Published: 06:00, 02 May 2020
While this year's Sweeps Festival may be cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis KentOnline is determined to bring some of the traditions magic into your homes.
The annual extravaganza was set to take place today and tomorrow but was ditched because of the lockdown brought on by COVID-19.
The festival dates back more than 300 years to when children were used as chimney sweeps and would be given an annual holiday on May 1, which allowed them to have some fun and stage a procession to collect money.
When it became illegal to employ climbing boys in 1868 that tradition began to fade away and the last celebration was held in the early 1900s.
That was until local historian and businessman Gordon Newton revived it in Medway in 1981 after finding an article by Charles Dickens describing the celebration.
Every year the event is held in Rochester High Street and thousands get involved.
Mr Newton says he became "consumed" by the festival.
He said: "May festivals and sweeps processions would take place all over the south east.
"It’s important to keep the tradition going. To celebrate those who lost their lives cleaning chimneys. It started as a hobby, but now I am consumed by the festival. I wore the jack-in-the-green costume for more than 15 years and have organised the Morris sides since the beginning.
"When I look around and see the pure joy of people watching the procession, joining in, singing, dancing.
"It is such a friendly festival and people from all around the world come to celebrate too. The colours of the costumes, the noise of the sticks, the traditional music – everything."
Mr Newton said he hopes he keep the yearly celebration ongoing to "continue the tradition" before adding it helps to showcase "what a great place" Medway is to visit.
Medway Council's portfolio holder for community services, Cllr Howard Doe (Con), said: “We would normally be welcoming thousands of people to Rochester this weekend and although we can’t all come together this year we can celebrate by looking back on fond memories from the last 40 years.
"The festival has gone from strength to strength over the years and is a firm fixture in the national events calendar. I would like to thank Gordon Newton for championing the festival and we look forward to celebrating the festival next year.”