Festival is sure to be cartloads of fun

Dedicated:some of the committee members who have been hard at work organising this year's festival. The popular event was at crisis point last year due to a lack of volunteers

Dedicated:some of the committee members who have been hard at work organising this year's festival. The popular event was at crisis point last year due to a lack of volunteers

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EXCITEMENT is mounting as preparations for one of Calderdale’s best-loved traditions gather pace.

The spectacular Rushbearing Festival will return to Sowerby Bridge next month despite fears for its future being raised last year.

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing 2010'The rushcart makes its way up Bairstow Lane

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing 2010'The rushcart makes its way up Bairstow Lane

Organisers warned in November that this year’s event could be cancelled due to a lack of volunteers.

But support poured in and the dedicated team, which has been hard at work all year, is now putting the finishing touches on the 35th annual event.

Chairman John Coupe said: “It wasn’t that the committee was too small, it was that the same members were doing all the work.

“There was a feeling that it needed some new blood with some new ideas and a bit more dynamism – and that’s what we’ve got.”

The tradition dates back centuries to when church floors were carpeted with rushes, which had to be replaced each year.

It was revived in 1977 to mark the Queen’s silver jubilee, and is now one of the most eagerly-awaited dates on the Calderdale calendar.

For two days, musicians and Morris dancers fill the streets as 60 men in panama hats and clogs haul a 16ft-cart, thatched and decorated with rushes, the 13 miles from Sowerby Bridge to Ripponden.

Committee member John Clay, in charge of programmes, said: “We all think it’s a very important tradition and it’s something that can’t be allowed not to continue,” he said.

“It’s something that puts Sowerby Bridge on the map and brings people into the town. It’s amazing how many people you see.”