Straw Bear Festival makes colourful return to streets of Whittlesey

A “Straw Bear” and dancers wearing an array of colours laced the streets of Whittlesey, as the Cambridgeshire town’s famous festival returned.

The Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival made a dramatic return over the weekend, following a two-year break due to the Covid pandemic.

Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival
A Straw Bear is paraded through the streets accompanied by attendant keepers, musicians and dancers (Joe Giddens/PA)

The act of parading a Straw Bear through the area seems to date back to the 1880s, when the Tuesday following Plough Monday (the first Monday after Twelfth Night) would be marked by getting one of the members of the plough to dress in straw, hence the name, according to organisers.

The custom fell into decline towards the end of the 19th century, before being revived in 1980 by the Whittlesea Society.

Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival
People pose for a photo with the Straw Bear during the Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire (Joe Giddens/PA)

This year’s event saw the star of the show excite attendees as various Straw Bears posed for photos and waved at the crowds of people hoping to catch a glimpse of the giant figures, who were accompanied by attendant keepers.

More than 250 dancers, musicians and performers from various parts of the British Isles also attended.

Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival
The Bourne Borderers morris dancers perform during the Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival (Joe Giddens/PA)
Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival
Bourne Borderers morris dancers (Joe Giddens/PA)

Many seemed to not mind the rain and dreary weather as the Bourne Borderers morris dancers filled the roads with music and light, as they carried out a performance wearing yellow and green frilly outfits, floral hats and green face paint.

Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival
A member of the Pig Dyke Molly Dancers (Joe Giddens/PA)
Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival
Pig Dyke Molly Dancers shelter under an umbrella (Joe Giddens/PA)

Pig Dyke Molly Dancers showed off their impressive make-up skills and artistry, with one decorating her face to almost replicate a chess board and others sporting giant black and white bows and feathers.

Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival
The Red Leicester Morris Men perform (Joe Giddens/PA)

Sticks moved up and down and game faces were activated as The Red Leicester Morris Men entertained locals.