Whittlesey gets set for 41st Straw Bear Festival - which returns to town next weekend

PUBLISHED: 14:47 08 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:39 10 January 2020

The 40th Whittlesey Straw Bear festival drew crowds from across Europe to enjoy this annual traditional weekend event. Picture: GARRY SAMUELS

The 40th Whittlesey Straw Bear festival drew crowds from across Europe to enjoy this annual traditional weekend event. Picture: GARRY SAMUELS

AdGarry Samuels

Straw Bear fans are getting ready for the 41st annual festival, which takes place in Whittlesey next weekend.

The 40th Whittlesey Straw Bear festival drew crowds from across Europe to enjoy this annual traditional weekend event. Picture: GARRY SAMUELSThe 40th Whittlesey Straw Bear festival drew crowds from across Europe to enjoy this annual traditional weekend event. Picture: GARRY SAMUELS

The popular event, which runs from Friday January 17 to Sunday January 19, will feature local community groups and entertainers ranging from singers to dancers.

A concert featuring Tom Sennett, Ady Bull, Causton & Walker and The Boxwood Chessmen will kick off proceedings at the Ivy Leaf Club on Friday from 8-11pm.

A Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival spokesman said: "Saturday (January 18) heralds the dancing out of no less than three straw bears on the streets between 10.30am and 3.30pm supported by traditional dance teams throughout the town.

"Also, Poets United and Sanjay will present poetry and acoustic music in the town hall and stories will be told by Hanna Brailsford in Queen Street methodist united reformed church in the afternoon. These events are free."

Crowds are set to line the streets of Whittlesey for its 41st Straw Bear Festival next weekend. Picture: GARRY SAMUELSCrowds are set to line the streets of Whittlesey for its 41st Straw Bear Festival next weekend. Picture: GARRY SAMUELS

The fun continues with a barn dance at Sir Harry Smith Community College between 8-11.30pm, where music will be provided by band The News of the Victory.

Then on Sunday, the traditional dance and music session at Sir Harry Smith Community College will round off a jam-packed weekend from 12-2pm, before the straw bear bonfire at 2.30pm.

The Straw Bear Festival raises money for a variety of community groups including local scouts and guides, churches, the town's cricket club and Whittlesey Museum.

In the 1800s, it was traditional to dress a man or boy in straw and parade him around the town on the Tuesday after Plough Monday.

Crowds are set to line the streets of Whittlesey for its 41st Straw Bear Festival next weekend. Picture: GARRY SAMUELSCrowds are set to line the streets of Whittlesey for its 41st Straw Bear Festival next weekend. Picture: GARRY SAMUELS

This tradition fell into decline at the end of the 19th century, the last sighting in 1909, as it appears that an over-zealous police inspector had forbidden 'Straw Bears' as a form of cadging. The festival was brought back in the 1980s.

Last year event founder Brian Kell, along with his son Douglas and grandson Jasper, dressed up in straw for the festival, as people from across the UK and Europe crowded the streets for the colourful spectacle.

Speaking about last year's success, Brian said: "It has taken over my family's life. It's been a lifelong commitment but one that has brought much pleasure and great experiences."

Crowds are set to line the streets of Whittlesey for its 41st Straw Bear Festival next weekend. Picture: GARRY SAMUELSCrowds are set to line the streets of Whittlesey for its 41st Straw Bear Festival next weekend. Picture: GARRY SAMUELS

Revellers at the Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival in 2018. Picture: ARCHANTRevellers at the Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival in 2018. Picture: ARCHANT

The 40th Whittlesey Straw Bear festival drew crowds from across Europe to enjoy this annual traditional weekend event. Picture: GARRY SAMUELSThe 40th Whittlesey Straw Bear festival drew crowds from across Europe to enjoy this annual traditional weekend event. Picture: GARRY SAMUELS

The 40th Whittlesey Straw Bear festival drew crowds from across Europe to enjoy this annual traditional weekend event. Picture: GARRY SAMUELSThe 40th Whittlesey Straw Bear festival drew crowds from across Europe to enjoy this annual traditional weekend event. Picture: GARRY SAMUELS

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