Published: Wednesday, 5th April 2023
The UK’s largest celebration of folk music and dance will transform historic Rochester into a spectacular kaleidoscope of colour and sound later this month.
The Sweeps Festival, which is being held between Saturday, 29 April and Monday, 1 May, has become one of the largest May Festival celebrations of its kind in the world.
Hundreds of Morris dancers from across the country will clatter their clogs and clash their sticks up and down the historic high street.
An array of folk music will be on offer at venues across Rochester including headliners Sur Les Docks, The Singing Loins, Galego Baile En Londres, Stompin Dave, Jacob Bride’s ‘Mercurial’ and The Beard Conspiracy.
Rochester Castle, the finest and tallest Norman castle keep in the country, and its surrounding moat and picturesque gardens will also be filled with music and dance. As well as a fun fair rides, artisan produce, folk arts, food and drink visitors will be able to consult a psychic, peruse records and try out instruments at stalls on Boley Hill.
Children and young people will also be able to take part in fun penny whistle workshops and watch performances based around Grimm Tales in the castle moat. These family-friendly activities support Medway’s aspiration to become even more child-friendly.
We have run The Sweeps Festival, alongside festival founder Gordon Newton, since 1981.
The festival is a symbol of the beginning of the British summer, which was welcomed by chimney sweeps and Morris dancers. The annual festival was designed to recreate the joy and laughter enjoyed by chimney sweeps on their traditional holiday and was even mentioned in a Charles Dickens article in 1836.
Brilliantly quirky and unique
Paul Cowell, Head of Culture and Libraries at Medway Council, said: “The Rochester Sweeps Festival is brilliantly unique and quirky and is one of the largest gatherings of Morris sides in the world. It is a highly anticipated event and is one of the highlights of our impressive Medway Presents events programme which is set to be beyond your greatest expectations. Historic Rochester will be filled with live folk music and dance during this spectacular weekend and we are looking forward to welcoming thousands of people to this iconic festival.”
Morris Dancing is having a resurgence
Gordon Newton said: “Since founding the festival more than 40 years ago, this May Festival celebration has from strength to strength. Morris Dancing is currently having a resurgence in popularity and we are looking forward to welcoming more than 40 Morris sides to this year’s festival. We are proud that we are giving new dancers an opportunity to perform in one of the largest May Festival celebrations of its kind, in the world. We are looking forward to celebrating century old traditions on the historic high street with a vibrant, local, national and international audience.”