Saturday, January 13, 2018

Watching the straw bear dance through Whittlesey

Last year I read an account of the Straw Bear Festival in Whittlesey that described the bear as seeming to draw the winter sun along behind him. I had to see that for myself.

But there was no sun today - just a damp, Fenland cold that enters the bones. I shouldn't be surprised if I have caught the ague.

Yet I am pleased I went to Whittlesey (the festival website prefers the older spelling Whittlesea), which is a small town near Peterborough.

I saw the straw bear dance and caper, led by his keeper and followed by musicians playing his own loping tune.

And it turned out that Whittlesey, like Play School, has a big bear and a little bear.

Beyond that the day is a festival of dancing. There were the inevitable morris dancers, but also clog dancers (almost military in their noise and precision) and mysterious molly dancers.

The festival is a modern revival of a Plough Monday tradition that was suppressed around the turn of the 20th century.

I am all in favour of inventing ancient traditions: the Victorians did it all the time.

Anyway, the history page on the festival site will tell you more about this. It also appears from Twitter that there was a stabbing during the event.

I got out just in time.


wolfi said...

Thanks, Jonathan, for this - wouldn't have thought that the English are up to these kind of festivities.
In Southern Germany we have similar events and masquerades as a part of "Fasnet" (Fasching, carnival) - an old, pre-Christian tradition

David Bertram said...

Slightly destroys the 'magic' to see the Straw Bear sports Nike plimsolls.

Anonymous said...

Shock to me posted on a Liberal blog - with the wonderful Kemps Men of Norwich and our wonderful Dragon Eric

Jonathan Calder said...

Why does it shock you to see this on a Liberal blog?