Taking May Day fight for ‘Jack’ to Parliament

Dancers, drummers and may queens will march on Parliament
Dancers, drummers and may queens will march on Parliament

AN army of Morris dancers, drummers, may queens and hobby horses will lay siege to Parliament in a bid to convince David Cameron to ditch plans to scrap the May Day Bank Holiday.

Led by a delegation from 1066 Country, the protestors will don their costumes, daub themselves in green and decamp to Old Palace Yard opposite the House of Commons later this month.

Organisers are expecting hundreds of people to join the demonstration on Monday, April 18, which has been planned as a response to suggestions the popular annual holiday could be shifted to October.

Tourism minister John Penrose made himself eternally unpopular here in Hastings by announcing plans to dump the May Day celebration - which generates millions of pounds for the local economy - in favour of a new day off later in the year.

The thinking behind the mooted plans are that an October Bank Holiday would stretch out the summer season. However, it has been widely criticised for not taking into account the timely boost May Day provides seaside towns.

Once gathered opposite Parliament, the troop will march down to the Department of Culture Media and Sport HQ in nearby Cockspur Street to deliver a petition to Mr Penrose.

Chairman of Hastings’s Jack-in-the-Green celebrations - which each year attract as many as 40,000 people to the town over one weekend - Keith Leech said: “I have no idea why they have resurrected this old chestnut.

“They (the Government) tried to do this before under John Major. It was shown to be a bad idea then and will I am sure will be shown to be a bad idea again.”

The campaign against the plans started here in Hastings, where the May Day holiday is celebrated in style. The traditional Jack-in-the-Green is paraded around the streets alongside more than 600 dancers, giants and other characters.

The 19th century custom was revived when the Bank Holiday was introduced. And over the past 30 years it has grown to be one of the premier ‘must see’ events in England.

Mr Leech said: “Over the weekend all hotels and restaurants in the town are full and the pubs usually run out of beer. Local businesses see it as a real boost after a long hard winter, and many say they would not survive without it.”

The party from Hastings will be joined by similar groups from across the UK, including Rochester, Bristol, Ilfracombe and Whitstable.

A protest group on Facebook - We do not want to lose the May Day Bank Holiday - already has more than 15,000 members.