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East 17 to entertain crowds at Scottish Coal Carrying Championship in Kelty this weekend

East 17 in their heyday.
East 17 in their heyday.

Nineties pop sensations East 17 will lead the entertainment at Scotland’s only coal carrying championship on Saturday.

The Stay Another Day singers are top of the bill at the first Kelty coal race in five years.

And they will be among a host of musicians brought in to entertain hundreds of spectators before and after the gruelling competition.

The 2013 event.

The bizarre event sees hardy competitors heft heavy bags of coal up the village’s main street.

It’s been described as a test of both athleticism and endurance and participants have been known to collapse along the way.

Male competitors carry 50kg bags on their backs over the 1km uphill route.

Women have it slightly easier with 25kg bags and there are also races for kids and fancy dress mascots.

East 17 coal race
The mascots race.

Organiser Michael Boyle wants a party atmosphere and hopes the crowd will join in the fun.

“It’s all systems go and everything is coming together,” he said.

East 17 and other entertainment

East 17 will take to the stage at Kelty Community Centre on Main Street after the races.

They have a new line-up, with Terry Coldwell the only original member left.

But while it’s a far cry from the heady days of the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party of 1994, they can still expect a decent-sized audience.

“There’s always a huge crowd at this event,” said Michael.

“The streets are always lined with spectators and they love to see the entertainment.”

Other bands include Perth’s Last Orders and the McAndrews Sisters.

Live music will also help kick off the main event, thanks to the likes of Kingdom Brass Band and Methil and District Pipe Band.

A funfair in the grounds of Kelty Primary School and a heritage bus tour of the village are also organised.

Coal Carrying Championship

More than 50 brave participants have signed up to the men’s race this year.

It’s one of four events and stewards will be on alert to keep crowds safe if any of the 110lb bags come crashing down.

Prizes will be presented by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Liberal Democrat MSP and former coal race runner-up Willie Rennie and Labour MSP Alex Rowley.

Mr Rennie was Dunfermline and West Fife MP when he took part.

Michael launched the Scottish Coal Carrying Championship in 1995 and it ran for 21 years before hitting funding difficulties

However, money became available this year as the country began its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s the only coal carrying championship in Scotland and is second only to the World Coal Carrying Championship, in Gawthorpe, West Yorkshire.

And the Scottish Parliament formally recognised it as the national championship in 2013, acknowledging its links to Kelty’s rich mining heritage.

Road closures and toilets

A number of roads will be closed in the centre of Kelty from 11.45am on Saturday.

Oakfield Street and Main Street will reopen at 1.45pm.

There will be no parking in the grounds of the community centre.

Action from one of the junior races.

Toilets are available in the community centre and at Flawless Beauty in Main Street.

Meanwhile, competitions start with the mascots’ race at noon, from the old RBS building in Main Street.

Children’s races leave from the same spot at 12.10pm.

And they are followed by the senior ladies and men’s events from Flower Street/Oakfield Street.

All heats finish at Kelty Primary School and the prize presentation is at 1.15pm.

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