ON ONE of the darkest days of the year, Stroud will be brought to life with wassail songs, colourful costumes, music, Morris dancing, and historic traditional characters.

Stroud Wassail, the midwinter festival, returns to the town on Saturday, January 11.

“Our aim is to keep alive an ancient local custom, to bring a bit of fun and enjoyment into one of the darkest and most miserable times of year and, along the way, boost trade and community spirit and help to support local charities,” said Stroud Wassail chairman Robin Burton.

The event features hundreds of dancers, actors and musicians providing free entertainment at 14 locations around the town.

There will be several indoor venues, including the Sub Rooms, St Laurence’s Church, the Ale House and the Five Valleys Shopping Centre.

“One of our aims this year has been to provide more entertainment for those who prefer to sit, listen and watch, as well as spectacle to bring the streets alive,” said Stroud Wassail secretary Chris Lee.

“We are offering everything from reflective guitar music to a rocking samba band.”

“There will also be more events for those who prefer to get involved, with workshops for both singers and dancers.

“This includes a Bangra dance workshop in the Sub Rooms.”

There will also be sessions for musicians in the Ale House and elsewhere.

“If you get involved, you have much more fun,” said Mr Burton.

“So this year we are offering the chance to learn some Wassail songs with our choir master, Matt Norman, or to learn some Bangra dance moves with classically trained Indian dancer, Aparna Dighe.

“You can also take part in the Five Valleys music session in the Ale House.

“Come and join the fun.”

There will also be a full day programme of entertainment in St Laurence Church, Wassails at the Sub Rooms and the Museum in the Park, plus the grand procession through the town, dancing and mumming in the streets and the Winter Revels in the evening.

The fun begins at 10.30am, with morris dancing sides performing at various locations across the town.

The procession starts at 12.30pm, from the bottom of King Street to the front of the Sub Rooms.

“Altogether we are expecting hundreds of performers to come to Stroud this Saturday,” said Mr Burton.

The origins of wassailing are over 1000 years old.

Wassailing today is the tradition of visiting your neighbours around 12th night with a wassail bowl and a song, to wish them a healthy and a prosperous new year.

The Stroud Wassail is based upon documents found in the Stroud Museum and upon the recorded reminiscences of people in a Stroud pub back in the 1970s.

It is thought that, previously, wassailing was carried out in Stroud up until the 1920s.

The Stroud area has a rich tradition of wassail songs, many of which can be seen on the Gloucestershire Traditions website glostrad.com

To find out more about the Stroud Wassail visit stroudwassail.com

These pictures were taken by Simon Pizzey (simon-pizzey.squarespace.com/) at last year’s event.