The Rochester Sweeps Festival is back this May bank holiday


News from the Medway Matters website

It’s almost time to dust off your clogs, fish out your handkerchief and get your cracking sticks at the ready.

You guessed it – the annual Sweeps Festival is returning for its 34th year.

On 3, 4 and 5 May, around 60,000 people are set to visit Rochester and enjoy the colourful sounds and sights of the largest May Day celebration of its kind in Europe.

The traditional entertainers are back, with more than 60 morris sides ready to recreate the festivities the sweeps would have taken part in during the 19th Century. They downed their brushes for the start of summer and celebrated one day of fun, which kicked off with the Jack-in-the-Green awakening ceremony at dawn.

This tradition continues today and once again will take place on Bluebell Hill, Chatham, at 5.30am on Thursday, 1 May.

From something old to something new – after the Mayor of Medway Cllr Josie Iles launches the festival at 10.45am on Saturday, 3 May, local witches will cleanse the festival opening site (Guildhall Museum Forecourt) in preparation for the weekend’s events.

Once they’ve worked their magic, the musical entertainment will begin including headline act, Fairport Convention, performing at the Central Theatre on Saturday, 3 May, at 7.30pm. Hailed as the originators of British folk-rock music, this band remains one of the most entertaining on the live music scene. To book visit

Live music will also be performed aboard the Edith May Barge, moored at Rochester Pier on 3 , 4 and 5 May. Evening concerts come with an entry charge and more information can be found at

New for 2014 Sweeps, street performances will take place on the Old Post Office stage in Star Lane, Rochester, as well as in the Crown freehouse, on both 3 and 4 May. Also for the first time, a free folk concert will be held at the King’s School from 3pm to 5pm on Sweeps’ Sunday.

The much-loved fun fair will return to Rochester Castle gardens for the duration of the festival and there will even be a chance to discover what the future holds at the mini psychic fair.

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community Services Cllr Howard Doe said: “The Rochester Sweeps Festival continues to go from strength to strength and is loved by both local people and those further afield. 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 witch cleansing is certainly going to kick things off with a difference, and the multitude of musical performances, fun fair rides, food and drink, really will make for a great bank holiday weekend.”

For more information about this year’s event and to download a brochure visit

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One Response to “The Rochester Sweeps Festival is back this May bank holiday”

  1. David Hicks Says:

    Does anyone know why the cleansing by the witches was cancelled?

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