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'Witches' bid to be new stars of Sheppey carnival

A group of 'witches' is conjuring up support to take over the carnival crown discarded by the Sheppey Zulus.

For generations, young Islanders squealed in delight as they were 'terrorised' by the blacked-up grass-skirt wearing 'cannibals' running barefoot alongside carnival floats with their spears and cooking pot.

Toil and Trouble bewitched spectators during the Sheerness Carnival. Picture: Chris Davey. (15383943)
Toil and Trouble bewitched spectators during the Sheerness Carnival. Picture: Chris Davey. (15383943)

In these more politically-correct days, the tradition is no longer welcome, despite several attempts to reform the group.

So Toil and Trouble, a team of pagan dancers, is hoping step into the void and bewitch spectators with its spellbinding performances.

Members made their debut at last month's procession dressed as witches with pointed hats and broomsticks and walked off with first prize for best dance group, second place for walking group and third for adult fancy dress.

Leader Lee Ellison said: "It would be great if we could fill the gap left by the Zulus.

"They were unique and will always be part of the Island's history. But it would be nice if we could develop our own following like they did."

One of the Sheppey Zulus' last appearances in Sheerness in August 2015(16434812)
One of the Sheppey Zulus' last appearances in Sheerness in August 2015(16434812)

The group has a core of 20 dancers and 64 'friends' on its Toil and Trouble Facebook page and is eager for others to join.

Lee, 49, said: "We are are all pagans and just love helping people by spreading some fun.

"We only dressed as witches for the carnival. Underneath, we are all pretty normal."

It is possible they will take to the streets again for Halloween with some new dances and could end up celebrating Christmas, or Yule as they call it, around the town's clock tower.

But there are no plans to merge with the existing Sheppey Witches coven run by Charlotte Clark. Her beach meetings have been featured on Kent Online , in our sister paper the Sheerness Times Guardian and in The Sun.

Sheppey witches on the beach at Minster with their broomsticks (16434552)
Sheppey witches on the beach at Minster with their broomsticks (16434552)

Lee admitted: "We know about Charlotte's group. There is no rivalry but we do our own thing."

Lee and his partner Sarah Evans are already planning to broaden the group's appeal by appearing in other festivals across Kent.

Lee said: "It would be good to travel further afield."

For more information call Lee on 07956 443403.

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