Rochester Sweeps Festival: April 30, 2005

Little Egypt Celebrate the New Morris Year in Style

(but what style?)

Warning! Warning! Little Egypt have arrived. Don't panic ...


The coach arrived in good time for a 7.45 a.m. start from the Black Lion.
As we pulled away at five to eight there was much discussion about the weather – the forecast wasn’t too bright.
Arriving in a mild but cloudy Rochester we gathered in the car park to admire NuNu’s new stick.

Look at my thin thingy
Good tackle, eh?

Professional to the last Little Egypt headed straight for the bar where several men partook of their first pint of Nelson’s Blood.


Dave Jukes then lined up the ladies in the party for “inspection”
That is not my tongue hanging out

“Satisfied” he led us to the first stand of the day, conveniently right outside the Gordon Hotel which was as usual holding its very own beer festival.

Distressingly this year’s brew was a little weaker than last, reaching only 7.1%.


Beer supped it was down to business and a massed Ring O’ Bells to start the day right.


Play up! 

The musicians kept the entertainment going while the Squire pondered on the next dance. Would it be Akenfield?
No! The Bluebells of Scotland was his choice.

Andrew and Simon demonstrated some nifty footwork

Just time to top up those tankards then it was onwards to The Jolly Night for the second set of the day, The Squire pondered on the next dance.
Would it be Akenfield?
A twelve man Fires of August was called.

All together, now! 
Now - I want you to watch VERY carefully ... 

From the first leap and clash it was clear that this was going to be something special, even spectacular.

Dave Hartley thought he’d spice things up even more by demonstrating the reverse overhead sticking style known commonly throughout Europe as the “Dutch Method”

They do it the other way round in Belgium, too 
When I said 'Give us a cuddle ...'

As the dance finished a fragrant vision in pale green drifted past. Once Cleveland had made it to thebar we noticed the Lady Mayor of Rochester was in the audience. She could not resist the charms of Little Egypt, begging the side to pose with her for a photo.


Next Andrew led a fine performance of White Ladies Aston with some stylish link hay work

'... I meant 'give us a kiss, Dave' '

What a devillishly handsome bunch they are...

When I say 'Squeeze it ...', you squeeze. Right? 

It was nearing lunchtime and the street was getting more crowded by the minute as word of Little Egypt’s dancing prowess spread throughout the town. Melodeon players had to restrict their bellows movements in the crush.

The men prepared for the last dance of the morning.
The Squire cogitated.
Would it be Akenfield?
Four Up was called.
Sticks clashed and clattered as dancers searched the ground for a florin which had dropped from the Squire’s waistcoat pocket.

When I nods my head, you hit it. 
Spare some change for a poor itinerant packaging expert, guv? 

To thunderous applause Little Egypt members bade temporary farewell to their fans as members made their way lunchwards – some to that now traditional venue, Elizabeth’s.

Delicious food and fine wines had clearly reinvigorated the men.

Now - remember which way up to hold it. 
It's ok - we'll get you home later 

Outside The Eagle the Squire gathered the dancers together for a briefing.
Would it be Akenfield?
In fact no-one was quite sure what was called

By now time was rushing by.
Before we knew where we were it was back to the crossroads for Vandals.

Keep your heads down lads, and maybe they won't notice

and a final Ring O’Bells with Westrafelda.
Sadly no photgraphic record exists of this closing dance
– probably just as well.


So we leave Rochester with a few other memorable shots of the day:

I'll take that one, that one and that one ...

... as Neville addressed his fan club convention

Quick girls, they haven't seen us ...

and Dave Jukes' household staff made sure the way was clear ...

Behd your wrist THIS way

... for him to display his own inimitable version of "Brighton Camp".

They all look fine to me

Neville was quite content with the short stick parade ...


... while Andrew decided to go his own way.

I'm not staying here to be insulted 

The musicians put on their usual virtuosi performances ...

Light and shade, I said. I've heard all the Spoonerisms 
Where did they all go?

... which had the desired effect of creating space to dance.


All in all, yet another fine day of Little Egypt enjoyment.

My sincere thanks to the "Free the Mill Hill 20" campaign for the photos, and for most of the words


© Steve Clarke 09 November 2005