32nd Straw Bear Festival to brighten up streets of Whittlesey with hundreds of performers taking part

A STUNNING spectacle of traditional dancing, music and street theatre will be seen on the streets of Whittlesey when the 32nd Straw Bear Festival gets under way.

The three-day festival, which begins on Friday January 14, will see around 350 talented performers take part in the main procession the following day with many also performing at different venues around the town over the weekend.

It is an event which brightens up the dark, cold days of winter and which goes back hundreds of years - when it was the custom to dress a plough boy in straw and parade him through the streets of the town.

The bear was clothed in long lengths of tightly twisted straw bands which were wound around the legs, body and arms of the boy or man. As he could see very little a collecting box was fastened around his chest and he was guided on his way by someone carrying a box for gifts of money, beer and food.

It was banned by a police inspector as a form of ‘cadging’ but was revived in 1980 after a break of 71 years.

The parade on the Saturday starts from the Manor Leisure Centre at 10.30am. The procession goes via Station Road to the Market Square and into Market Street, finishing at the junction of Broad Street.

The Straw Bear then turns around and returns to the Market Square. Dance teams will perform at different locations along the route.

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At 1.30pm the bear leaves the Ivy Leaf club to visit the pubs in the town before a final performance in the Market Square at 3pm.

Dancing will include Molly Dancing, Border Morris, Northwest Clog, Rapper, Longsword and Appalachian.

On the Sunday the Straw Bear burning will take place at Sir Harry Smith Community College and there will be a plough service at St Mary’s Church.

The official programme is available around the town, by visiting www.strawbear.org.uk or by calling 01733 208245.