CHESTER welcomes back the medieval Midsummer Watch Parade this month.
The family of Chester giants and a huge cast will entertain the crowds on Saturday, June 22 and Sunday, June 23.
The Midsummer Watch Parade is one of the country’s oldest and most colourful street parades. The Summer Watch was originally staged by the City Guilds at Midsummer with the first recorded parade in 1498; it was disbanded in the 1670s until its revival in 1989.
Chester artist Russell Kirk has worked with more schools than ever before across the region with 15 schools taking part in the parade.
Cherry Grove Primary School children will be Angels, while Eaton Primary School children aim to scare the many spectators dressed as Fiery Monsters. Children from Chester Bluecoat Primary and Tilston Primary join the parade’s huge Dragons.
Tattenhall Park Primary children will enjoy being Pirates, while Farndon Primary children will be Ravens, the children from Newton Primary school are the Geese and Belgrave Primary children will be Suns. Elton Primary and Charles Darwin Primary children portray Fish, Tushingham Primary and Huxley Primary schools will be joining the Hobby Horses and Christchurch C of E Primary will walk with the Elephant and Castle. Finally Malpas Alport and Pine Lodge children will perform as Green Men.
The Lord Mayor of Chester, Councillor Jill Houlbrook will join the parade on Saturday, June 22.
She said: “My family and I have taken part in this fabulous parade on many occasions and this year I am looking forward to travelling in the Lord Mayor’s Chariot which leads the parade.
“I’ve seen the Parade grow each year and attract thousands of spectators to the streets, it’s a unique community event celebrating our heritage.
“This year I will be joined by distinguished guests from Carlisle and Shrewsbury who will take part in the parade.”
Added Russell Kirk: “Thanks to the £10,000 grant from Arts Council England, the Midsummer Watch Parade has acted as an ambassador for the City. I’ve just returned from Carlisle where community groups have been learning traditional model making skills.
“Next year the Parade will go on tour, giving a taste of Chester to many more people around the country.”
The parade includes a cast of up to 500 with pride of place going to Chester’s unique ‘Family of Giants’ the Father, Mother and two daughters; towering four metre figures.
The parade is led by the Summer Watch drummer and the City Guilds plus a Pirate Ship, a huge Elephant and Castle, ridden by a cupid shooting arrows, The Blue Boy, Dragons, Angels, the Chester Ravens, Unicorn, Stag, Hobby Horses, St Werburgh, Green Men, Camel, Devil Band and dancers plus many more strange and wonderful characters.
The parade will feature the models from Carlisle created under the guidance of Russell and include: Lugos (Celtic god of sun, shoes and other crafts), Kinmont Willy (a cross border cattle rustler and general rogue) and Edward lll (who granted Carlisle its second charter after the City fathers carelessly burned the first).
Other guests joining the parade include Cllr Colin Glover, the Leader of Carlisle City Council and Darren Crossley, the Deputy Chief Executive. In addition, Chester will welcome: Cllr Jon Tandy, the Mayor of Shrewsbury, and Cllr John Thompson, chairman of Eden District Council.
This year’s parade leaves Chester Town Hall Square at 2pm on Saturday and Sunday and takes a route along St Werburgh Street, Eastgate St, Bridge Street, Pepper Street, St John Street, back along Eastgate Street, returning via Northgate Street to the Town Hall for a finale.
To get a taste of what’s to come, visit the Midsummer Watch website at www.midsummerwatch.co.uk to enjoy photographs, videos from previous years and a history of the parade.