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Home   Medway   News   Article

Thousands descend on Rochester for annual Sweeps festival

03 May 2014
by Lynn Cox
Thousands flocked to Rochester to enjoy the annual Sweeps festival.
The three-day event, which started earlier this week with the traditional Jack in the Green ceremony at Blue Bell Hill, is now in its 34th year. 
Morris dancers and chimney sweeps took part in the dawn awakening ceremony when an eight foot walking bush (Jack), was surrounded by a ring of 12 fires to be noisily coaxed back to life by sweeps and Morris dancers to welcome May Day.
Rochester Sweeps Festival

Rochester Sweeps Festival

The Jack in the Green is a symbol of the regeneration of life and following the ceremony, Jack features as the central character throughout the Bank Holiday weekend.
The festival, which was founded by Gordon Newton with the help of Medway Council, has grown into one of the largest May festivals in Europe and features the largest gathering of Morris dancers in the world, with 60 teams involved.
The Sweeps Festival revival is based on the description by Charles Dickens in Sketches by Boz, entitled The First of May.
The book illustrated by George Cruikshank provides graphic detail of the Sweeps Day and of the time when children were used as climbing boys and their annual holiday was May Day.
With the passing of the Climbing Boys Act in 1868 the sweeps traditional May Day procession passed into history.
In the 34 years since it was revived the festival has made a significant contribution to Medway netting tens of millions of pounds for the tourism economy of the area.
The festival continues until Monday.

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