Whittlesea Straw Bear 2016
The Straw Bear Festival celebrates the old Fenland plough custom of parading straw bears around the town every January.
In Whittlesea, from when no one quite knows, it was custom on the Tuesday following plough Monday (1st monday after Twelfth Night) to dress one of the confraternity of the plough in straw and call him a Straw Bear.
The custom was revived in 1980 by the Whittlesea Society, and for the first time in seventy years a ‘Straw Bear’ was seen on the streets accompanied by his attendant keeper, musicians and dancers, about 30 in all. Various public houses were visited around the town as convenient places for the ‘Bear’ and dancers to perform in front of an audience -with much needed refreshment available!.
The procession now contains over 250 dancers, musicians and performers from various parts of the British Isles performing traditional ‘Molly, ‘Morris’, ‘Clog’ and ‘Sword’. A decorated plough is pulled by 21st century plough boys and is now an established part of the procession.
The ‘Bear’ made its appearance on Saturday 18th January 2016 and was burnt, ‘Bear Burning’ on Sunday 19th January, leaving the way open for a new bear to be created from the next season’s harvest.