Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival

Where: Whittlesey, Cambs all around town (Sat) & Sir Harry Smith Community College grounds (Sun)
When: Mid-month Weekend
Time: 10.30-3.30 Saturday, 12-2.30 Sunday burning


Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival is a modern revival (from 1980) of the ancient fenland custom of making a straw bear for Plough Monday – a man totally covered with a straw costume and led through town ( the costume weighs about 5 stone!) . The weekend starts with a concert on the Friday night and the main events are the procession and dancing on the Saturday and the Burning on the Sunday. The procession is led by the Straw Bear and his keepers and a Plough team pulling the plough,   followed by numerous dance groups including morris men and molly, clog and sword dancers, who perform throughout the day at several locations all around the town. Poetry readings and story telling sessions take place indoors and there is a ceilidh in the evening. On Sunday there are further performances and finally the Bear is ceremonially burnt (hopefully without the man inside…). This is a very well organised festival indeed and the only criticism I heard at all was that there weren’t enough collecting buckets for donations!  Highlights for us included Pig Dyke Molly who were particularly good at involving children with their Zebra/Hobby Horse and dancing puppet dog,  the slightly sinister Old Glory Molly Dancers and the dextrous sword-dancing trio from PRATS (whose performance sadly isn’t on our video!). It’s a fun event with a great atmosphere…be prepared to be haunted for days by the Straw Bear tune like us.

Helpful Hints

Though the festival is Whittlesea Straw Bear, you’ll find it’s spelled Whittlesey on most maps. Buy a festival programme when you arrive (they will be on sale at the Butter Cross in the Market Place with other festival merchandise ) then you can plan exactly who to watch, where and when and you won’t miss the Straw Bear himself – there are several processions through the day. Special Straw Bear Ale is on sale, brewed for the occasion and you might be lucky enough to be given some ears of wheat from the Bear’s costume at the Burning.

In 2019 the festival is held on the 18th -20th of January.

Click here for the event website : http://www.strawbear.org.uk/

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