Town celebrates start of May in style

By Juliette MaxamALMOST 1,000 people celebrated the start of May at historical revels in Colchester.A group of people have decided to resurrect many of Colchester's historic traditions and have set up the Colchester Town Watch to provide a ceremonial guard for festive occasions and the Town Waits to lay on music.

By Juliette Maxam

ALMOST 1,000 people celebrated the start of May at historical revels in Colchester.

A group of people have decided to resurrect many of Colchester's historic traditions and have set up the Colchester Town Watch to provide a ceremonial guard for festive occasions and the Town Waits to lay on music.

This weekend the May Revels were re-enacted, in the shadow of Colchester Castle.


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Historically, May revels were held to herald the return of summer. Starting on May Day with the lighting of great bonfires to symbolise the return of warmth and fertility to the earth, the celebrations went on for several days and included entertainment, music, dancing and tests of skill and strength.

In Colchester, the revels also coincided with the anniversary of the discovery by town's patron saint, St Helena, of the "true cross" in Jerusalem in 326AD.

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The revived revels started in Colchester on Thursday with the lighting of a beacon in Castle Park.

On Saturday the Watch and Waits paraded through the town with the Lord and Lady of the May, Jack in the Green, mummers, a jester, jugglers and clowns.

They then set up camp in Castle Park, where they provided entertainment, including fire eating, and held tests of skill and strength.

A cake-rolling competition was also held – in days gone by people used to bake special cakes, coated in a batter of whipped egg, milk and oatmeal, which they rolled down a hill to test their consistency and durability and which they tasted afterwards.

Only one person from Colchester actually made a cake to enter into the competition, so the event organisers went around town centre shops and bakeries buying cakes to enter in the contest.

Organiser Phil Manchester said: "It was the general opinion that Kathleen's Kitchen's lardy cake was generally the best, but didn't roll very well – it failed on rolling durability.

"The clear winner was a Mr Kipling's cake from Sainsbury, which goes to show Mr Kipling makes exceedingly durable cakes."

Mr Manchester added the whole event had been "absolutely brilliant" and said it looked set to become a regular event in the town's calendar. "There was a good flow of people – about 900 throughout the day," he continued.

juliette.maxam@eadt.co.uk

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