walking tours of Rochester, by the City of Rochester Society guides, each day of the festival.

Tours start at the Visitor Information Centre at 10.45am and 2.15pm. The 10.45am tours will take 45 minutes, and the 2.15pm tours 90 minutes.

Tours are free of charge, but donations to the Society are welcome.

Pretending People: children's activities taking place every day of the festival

Fairytale Entertainment would like to introduce the children of Rochester to their interactive performances of three classic brothers Grimm Tales. 

Join Jacob and Willhelm Grimm and become part of the tales through music, games and play acting. 

See climbing hair, crumbs of bread, funny little men and golden thread! 

Every day

  • 10:30am: Grimm Tales (opposite Olivers)
  • 11:15am: Street music (opposite Olivers)
  • 12:30pm: Grimm Tales (opposite Olivers)
  • 1:15pm: Street music (Boley Hill Stage Sunday)
  • 2:15pm: Grimm Tales (opposite Olivers)
  • 3pm: Street music (opposite Olivers)
  • 4:30pm: street music (Boley Hill Stage Monday)

Mini Bell Ring at St Marys Meadow, all day across the weekend

Come and have a go at bell ringing on our mini ring of bells next to the war memorial, in the shadow of the Cathedral bell tower. The bells of Rochester Cathedral will be 100 years old in 2021.

To ensure they ring for another century, the Cathedral ringers are raising £100,000 to maintain the current bells and add 3 more bells to further develop the Cathedral as a centre of excellence for teaching bell ringing. All donations are welcome. 

You can find out more information about our Centenary Project and bell ringing at our mini ring.

Rochester Cathedral

Follow your own Green Man trail around Rochester Cathedral, the second oldest in Britain. There are numerous Green Men carvings, some dating back to the 12th century. Look for them in high up and on ancient tombs within the building.

This year also sees Morris dancing in the nave and free concerts in the Crypt with The Playbacks, The Flowing and Kimber’s Men.

Sweeps festival map