Festival stripped back to the 'bear' essentials

Straw Bear 2022

Straw Bear as featured in the Peterborough Advertiser in the 1930s. - Credit: Archant

Straw Bear ‘lite’ is going ahead in January – but all indoor events have been cancelled.  

Organisers of the annual Whittlesey festival says the decision was taken “in light of advice and the dramatic increase of Coronavirus cases”. 

However outdoor activities, in a restricted form, will take place on Saturday January 15 but with reduced number of Morris dancers taking part. 

And in a special ‘spread the joy, not the virus’ message, organisers are appealing for anyone attending to be tested before they arrive. 

“This is a wonderful community event, let's keep it that way,” says a statement on the Straw Bear website.  

“It can get crowded on the streets. Please wear a mask. We have invited less dance teams to try and alleviate some of this too.” 

The revised schedule mainly revolves around the procession. 

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Procession 

10:30am Saturday January 15 

The Straw Bears followed by the plough, local schools and dance teams take to the streets of Whittlesey once more! 

The procession leaves the Manor Pavilion at 10:30am and makes its way up to the Market Place, via Station Road where dance teams will continue to brighten up the streets as the  

Bear meanders about the town throughout the day. 

Finale 

3.30pm Saturday January 15 

The Bears and dance teams finish off the proceedings with a final dance on the Market Place. 

A statement says they have taken some decisions “that make the festival more manageable and flexible should restrictions change over the winter”. 

This means there will be: 

No Friday night concert 

No Saturday storytellers 

No in person barn Dance 

No in person burning 

No Sunday session 

 
And they also added a plea: NO HUGS THIS YEAR 

The statement adds: “We all love a Straw Bear hug, however spare a thought for the drivers of the bears.  

“There are real people driving the bears. The virus has not gone.  

“This year, please do not hug the bears. Let's keep the festival on the streets, surely that's more important?” 

Footnote: Straw Bear dates back many years to when it was the custom on the Tuesday following Plough Monday (the 1st Monday after Twelfth Night) to dress one of the confraternity of the plough in straw and call him a 'Straw Bear 

 The custom was revived in 1980 by the Whittlesea Society. 

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