Festival will have all the bells and whistles as hundreds of dancers descend on Peterborough this weekend

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Peterborough will be invaded by more dancers than you can shake a stick at this weekend as a colourful festival comes to the city centre.

The 2018 Day of Dance will see hundreds of morris dancers from across the country arrive in Peterborough for the special festival on Saturday. The festival moves location every year, and is being held in Peterborough as part of the Cathedral’s 900 celebrations.

Straw Bear Festival 2018 at Whittlesey.  Pig Dyke Molly EMN-180113-180029009

Straw Bear Festival 2018 at Whittlesey. Pig Dyke Molly EMN-180113-180029009

A number of ‘sides’ will be taking part, with morris men dancing across the city throughout the day.

Pete Stafford-Honeyball, from organising side Cross Key Clog, said: “This year there is just short of 50 sides attending, which equates to about 400 dancers from various parts of the country.

“Dance sites include, the Town Hall, Cathedral Square, St John’s Square, Laxton Square, the Cathedral precincts, outside TK Maxx, outside the Magistrates Court, Charters and Rivergate. There will be three or four sides dancing at each site then changing over every 45 minutes or so to another site, so there’s always someone dancing somewhere.”

The event will see sides with names including Rattlejag, Billy No Mates, Young Miscellany and Dukes Dandy taking part in a range of different styles of dancing.

Straw Bear Festival 2018 at Whittlesey. EMN-180113-180051009

Straw Bear Festival 2018 at Whittlesey. EMN-180113-180051009

Pete said: “You can see many different forms of Morris: Cotswold, which is what people usually associate with “morris” woyj bells, sticks and hankies.

“Border Morris is usually black faced (it should be pointed out here that black face has been used for decades as a form of disguise and is traditional) - Border is loud and garish and from the Welsh borders.

“North West clog, as the name implies is traditional clog dances from the North West mill towns wearing clogs (traditional leather & wood clogs not Dutch clogs!) the noise of the clogs replicating the sound of the looms.

“Step clog, again as the name implies, is a specific routine sometimes solo.

Straw Bear Festival 2018 at Whittlesey. EMN-180113-180400009

Straw Bear Festival 2018 at Whittlesey. EMN-180113-180400009

“Rapper Sword, danced with flexible swords that interweave and “lock” during the dance.

“Molly Dancing; a form of social dance used to be danced by out of work ploughboys to earn pennies and cake, and is sometimes blackfaced.”

The event is the biggest on the morris dancing calendar, and this year long running children’s TV show Blue Peter will be on hand to learn more about the historic tradition.

Pete said: “Each year the three Morris organisations - The Morris Ring, The Morris Federation and Open Morris come together for a Day of Dance, with dancers from all three organisations and from all over the country.

“It is an important event as it’s probably the only time all three put on a joint event.”

For more details about the event, and for times and locations of performances, visit www.crosskeyjmo.com