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Medway Council's plea for Rochester Sweeps Festival bank holiday rejected

An appeal to the government to grant an extra bank holiday for a festival's 40th year has been dismissed.

The Sweeps Festival sees morris dancers and medieval re-enactors transform Rochester into a folk festival over the first weekend in May- the 2, 3 and the following Monday, 4.

However, the government has swapped the Monday bank holiday for the following Friday, May 8 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

Morris dancers in a long procession through Rochester High Street at The Sweeps Festival in Rochester. Picture by: John Westhrop. (9744892)
Morris dancers in a long procession through Rochester High Street at The Sweeps Festival in Rochester. Picture by: John Westhrop. (9744892)

Medway Council appealed to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to make both Monday, May 4 and Friday, May 8, bank holidays.

However, this has now been rejected.

In July a group of sweeps marched on parliament to protest against the plans from Medway and other areas impacted by the decision around the country.

Sweepsprotest march to parliament (14500686)
Sweepsprotest march to parliament (14500686)

Festival organiser Gordon Newton was also at the protest at Westminster.

The appeal made by Medway Council was suggested by Medway Labour leader Cllr Vince Maple at full council last month.

Cllr Vince Maple, Labour, Medway Council. Picture supplied by Medway Council (14117270)
Cllr Vince Maple, Labour, Medway Council. Picture supplied by Medway Council (14117270)

He said: "Creating an additional bank holiday for important events is not unprecedented – the government were happy to do so back in 2011 for the royal wedding.

"By denying our request, they have implied that events like the royal wedding are more important than marking the 75th anniversary of the end of a war that killed 85 million people, and is more important than supporting our struggling high streets."

Ward councillor for Rochester West Cllr Alex Paterson (Lab) said: "Having lost more than £600,000 of taxpayers' money on Castle Concerts in two years, Rochester's economy could do without another avoidable setback like this."

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