By Olivia Morris
South Yorkshire’s biggest folk music and dance event returns this May with Wath Festival; a weekend full of fun, uniting the community through the village’s proud heritage.
Established in 1972 by Wath’s very own Morris team, the festival has become a highly anticipated tradition in the community to celebrate the birth of spring. Since their first performance in 1973, Morris dancing has been a beloved part of the festival, along with maypole dancing and samba bands.
Run by a small team of volunteers, the annual festival has continued to become increasingly popular, impressing visitors with their array of talented and distinguished acts set to perform at the concerts.
This year, hosted on May Day weekend from Friday 4th to Monday 7th May, headline acts include multi-million selling recording artist Barbra Dickson of ‘I Know Him So Well’ fame, two time BBC Folk Awards winner Kris Drever and newbies O’Hooley and Tidow.
Also focusing on the local talent in Wath, other performances include traditional maypole dancing from the students of Karen Murillo School of Dance. Karen, a long standing contributor and lover of the festival herself, also performed maypole as a young girl and now enjoys carrying on the tradition by teaching the dance to the other local children.
Wath Festival will also host the Young Performers competition on the Sunday afternoon, giving anyone under the age of 24 the chance to showcase their talent in the festival. First place wins a cash prize and day recording at the Purple Pro Studio in Leeds.
Bank Holiday Monday sees a traditional Ceilidh celebration at Montgomery Hall and Doncaster Youth Jazz Association finish off the springtime splendour at Wath Parish Church.
However, it is the revival of the weird and wonderful Wath tradition of throwing bread from the church roof that really tends to spark excitement. This unique custom was unearthed in the 1980’s by Wath Morris when they discovered the 1810 Will of local man Thomas Tuke.
Tuke bequeathed money to various people in Wath, requesting that every year forty dozen penny loaves are to be distributed annually at 12 noon on Christmas Day. It was banned in 1870, but the men of Wath Morris decided to renew Thomas Tuke’s peculiar wish during the weekend of Wath Festival, only now using 480 breadcakes generously donated by a local supermarket.
In a procession from the main town square at 12 noon, the Morris Men will lead the community to the church on the Saturday afternoon for a reading of the will and ceremonial bread throwing. Immediately after, a programme of free events will begin on the Town Hall green with performances in the marquee, stalls and refreshments.
For more information or to book your tickets access to the main concerts running throughout the weekend, visit www.wathfestival.org.uk