33rd Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival

Added Tuesday, 4 August 2009

33rd Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival

On Saturday & Sunday 5th & 6th September

This year will again see the biggest procession in the Festival’s history – in addition to the Rushcart, there will be six Morris-dancing sides on the Saturday and eight on Sunday. They will accompany the sixty men – clad in white shirts, black trousers, panama hats and traditional clogs – as they haul the 16' high, one ton, thatched and decorated Rushcart on its ten mile route to the delight of the thousands of spectators and visitors lining the route.

Still going strong for well over 30 years the two-day festival, held on the first weekend in September, is without doubt the most spectacular event in the Sowerby Bridge calendar.

Festival Chairman, John Coupe says, “Rushbearing is often seen as the last major event of the summer and so it is important that we give everyone a really memorable weekend.”

33rd Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing FestivalThe festival has something for everyone; combined with the Rushbearing there will be the annual Norland Scarecrow Trail, celebratory festivities and a bouncy castle for the children, Mummers plays and street entertainers, the 400 Roses Exotic Dancers, special Church services, a traditional market and the Friendly Brass Band in and around the Market Place, the annual Real Ale Trail in Sowerby Bridge, and the colourful Village Fete and Flower Festival 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.

In keeping with the early tradition colourful musicians will front the procession – as the internationally acclaimed Peace Artistes from Bradford lead it through Sowerby Bridge on the Saturday afternoon, and the weekend is played out by a New Orleans Jazz Band on Sunday afternoon arrival into Ripponden. In addition to the musicians the procession will also be headed up at various stages by the Mayor of Calderdale.

This year sees some slight variations to the route reflecting the changing landscape of the licensed trade. On the Saturday morning the procession will now stop at the White Horse on Burnley Road and in the afternoon there is a welcome opportunity to cross the river once again to visit the new Jubilee Refreshment Rooms at the Railway Station.

On Sunday the mid-afternoon stop will now be at Triangle Cricket Club.

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 church. 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.

For full details of the Sowerby Bridge weekend’s events, visiting Morris sides, and the route and timetable visit our new website at www.rushbearing.com

Please be aware that the slow moving nature of this long, traditional procession means that there will be occasions over the weekend when, for the safety of everyone concerned, there will have to be some temporary road closures. They will be:

Saturday 5th September
10:15 - 11:00 – Windle Royd Lane, Cote Hill, Warley (Procession formation)
11:45 - 12:10 – Warley Village to Burnley Road via Cliff Hill Lane / Water Hill Lane
15:15 - 15.50 – Tower Hill, Sowerby Bridge (St Paul's Church)
16:25 - 17:15 – Corporation Street & Hollins Mill Lane, Sowerby Bridge

Sunday 6th September

14:30 - 15:45 – Alma Inn to Rochdale Road via Lumb Lane / Mill Bank Road / Dean Lane / Sandy Dyke Lane / Oak Hill
16:30 - 16:45 – Elland Road (Rochdale Road to St. Bartholomew's Church
16:30 - 17:30 – Old Bank Road (St. Bartholomew's Church)

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