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Rochester Sweeps Festival performers will march on parliament to protest the early May bank holiday

Morris dancers from Rochester will be among those taking part in a "massive" protest march against the change in date to next year's early May bank holiday.

Traditionally, the town's Sweeps Festival, which celebrates is 40th anniversary in 2020, is held over the first weekend in May, 2 ,3 and the following Monday, 4.

But this year the government has swapped the Monday for the following Friday, May 8 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

Kent Korkers and Pork Scrathins Morris Dancers (Corr) from Dartford at The Sweeps Festival in Rochester. Picture by: John Westhrop. (9744748)
Kent Korkers and Pork Scrathins Morris Dancers (Corr) from Dartford at The Sweeps Festival in Rochester. Picture by: John Westhrop. (9744748)

The move has incensed Gordon Newton, the founder of Sweeps, which is now the biggest folklore festival of its kind in the UK.

Mr Newton said: "We have had less than a year's notice about this.We have lobbied MPs and written to the Secretary of State. But nobody seems to be listening.

"This will affect festivals and events all over the country as people have to plan well ahead.

Morris dancers in a long procession through Rochester High Street at The Sweeps Festival in Rochester. Picture by: John Westhrop (9744828)
Morris dancers in a long procession through Rochester High Street at The Sweeps Festival in Rochester. Picture by: John Westhrop (9744828)

"It will impact financially on Rochester as traders, restaurants and pubs bank on these big events over long weekendsfor their livelihood. It's a bit like Christmas for them. It will also affect hotels and B'n'Bs.

"A precedent was created for Kate and William's wedding when we have two bank holidays. Why can't we do the same ?

There are currently plans to hold Sweeps from the Friday, May 1,and over the weekend.

Cartoonist Royston's take on the matter (12914780)
Cartoonist Royston's take on the matter (12914780)

Mel Barnett, from the Medway- based Wolf's Head and Vixen Morris side, will be among those protesting on Tuesday, July 23.

Mrs Barnett,46, a mum-of-three from Strood, said: "We are passionate about Sweeps. It is the highlight of our calendar. This switch could be disastrous for us, especially as many camp out in schools over the three days."

Mr Newton said :"We have about 70 groups coming from all over the country and further afield next year. We even have people coming from Canada, but they might not come now.

Morris dancers in a long procession through Rochester High Street at The Sweeps Festival in Rochester. Picture by: John Westhrop (9744830)
Morris dancers in a long procession through Rochester High Street at The Sweeps Festival in Rochester. Picture by: John Westhrop (9744830)

"The march is set to be massive. There will be people representing charities who have organised things for the Monday. Let's hope the politicians see sense."

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