Furious Morris dancers to march on Parliament over May Day bank holiday

Gordon Newton, who founded the Sweeps Festival four decades ago and is to lead the lobby of Parliament on July 23, said: “It will be a very colourful protest, with bells, Morris dancers and green men, a lot of them. “It is not just our event, it is one of the most popular times for all types of festivals across the country. The impact on them will be massive. This was done without consultation. Of course we want to commemorate VE Day and we can still do that if we have an extra Bank Holiday on Monday.”Like many events involving troupes of Morris dancers the Sweeps Festival was originally set for Monday, May 4 next year, but with that Bank Holiday scrapped planning has been thrown into confusion.He added: “I am hoping Business Secretary Greg Clarke will realise what a stupid mistake the Bank Holiday switch is. People dance around the Maypole People dance around the Maypole From the Suffragettes demanding the vote for women to Remain activists calling for a second referendum the Mother of Parliaments has seen a fair number of protests in its day.But few are likely to be as colourful, noisy and frankly eccentric as the one set to descend on the Palace of Westminster later this month.With a lusty “Hey Nonny Nonny” and a thwack of their sticks, Morris dancers from all over Britain will gather in full costume to protest against the Government’s decision to scrap the early May Bank Holiday in favour of holding one the following Friday, to mark next year’s 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe.Morris men and women say the move will force the cancellation of hundreds of festivals and events across the country which traditionally take place over May’s first Bank Holiday weekend, bringing in millions for local economies.They are now calling for the early May Bank Holiday to be retained on Monday, May 4, in addition to the extra one planned to mark VE Day, so that traditional festivals can go ahead. Among the events under threat is the Sweeps Festival in Rochester, Kent, which has grown into one of the UK’s biggest celebrations of its kind, with Morris dancers, folk-art and live music attracting an estimated 150,000 people and generating £60 million for the local economy. Morris dancing on May Day “It will bring a massive financial loss to local businesses up and down the country. The Sweeps Festival alone contributes an estimated £60 million to the local economy each year.”Mr Newton is coordinating the protests alongside his daughter Elaine Cobb and Keith Leech, organisers of the Jack in the Green festival, in Hastings, another of the highlights in the Morris calendar planned for May 4. Morris dancing on May Day Among the Morris troupes planning to converge on Parliament is the Medway- based Wolf’s Head and Vixen side, whose member Mel Barnett said: “We are passionate about Sweeps. It is the highlight of our calendar. This switch could be disastrous for us.”Morris dancers point out that Britain already has some of the fewest Bank Holidays in the world”I don’t think adding one more bank holiday next year will set a precedent for an increasing amount of them,” said Mr Newton. “They bring in millions for local economies as people are keen to spend.”As part of their campaign Mr Newton has sought the help of Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, whose constituency in Hasting.She has now written to Prime Minister Theresa May, asking her to look sympathetically into the matter and drawing attention to the planned Morris protest. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.

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