Follow a giant ‘bear’ around a Cambridgeshire town this weekend, as an unusual annual custom takes place.
The annual Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival takes place in Cambridgeshire from Friday 17th to Sunday 19th January with parades, dancing, music and storytelling.
Taking place in Whittlesey (originally spelt Whittlesea), this unusual custom features a person dressed up as a ‘straw bear’, and during the festival this ‘bear’ is paraded around the town.
It is unknown exactly when this tradition first began, but local farmers would dress one of the men or boys up in straw and lead this ‘straw bear’ from house to house. The bear would dance in exchange for food, beer and other gifts. The custom died out in the early 1900s but was resurrected in the 1980s, and this quirky event 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.
When: 17th – 19th January 2020
Where: Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire
More info: www.strawbear.org.uk