By Christina Stocks
SADDLEWORTH MORRIS Men will be dancing in the streets for the annual Rushcart Festival with an extra spring in their step as they celebrate their 40th Anniversary.
Rushcarts died out in the early 20th century but a group of folk dancers – now better known as the Saddleworth Morris Men – brought the tradition back to life.
In 1975 they built their first cart and have built one each August ever since, usually a two-wheeled wooden cart which weighs two tons.
This year’s event – on August 24-25 – will include the traditional pulling of the cart, stacked five metres high with fresh rushes and with one lucky Morris dancer sitting on top.
The man is chosen from the ranks of Saddleworth Morris Men to sit astride the Rushcart as ‘jockey’ for the day and he is supplied with ale in a copper kettle.
The Rushcart is pulled through Saddleworth villages by a total of 150 Morris Men from all over Britain, and sometimes overseas, who pull on the “stangs” fixed to the cart.
On the Sunday of the festival, the Rushcart will be taken to St. Chad’s Church in Uppermill where the top will be dismantled and the rushes mixed with fragrant herbs and flowers and then symbolically spread in the aisles.
Following the service, there will be an afternoon of dance, musicianship, gurning (face-pulling), clog-stepping, a competition to find the worst singer and weather permitting, a wrestling competition (open to Morris men only).
Join Saddleworth Morris Men at the Church Inn, Uppermill, for practice nights every Thursday at 8.30-9pm. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org