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The Story of Slaithwaite Moonraking

Slaithwaite Moonraking Trail Image

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."

Listen to the story:

Listen to the Story of Slaithwaite Moonraking:

Become a Festival Sponsor

For over 30 years Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival has been lighting up the Colne Valley and bringing a glow to the village of Slaithwaite.

Every festival year, we have to raise over £15,000 in order to run the festival and cover our running costs. Much of this comes via funding applications, but in recent years budget cuts have seen this funding source decrease.

As a registered charity receiving limited public funding, we face the challenge of meeting our running costs while maintaining our contribution to the community every festival year and 2019 is no different. By supporting the Festival you can help to secure the future this important festival.