As coronavirus continues to cancel and postpone countless exciting events and festivals, I sit at home disheartened knowing I will unable to go to the Rochester Sweeps festival that would have begun tomorrow (02/05/2020).
The festival has always been a highlight of my year growing up in Medway, and even since moving away to Canterbury for university, I’ve always made the effort to take the pilgrimage back home to attend the iconic festival.
For those who don’t know what sweeps festival is, it is a yearly festival that began in the 1980s hosted in Rochester Highstreet and castle grounds at the start of May.
The festival a homage to the chimney sweeps who used to work in Rochester, as May 1 was their traditional holiday to leave sweeping behind for a day and have some fun. They would mark this day by having a procession through the high street and this is what the festival aims to honour every year with dancing, music and celebration.
Rochester High street has hosted the annual festival since the 1980s
Dozens of unforgettable memories have been made at that festival for me, jumping on the train with my best friends to go spend the day looking around the completely transformed Rochester High Street, eating my entire body weight in chocolate and doughnuts before checking out at all the colourful and unique stands selling anything from vintage clothes to wood-wind instruments. I actually bought my first acoustic guitar at the festival when I was about 14 and that guitar has stayed with me ever since.
Check out the spectacular scenes from Sweeps Festival 2018 (all video credit Kent England Travel Youtube.com)
As I got older and I was finally 18, I enjoyed the festival even more, going around all the cider and beer stands with my mates trying flavours I’d never even thought of being a flavour before. Essentially, if you can juice it, there will be a cider that tastes like it somewhere in the festival!
Sweeps festival is not the only Medway festival to be affected by COVID-19. Find out about the rescheduled Medway Pride and more information about Virtual Pride 2020 here.
The festival has meant so much to me over the years so you can imagine my sorrow when I heard that the event had been cancelled, my yearly tradition gone.
That’s not to say I don’t understand why though, of course I do, social distancing is our nations absolute priority, especially now that we are beginning to see over the peak of this crisis, everybody needs to do their bit to stay at home and help protect those who are at risk.
I am going to miss it though, and I know a lot of people are going to as well, it’s such an amazing experience for everybody in Medway and really helps to remind us of how a strong a community Medway is, with people coming from towns all over to join in the celebrations.
Many Medway residents are downhearted to see the festival cancelled:
— poe jónsdóttir (@poe_jonsdottir) May 1, 2020
Absolutely gutted that theres no #sweepsFestival this year in Rochester. Hate this bloody stupid virus .Totally fed up with it all now. 😭😫
— angela frances bah (@AngelabahBah) May 1, 2020
The sound of music filling the historic castle grounds from the numerous live acts that perform across the day, the smells of any treat you could want across the day and just the feeling of a great day in the sun with great people, it will all be missed.
However, we all have to do our bit to help get us through these uncertain times, so I’ll be sure to have myself a cloudy cider in the garden tomorrow and think of all the memories made at the festival, and look forward to an amazing sweeps festival in 2021!
(Main image credit Garry Knight Flickr.com)