The hardy Colne Valley spirit saw the Moonraking Festival make a brilliantly memorable return to Slaithwaite.

Thousands of people attended the much-loved event on its return on Saturday night after a six-year break with around 2,000 of them joining the procession and people carrying more than 240 lanterns they’d made.

Organisers were delighted with the way folk didn’t let a bit of bad weather deter them.

Organiser Gill Bond said: “We did it! After a six-year wait Moonraking is back. We had a sell-out week of lantern workshops and 242 lanterns got made with expert help from our artists and volunteers.

“On the night we had high winds and classic Pennine drizzle but people came out, undeterred, in their thousands. It was joyous to see everyone, so proud of their lanterns, just delighted to show off what they had created  and support our wonderful community endeavour.

“All week the feeling in the village has been one of magic, wonder and togetherness. It’s our lantern makers who really make the festival happen and they didn’t let us down with jellyfish, turtles, seahorses, fish, ducks, teapots, watering cans, boats, birds and stars – all just wonderful to see. Thank you Slaithwaite, thank you Moonrakers.”


Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival celebrates a local legend in which a band of smugglers hid their illegal barrels of rum under a canal bridge in the village. On the night of a full moon reflecting on the water they used rakes to fish out one of the barrels but were caught in the act by the local militia.

The smugglers avoided arrest by claiming to be trying to rake the moon out of the canal after it had fallen in. The soldiers thought they were crazy and so walked away and left them to it.

The modern-day moonrakers re-enacted the legend, raking a giant beautiful moon lantern from the canal (with the help of a crane) before a procession around the village.

Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival 2023 was made possible after a community wide crowdfunding and fundraising effort involving music concerts, a ceilidh, a village wide garage sale, a repair café, hundreds of small donations, a major grant from The Arts Council and donations from Kirklees Council’s Growing Great Places Fund, Yorkshire Water, Colne Valley Members Local Project Fund (Kirklees Council), Stylecraft Yarns, Northern Sole Café, The Handmade Bakery, Anello Pizza Restaurant, Re: hair and beauty,  The Clay Mill, Zapato Brewery, Slaithwaite Foot Clinic, Yorkshire Educational Services (TARGET Competition), Ryder and Dutton estate agents , Huddersfield Repair Café and Slaithwaite Community Association.  Local businesses Ruddi’s retreat and Om Is Where The Heart Is sold special Moonraker products which included a donation to Moonraking.

  • Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.