Having promised to post about our afternoon at Rochester Sweeps Festival, here goes. The Sweeps Festival was revived in 1981 but the history behind it is that it was celebrated by the sweeps traditionally on 1st May each year and was the only day of the year that they could leave the soot and dirt behind and have some fun. The day started with Jack-in-the-Green (a seven foot character) being awakened at dawn on Blue Bell Hill, Chatham, and Jack would walk with the sweeps in their parade. A Jack-in-the-Green ceremony is still held these days though the closest resemblance to Jack-in-the Green that I saw in the parade on Monday was a man walking along inside a bush! I suppose this makes sense though when one considers that Jack-in-the-Green was regarded as the traditional representation of the burgeoning forces of spring
He seemed very jolly, all considered, and kept stopping to ask people watching the procession if they were enjoying themselves!
I adore Rochester at any time as it's a very atmospheric sort of place with a wealth of historical buildings but the Sweeps Festival really enhanced these qualities. The festival, which spanned over the whole bank holiday weekend and culminated in the procession, included concerts (one being a Fairport Convention concert on Sunday), guitar and percussion workshops, and various folk bands in most of the pubs.
I started off by having a mooch around some of the shops and enhanced my stash of necklaces and pendants for the Charity Craft Fair by buying a few more at 50p apiece.
Then we walked around for a while and passed by the Castle . . . . .
. . . . . before settling down in the Kings Head where Dammit! were playing.
There were hand painted idioms on the walls here and there as you can see from the photo above but this one, particulary, in the photo below, grabbed my fancy.
Just as I was photographing the wording, the guy you can see at the left of the photo walked by and apologised profusely because he thought he'd spoilt my photo. I assured him it was quite okay and that he hadn't spoilt it at all. Later, when I looked at the photo, I thought, "Hey, bruv! He looks like Eastenders' Grant Mitchell"!
Dammit! performed a medley of folk songs, and a few drinks later, (a fair few drinks later, in fact) we reached the finale to which I joined in with the best of them and sang along with gusto!
Her eyes they shone like dia-monds
They called her the queen of the land
And her hair was slung over her shou-eld-er
Tied up with a black velvet band . . . . .
And then we left the twilight world of the bar and all that communal body heat and
Here are a few photos of the parade to give you a taster. Just click on the images to enlarge if you want a closer look.
Then back home we went and, after reparations including a pot of strong coffee, I finished the amulet bag (speaking of which, it's now packed up ready to go to dreamcatcher, and will be posted tomorrow).