When: 10th – 12th January 2014. The parade begins at 10.30am at The Manor Leisure Centre on Station Road
Where: Whittlesey, Near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire
£: Free (an event programme costs £1). Some of the organised events are ticketed.
What is it?
In Whittlesey (originally spelt Whittlesea) there is an unusual custom that traditionally takes place on the Tuesday following Plough Monday, where a person is dressed up in straw and paraded around town. It is unknown when exactly this tradition first began but farmers would dress one of the men or boys up in straw. The farmers would then lead this ‘straw bear’ from house to house, where the bear would dance in exchange for food, beer and other gifts. This custom died out in the early 1900s but was resurrected in the 1980s and has taken place ever since.
Today the procession with the straw bear contains over 250 dancers, musicians and performers from various parts of the British Isles. Every year there are traditional performances of Molly, Morris, Clog and Sword dancing as well as American style Appalachian dancing, street performances, Mummers plays and a decorated plough pulled by a local Morris side. The procession no longer goes from house to house but parades around the town with dances taking place along the route.
The procession heads around the town on the Saturday and dances can be seen at locations including the Black Bull, the Market Place, the Library and the War Memorial. This year there will also be storytelling sessions, a Mini Melodeon Workshop, poetry, a barn dance and a Cajun dance to enjoy. You can book for these extra events via firstname.lastname@example.org.
To complete the tradition the bear is burned at the Community College on the Sunday from 12 noon. This year a bar will be available at the burning and various dance teams will be performing.
More info: www.strawbear.org.uk