'Faceless bureaucrats' blamed by Ely Folk Festival for banning traditional Morris and molly procession through the city's market place

PUBLISHED: 00:40 30 June 2019

Procession of Morris and molly dancers through Ely has traditionally heralded the start of the Ely Folk Festival.  Picture; DAVID KENWRIGHT/ELY FOLK FESTIVAL FACEBOOK

Procession of Morris and molly dancers through Ely has traditionally heralded the start of the Ely Folk Festival. Picture; DAVID KENWRIGHT/ELY FOLK FESTIVAL FACEBOOK

Archant

A huge blow has been dealt to this year's Ely Folk Festival after East Cambs Council banned their traditional procession through the market place.

Procession of Morris and molly dancers through Ely has traditionally heralded the start of the Ely Folk Festival.Picture; DAVID KENWRIGHT/ELY FOLK FESTIVAL FACEBOOKProcession of Morris and molly dancers through Ely has traditionally heralded the start of the Ely Folk Festival.Picture; DAVID KENWRIGHT/ELY FOLK FESTIVAL FACEBOOK

Festival chairman Andy Wall hit out at the "faceless bureaucrats" he claimed had made the decision and then refused to discuss it with him.

The 34th annual festival takes place from July 12-14 but the threat to the traditional parade of Morris and molly dancers has angered organisers.

Procession of Morris and molly dancers through Ely has traditionally heralded the start of the Ely Folk Festival.  Picture; DAVID KENWRIGHT/ELY FOLK FESTIVAL FACEBOOKProcession of Morris and molly dancers through Ely has traditionally heralded the start of the Ely Folk Festival. Picture; DAVID KENWRIGHT/ELY FOLK FESTIVAL FACEBOOK

"In past years we have discussed the parade with the safety advisory group," said Mr Wall.

"And, as a courtesy, we have advised the council's licensing officer of the route when applying for permission for the various dance sides to collect for our chosen charity when performing displays in the city after the procession."

Procession of Morris and molly dancers through Ely has traditionally heralded the start of the Ely Folk Festival. But organisers say the parade has been banned this year by 'faceless bureaucrats'. Picture; DAVID KENWRIGHT/ELY FOLK FESTIVAL FACEBOOKProcession of Morris and molly dancers through Ely has traditionally heralded the start of the Ely Folk Festival. But organisers say the parade has been banned this year by 'faceless bureaucrats'. Picture; DAVID KENWRIGHT/ELY FOLK FESTIVAL FACEBOOK

But this year, he said, they were advised by the licensing officer that they must seek permission from the Ely Markets organisation.

"When we did we were met with a flat refusal because they had received complaints from their customers (traders)," he said.

Procession of Morris and molly dancers through Ely has traditionally heralded the start of the Ely Folk Festival. But organisers say the parade has been banned this year by 'faceless bureaucrats'. Picture; DAVID KENWRIGHT/ELY FOLK FESTIVAL FACEBOOK Procession of Morris and molly dancers through Ely has traditionally heralded the start of the Ely Folk Festival. But organisers say the parade has been banned this year by 'faceless bureaucrats'. Picture; DAVID KENWRIGHT/ELY FOLK FESTIVAL FACEBOOK

"We were told that we must come up with an alternative route before they would even consider having a meeting with us to discuss the situation."

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Mr Wall said they had since offered three alternative routes which had been rejected out of hand "and so far three requests for a face to face meeting have been totally ignored or refused".

He said: "The layout of the market has not changed, there is no less room for the dancing than there has been in previous years, and all the traders we have spoken to along with the 'on the day' market manager have been very supportive of the Morris procession.

"All recognise that it brings a large number of visitors to Ely specifically for the procession and the subsequent dance displays, not just those who come to the festival."

Mr Wall said that in spite of the minor disruption for the 15 minutes it takes to process through the market place, which was carefully and considerately managed by festival stewards, it had to be good for both the market traders and the independent local retailers around the city.

"So, what has changed?" he said. "In spite of their online logo which says they were established in 1216, as far as I can tell Ely Markets is a recent spin-off from East Cambridgeshire District Council as a wholly-owned private and publicly unaccountable organisation.

"We the public, through ECDC, are the owners of the market place and we should at least have a say in its management if only through the ballot box."

He added: "I fear that this democratic right has been taken away from us and we now have to deal with 'faceless' bureaucrats who can make arbitrary decisions and evade questioning and accountability with impunity.

"What a sorry state for this lovely City of Ely!"

* We are inviting urgent comment from the council but if any councillor reading this would care to comment then please email the editor directly: john.elworthy@archant.co.uk

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