Hebden Bridge Hill Millies to appear at
Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Hebden’s own female Morris dancers, the Hebden Bridge Hill Millies make their debut at this year's Rushbearing Festival.

The Rushbearing Festival will be held on the first weekend in September, Saturday and Sunday, 1st and 2nd September.

Still going strong 30 years after its revival, the Festival procession will include a visit to the new Sowerby Bridge Market Place in Wharf Street on the Saturday and a welcome return to the restored Triangle Inn on the Sunday.

The two-day festival, held on the first weekend in September, is without doubt the most colourful and spectacular event in the Sowerby Bridge calendar.

Thousands will turn out to line the streets, with numbers swelled by the many visitors from around the country, to watch sixty men clad in white shirts, black trousers, panama hats and traditional clogs haul a 16 foot high, one ton, thatched and decorated Rushcart on its ten mile route across the spectacular Pennines, accompanied by a team of collectors in Edwardian dress and some of the finest Morris Dancers and musicians in the country.

The festival weekend has something for everyone; combined with the Rushbearing there will be the annual Norland Scarecrow Trail, celebratory festivities and a fairground in the canal basin, Mummers plays and street entertainers, special Church services, a traditional market and the Friendly Brass Band in and around the new Market Place on Wharf Street, a new look Real Ale Trail in Sowerby Bridge, and the colourful village fete in Ripponden.

The festivities get under way on the Friday night with many pubs putting on barbecues and live music and there is a pre-festival get together at The Works in Hollins Mill Lane where the organisers, cart pullers and the visiting Morris teams enjoy a lively evening

Festival Chairman, John Coupe says, "We are truly delighted to celebrate the Rushbearing Festival once again, something which would not be possible without all the hard work by so many members, together with the great support we receive from local businesses."

In keeping with the early tradition colourful musicians will front the procession - as the internationally acclaimed Peace Artistes from Bradford will lead it through Sowerby Bridge on the Saturday afternoon. On Sunday the spectacular New Orleans Jazz Band from Preston will thrill the crowds along the route through Ryburn Valley before the procession's triumphal arrival into Ripponden whilst the newly formed Huddersfield & Ripponden Brass Band will be playing at the Triangle Inn - thankfully restored after the devastation of a lorry crash - and then in Ripponden.

To mark the Rushbearing's first visit to the new Sowerby Bridge Market Place the Mayor & Mayoress of Calderdale, Councillor and Mrs Peel, will lead the procession along Wharf Street from the Java to Tuel Lane. The civic party will again head the procession, with the Vicar and choir of St. Bartholomew's Church, on the final stage of Sunday afternoon.

Rushbearing dates back several centuries to the time when church floors consisted of little more than stone flags or beaten earth and rushes were used to cover the floor, with new layers being added as they became stale. Once a year the church cleared out the rotten rushes and new ones were taken to the churches in carts so this turned into a celebration and holiday involving revelry, music and Morris dancing and much drinking of strong ales.

The modern-day cart takes around 10 days to prepare and is decorated with tightly fastened bundles of fresh cut rushes, a handcrafted apron, tankards and brasses. During the procession a team of ladies takes turns for the precarious ride atop the swaying cart.

The procession stops at churches along the route for the presentation of symbolic garlands of rushes, with dancing and entertainment at each stop. With cart-pulling being a particularly strenuous activity numerous refreshment stops are also made at local hostelries where further entertainment is provided by the teams of Morris dancers from around the country performing in a variety of regional styles whilst the famous Bradshaw Mummers present one of their traditional plays.

Although Rushbearing Festivals may have died out around the rest of the country there is still a veritable 'Rushbearing Triangle' in the Pennines with three major annual events: Littleborough Rushbearing in July, Saddleworth Rushcart on August 25th & 26th and Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing on September 1st & 2nd. Each provides a two-day feast of music, Morris dancing and entertainment.

For full details of the weekend's events together with the route and timetable and a range of free to use pictures visit our website at www.rushbearing.co.uk

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