May day bank holiday is upon us so that can mean only one thing. The annual sweeps festival in Rochester. Every year on the May day bank holiday hundreds of people swarm to the streets of Rochester to celebrate age old traditions.
Chimney sweeps would take the whole weekend off (for most their only time off in the year) and spend the weekend dancing and drinking but mostly, gave the people who spent much of their lives in darkness, some well earned sunlight. Most sweeps festivals died out before the turn of the century as new laws were bought in outlawing child labour. As a consequence there were fewer and fewer people attending these celebrations until they eventually died out.
That is until the early 1980’s when a local Medway man decided it was time to dig up these traditions and bring them back to the lime light. Still held on the May bank holiday weekend, you can see sweeps and actors dressed as sweeps, morris dancing and May pole dancing as well as folk music and food and a slightly modern twist with the funfair.