Learn more about the Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival...
Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival was started 30 years ago by Satellite Arts with Slaithwaite Community Association. The festival now takes place every two years (in the odd year) and has grown and developed into an exciting celebration of creativity, crafts and storytelling.
Now an independent, charitable organisation run by local people, the Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival has embraced a role in profiling the uniqueness of Slaithwaite as a place to live, work and visit.
February is a dark time of year; by the end of it we are all ready for a ‘lift’ and the Moonraking Festival provides a welcome diversion from the winter gloom. At its heart is a week of lantern making workshops, where people of all ages create wonderful willow lanterns of all shapes and sizes. This is interwoven with storytelling, music workshops and performances building to the finale day.
As we are unable to produce a full Festival programme in 2021 we are finding a new way to light up Slaithwaite that is COVID resilient. The Moonshine project reaches out to residents in all parts of the village as we aim to create a winding trail, exhibiting illuminated pictures that celebrate our Moonraking heritage and creativity.
Become a Sponsor
Moonraking has, over the last three decades, become synonymous with Slaithwaite.
The week long festival, culminating in the visually spectacular finale event, epitomises the strong community spirit that is part of the DNA of Slaithwaite and many other Pennine villages like it.
As such, the Moonraking Festival provides an attractive opportunity for sponsorship for local businesses.
The Story of Slaithwaite Moonraking
The street lamps and houses look like glow worms, resting on the hillside, clusters of warm twinkling lights. On one night, every other year, they are joined by many beautiful lanterns. These are carried down to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal for the Slaithwaite Moonraking.
Lantern making workshops during Festival week lead up to a grand Moonraking Finale beside Globe Mill in the centre of the village, where the story of ‘Raking the Moon’ is acted out.
This living legend is a celebration of living in the Colne Valley and has been taking place in Slaithwaite for 30 years. Moonraking stories are centuries old and are connected to many communities around the country that have a waterway – Slaithwaite is one of these and this inspired local group Satellite Arts to create the current contemporary revival.
One of the stories tells how a band of smugglers would hide their illegal bounty brought in by narrow boat under the canal bridge. On the night of a full moon, they took their rakes and went to fish out one of the barrels of rum, but they were caught in the act by the militia. They avoided arrest by claiming to be out ‘Moonraking’, the reflection of the full moon being clearly seen in the water!
So now, on a cold February evening, the village gathers by the canal; music is played and songs are sung and a giant lantern Moon is floated along the canal on a raft. Women with rakes attempt to pull it onto the bank. Comic gnomes with long beards succeed in landing the Moon by using a crane. Once lifted out, the gnomes carry it around the village accompanied by a procession of locals carrying their own candle lit lanterns.
The magical parade climbs the steep Bankgate rise, to Hilltop. The Moon is danced along the streets to the sound of samba drums and jazzy bands. People wave from windows and come out of their houses to cheer as the lantern carnival passes by.
“Light up your lantern, light up your light
Remember your friends on this cold frosty night
The Moon she has fallen out of the sky
Take her round Slaithwaite and hold her up high
Peace to the village, peace to the town
Peace to all cities all the world round.”