VIDEO & GALLERY: Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival celebrates its 35th anniversary in style

Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival 2014. Picture: Steve Williams. Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival 2014. Picture: Steve Williams.

Friday, January 17, 2014
10:36 AM

He was determined to go out an a high and festival director Paul Cornell was acclaimed for doing just that as the 35th annual Straw Bear celebrations drew thousands to Whittlesey over the weekend.

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He was determined to go out an a high and festival director Paul Cornell was acclaimed for doing just that as the 35th annual Straw Bear celebrations drew thousands to Whittlesey over the weekend.

Mr Cornell said he would most definitely miss the event “for it is a wonderful feeling to see the town full of dancers and musicians and people enjoying themselves and knowing that I have helped to make it happen”.

Molly dancers from across Norfolk and East Anglia were joined by performers, dancers and musicians from as far away as the Cotswolds and Lancashire at this festival that commemorates a rich, rural tradition.

Although the Whittlesey festival was revived quite recently it in fact goes back to the 19th century when on the first Monday following Twelfth Night a plough boy was dressed in straw and paraded through the town.

After a break of 71 years the festival was revived continues to get stronger each year with concerts, public story telling events and barn dances intermingled among the three day event.

Festival volunteer Ady Bull described the event as “living history connecting traditions of our past with modern day life.”

He said: “Through the years thousands of pounds have been raised for local charities and causes. The hard work and pure selfless passion year upon year from a group of dedicated volunteers ensures the event continues for future generations.”

Founder and principal of the revived Straw Bear Festival is Brian Kell who in last year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours was awarded the British Empire Medal for service to music and to the Whittlesey community.

His colleague Geoff Oldfield said: “For over 30 years Brian’s enthusiasm in promoting the festival has resulted in it growing from a small beginning to one of national and international recognition.”

Mr Oldfield said the financial benefit to the town from Straw Bear was “unquantifiable”.

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