This weekend sees the 33rd annual Rochester Sweeps Festival, one of the highlights of the Rochester calendar.
It was local businessman Gordon Newton who in 1980 had the idea of reviving the 400 year old tradition of sweeps celebrating their only holiday by awakening the Jack-in-the Green then spending their day dancing and drinking. Much has changed since the days of child chimney sweeps but the traditions of dance, ale, music and more ale are alive and well at the Rochester Festival.
The line-up of over 60 Morris dancing sides and fantastic live music make this years’ festival bigger than ever. Highlights include on Saturday 4th the brilliant ‘Singing Loins’ with support from ‘Lupen Crook’ at the Corn Exchange. Doors at 8pm, tickets £10 (although I think it’s sold out). Also on Saturday 4th, the Edith May Sailing Barge at Rochester Pier hosts ‘No Worries’ with support from ‘John Barden’. Doors at 7.30pm, tickets £8.
On Sunday 5th, ‘Luke Jackson’ plays the Edith May. Again, doors at 7.30pm and tickets are £10. Also on Sunday, the Corn Exchange hosts BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Musician of the Year ‘Tim Edey’ with support from ‘Alister Atkin & The Ghost Line Carnival’ – doors 8pm and tickets £10. Tickets for all of these gigs are available from www.medwayticketslive.co.uk, by phone on 01634 338338, from the Council Theatres or from the Rochester Visitors Information Centre.
Rochester Castle Gardens has a live music stage as well as hosting a traditional fun fair, real ale bar and loads of food stalls. There’s a Buskers Corner on Boley Hill, a Farmers Market in the King’s Head & Boley Hill car parks and a Guitar Building Workshop at the Guildhall Museum.
Pretty well every pub and bar has live music throughout the weekend. There’s also a stage outside the Guildhall that on Monday 6th is hosting ‘Women Aloud’, a new event showcasing a great line-up of female acts.
At 2.15pm on each day of the festival, the City of Rochester Society will be leading a 90 minute walking tour of the city. Leaving from outside the Visitors Information Centre in the High Street, our tours are free of charge although donations to the Society are welcome.
And if all that wasn’t enough, St Margaret’s Church, just a 5 minute walk from the city centre, is opening for the weekend with its magnificently restored bell tower offering a unique panoramic view of Rochester and its environs – well worth a look.
Full details of all the weekends’ activities are available from the VIC, Medway libraries and many of the shops in the towns.