Mike looks forward to the Medway Sweeps Festival 2013

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News from Medway Council Website:

Cracking sticks and clumping clogs will herald the start of summer when The Rochester Sweeps Festival comes to town from 4 to 6 May. Around 60,000 visitors are expected to enjoy the colourful sights and sounds of the largest May Day celebration of its kind in Europe.

Street entertainers, musicians and more than 60 Morris sides will gather to recreate the celebrations the sweeps would have thrown in the 19th Century, when they downed their brushes for the start of summer – and one day of fun.

Their festivities always began with the traditional Jack-in-the-Green awakening ceremony at dawn on the first day of May – a tradition which still continues every year on Bluebell Hill, Chatham.

Headline music acts The Singing Loins and Tim Edey will be performing at the Rochester Corn Exchange over the weekend and there’s even a chance to learn how to make a cigar box guitar. On the Friday there will be a special memorial concert to Terry Pearson, a popular local figure on the folk and Morris dance scene. More music will be on offer aboard the Edith May Thames Barge moored at the Esplanade.

For all the fun of the fair the castle gardens will be the place to be, with traditional rides as well as psychics and a record fair, while foodies and real fans can browse the Farmers Market at the Boley Hill and Kings Head car parks and a Food and Drink Day takes place in the Castle Gardens on bank holiday Monday.

New events at this year’s festival include a Buskers’ Corner and a Choir Competition. Amateur choirs will take to the stage at the Corn Exchange on Bank Holiday Monday to showcase their vocal talents and wow the judges and the crowd with variety of genres, from traditional and modern folk songs to sea shanties.

Festival Music Director, Doug Hudson said: “After the success of the 60 strong Thanet Big Sing Community Choir at last year’s festival, it was decided to host a competition to reflect the growing interest in choirs.

“Folk music has always been sung by masses of people – in pubs, in their own homes, in fields and during work – so it was natural to invite choirs to enter a competition including several categories of folk song.” Interested groups will need to register before Thursday, 28 March to compete.

Buskers’ Corner will run throughout the festival opposite Rochester Cathedral by the Boley Hill car park. Buskers will be given an hour to perform to the crowds and they get to collect whatever coins visitors choose to throw in their hat. To find out how to sign up for either event 01634 338109/8116 or email eventsteam@medway.gov.uk

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community Services Cllr Howard Doe said: “The Rochester Sweeps Festival has been going from strength to strength for more than 30 years and it’s easy to see why. There’s colourful entertainment on every street corner and fantastic live performances from some of the best folk acts in the country. This year’s Choir Competition and Buskers’ Corner will also provide the perfect platform for Medway’s wealth of local talent to take part”.

For more information about this year’s event and to download a brochure visit www.enjoymedway.co.uk

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