There’ll be tradition and tomfoolery in the Calder Valley this weekend as the Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing festival takes place.
The annual Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing first took place in 1977 to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Rushbearing ceremonies were common in times before churches had proper seating for its parishioners. The floors of churches were covered with rushes in order to make them more comfortable. Once a year the worn out rushes would be replaced with new ones and this annual chore was turned into a celebratory event.
These days there are only a handful of rushbearing ceremonies that still take place. The Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing is possibly the only one to take place in Yorkshire.
The event takes place over several days every September and the focal point is a sixteen foot high, two-wheeled, decorated and thatched rushcart. The cart is pulled by sixty local men dressed in Panama hats, white shirts, black trousers and clogs, accompanied by musicians, mummers and folk dancers through the streets of Sowerby Bridge and Ripponden.
Each year a team of around 15 people create a new rushcart for the festival, which takes about a week and a half to construct.
The colourful rushcart procession is a unique spectacle as it takes the nine-mile route through local villages over the course of the weekend. The procession sees a team of young ladies taking turns to ride on top of the cart and stops are made at the churches along the way to hand over the rushes and there are dance performances at the local public houses.
Expect street theatre from the Bradshaw Mummers, traditional Yorkshire dance steps from Ryburn Longsword, clog dancing from the Carlisle Cloggies and exotic tribal belly dancing from 400 Roses over the weekend.
This year’s event will feature a pre-rushbearing get-together at Hollins Mill with live music and beer drinking. Throughout the weekend local pubs will be selling Rushbearing ales as part of the annual Sowerby Bridge Real Ale Trail.
When: 7th & 8th September 2019
Where: Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire
More info: www.rushbearing.com