Straw Bear 2020 proves to be as popular as ever with thousands packing Whittlesey for the annual festival of music and Morris
- Credit: Archant
Health and safety finally caught up with the straw bear at Sunday’s burning ceremony.
Back in the days, recalled Richard Exton in the programme notes, "we could just stand around a heap of burning straw.
"You could help yourself to a few burnt ears at the end. Did anyone get burnt?"
In 2020, however, health and safety decried that no one should get close to the burning ceremony - and new for this year the instruction, delivered loudly and clearly, of an age restriction on who could stand where to watch the bear burn.
Few cared, however, for the concluding moments of the festival were as magical, entertaining and popular as ever.
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It began with a packed Ivy Leaf concert on Friday, moved onto Whittlesey rammed for the Saturday parades and Morris dancing, enlivened by another full house for the evening barn dance before the pace slowed at Sir Harry Smith College on Sunday for two hours of dancing prior to the burning ceremony.
Not only did the Morris dancers come from across the country but so did the bear admirers. As the festival grows in popularity so do the number of visitors putting it on their 'must do' list for January.
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Intricate sword dancing mingled with the joys of Morris across multiple venues as pubs, bars and clubs hosted the vast array of performers who commit each year to straw bear.
The beer flowed for sure but the atmosphere was lively, enriching and well natured; police must have wished every event, anywhere, would pass so peacefully.
And it was an occasion for great mysteries of our time to be solved.
"Why do you hit sticks? " inquired one breathless visitor rushing up to one of Peterborough Morris' finest. "To make a nice sound" came the response, though whether he intended a question mark or exclamation mark was never revealed.
This was the 41st straw bear festival since it was revived in 1980. Tony Sennett, who has been part of straw bear since 1994 when he first donned a junior costume aged 10, summed it up in interview with the BBC.
"When you get inside that costume and that head comes down, your whole persona changes, your whole being changes into something completely different," he said.