‘Medway’s annual Sweeps Festival recreates the joy and laughter enjoyed by the chimney sweeps at their traditional holiday: the one time of the year the sweeps could leave the soot behind and have some fun. The sweeps’ holiday was traditionally held on 1 May each year. Locally, they used to mark the occasion by staging a procession through the streets of Rochester. The modern day Rochester Sweeps Festival is a colourful mix of music, dancing and entertainment with more than 60 Morris sides and entertainers celebrating throughout the three-day festival.’ (Medway Council website)
Essentially, Sweeps is a 3 day folk, Morris dancing and beer festival. The people that attend are looking for an experience and searching for opportunities to engage and/or make sense of with what is going on around them.
At Rochester Cathedral we have a history of being open and available during festivals and in more recent years we have attempted to attempt to engage more with people during a variety of worship and art installations.
Following attending my first Sweeps Festival last year I noticed very much that the festival goers appeared to be looking for an ‘experience’ and were interested in ‘spiritual’ areas of luck/blessings associated with sweeps and the spirituality that exists around morris dancing and folk music.
Our plan this year is to set up a stall outside the cathedral, pretty much along the same lines as Dekhomai; offering foot and hand massage, prayer and anointing for healing, prayer beads, blessings, prayer postcards based on St Florian (the patron saint of sweeps) and so on.
The festival runs from Saturday to Monday and I am looking to recruit a team to cover 6 sessions over the 3 days. I hope to recruit six groups of 3 people, around 18 people in total to cover a session. People are fee to volunteer for a whole day or days rather than a session if they wish. The sessions will run from 10am – 1pm and 1pm – 5pm. Of course we can be flexible with these timings as well!
If people have not done stuff like this before hand we will run an informal training session at the cathedral.
If you might be interested please contact me through the blog and we can take it from there.