It's been an eventful couple of weeks since I photographed the Slaithwaite (Slawit) Moonraking Festival during which time my son Harrison was born !! hence this blog post is a little late getting to press - I've been otherwise engaged!
Its been a real honour to have been the official photographer in support of this years Moonraking Festival - as always my camera has granted me privileged behind the scenes access, created an opportunity to meet loads of amazing people and even a couple of cheeky beers on the house into the bargain! ;)
The weather did it's level best to dampen spirits and as the day wore on I was increasingly concerned about my camera gears ability to survive the potentially rain soaked proceedings - neccesity being the mother of invention I was not to be detered and after some intense planning and research I came up with an inventive solution (a plastic bag and some cellotape) it actually worked quite well but it was kind of annyoying and thankfully I was able to ditch my (now patented) camera protection system after the first hour as the rain eased off.
After a week of activities including a fundraising music and poetry night and of course lantern making workshops the grand Moonraking Finale took place beside Globe Mill in the centre of the village, where the story of ‘Raking the Moon’ was acted out and followed by a huge procession of lanterns and music.
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 wet 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.
With the main street closed and bands, performers and lanterns everywhere it was all I could do to keep up with proceedings - eventually I just allowed the event to wash over me and hopefully I managed to capture the essence of what was a really fun, inspirational community experience - if you missed it then make sure you come along for the next one in 2019! I'll see you there and I can't wait to bring my son along for the ride too!
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.
It was an amazing experience from start to finish - the panic over the terrible weather and whether this would put people off to the relief that folk turned up in their hundreds despite the rain - the procession, the bands, street performers and of course the villagers and the village itself contributed to make the evening an immersive magical experience and something I will never forget!