Slaithwaite’s much-loved Moonraking Festival will return in all its glory in February 2023 following a successful fundraising campaign.

The lantern festival, which last happened in 2017, is fondly remembered as a biennial event attracting thousands of visitors to the village for lantern making workshops, storytelling, music and the spectacular lantern procession finale.

Festival organiser Gill Bond was jubilant and said: “Put Saturday February 18 2023 in your diary because Moonraking in 2023 is ON! I am absolutely over the moon!

“We can’t wait to get busy creating lanterns with families from Slaithwaite and beyond. That work will start early in 2023 but in the meantime we shall be busy making plans, building on the wonderful community spirit which helped our festival community thrive and grow during the pandemic.

“The people of Slaithwaite make our festival happen. Each individual lantern coming together with hundreds of other lanterns, each window illuminated with beautiful artwork, all those individual elements come together to create a special night in the winter darkness.

A Moonraking lantern workshop

“For the last two years we managed to keep the flame alive with the Moonshine Festival of Illuminated Window Art. That helped us build the momentum we needed to raise enough money to stage a full festival in 2023.

“I am so pleased for the many children who were tiny or not even born in 2017 when we were last able to hold a Moonraking festival.

“There are people who have moved to the village since then who have never experienced Moonraking. They are in for a treat.”

The fundraising campaign smashed through its £28,797 target after a community-wide fundraising effort involving music concerts, a ceilidh, a village-wide garage sale and hundreds of small donations.

There was also a major grant from Arts Council England 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, Anello Pizza Restaurant, Re: hair and beauty, Zapato Brewery 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.

Gill Bond

The festival, which began over 30 years ago, celebrates a local legend in which a band of smugglers hid their illegal bounty under a canal bridge in the village.

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 local militia.

The smugglers avoided arrest by claiming to be out Moonraking, the reflection of the full moon being clearly seen in the water. At the end of the Moonraking Festival procession locals re-enact those scenes before a spectacular finale of light.

Watch the Moonraking festival website and Facebook page for further news and announcements over the coming months. And for a taster of what’s to come check out this video from 2017!