When Slaithwaite’s Moonraking Festival realised the Covid pandemic would stop them staging their epic lantern making festival and procession in 2021, they knew they would have to come up with a new plan to brighten up the month of February.

The Moonshine Festival of illuminated window art gave Slaithwaite villagers a safe way to create and enjoy something beautiful together.

And along the way festival organisers hit on a plan that they think will change their village for many years to come.

Festival director Gill Bond said: “In 2021 the Covid lockdown meant we had to reach people to participate in a different way … and the role of Street Ambassador was born.

“It was a way for us to communicate, inspire and supply materials directly on the doorstep to enable residents to make their picture, something to shine out from their window in a joyful co-operative creative enterprise.”

That led to a stunning display of illuminated artwork in over 400 windows in homes and businesses throughout the village.

Doctor who – Moonshine-style!

For Moonshine 2022 the Moonshine Street Ambassador scheme has grown to the point where they now have an ambassador for every one of Slaithwaite’s 61 streets, a level of community engagement most organisations would give their right arm for. 

Gill said: “The Ambassador ‘model’ has been a wonder as it provides us with a link to people in a very domestic way.

“Local people inspiring and supporting each other in this great creative endeavour. It’s something that we will build into our Slaithwaite Moonraking lantern events in the future.

READ MORE: How Slawit’s Moonshine festival was created in lockdown

“Moonraking is about the community creating their own artwork in the form of a lantern and the bringing together of all those in a procession that makes a wonderful collaborative piece of public art.

“Moonshine keeps this principle at its core with multiples of individual illuminated pictures creating a wonderful extended street art exhibition.

“This creativity is powerful in how it connects, celebrates and includes… this is our normal in Slaithwaite – it brings people together, starts dialogues, fosters relationships and makes us feel good!”

Among the street ambassadors is Alison Eastwood, the street ambassador for Springfield Crescent. Alison said: “The Covid pandemic was an isolating and lonely time and I struggled to find opportunities to join in with.

“Becoming a Moonshine Street Ambassador gave me the opportunity to meet lots of new people including neighbours I’d never met or spoken to before. It’s wonderful to be part of this vibrant creative community.”

Shops, businesses, local schools and community groups such as the churches, the cricket club and the women’s institute are also involved.

Villagers have also been encouraged to make an extra window picture for elders on their street who would like to be part of the Moonshine display.

Emma O’Connor, of Slaithwaite Post Office, said: “Moonshine helps residents and businesses know more about each other. It makes us feel safer and included – everyone knows what’s happening even if they don’t take part. Moonshine really is universal and an all-inclusive activity.”

READ MORE: Will 2022’s Moonshine windows put last year’s in the shade?

Images for Moonshine 2022 will have a theme of “Water”- very appropriate for a village built around a canal! And organisers are also asking for people to hide a ginger cat in their pictures, in memory of Tinker the famous Slaithwaite stray cat who hung out by Lock 21 on the canal.

As darkness falls from February 24-27 musicians and performers will appear around the village, with costumed characters carrying collection buckets for Moonraking 2023.

Apart from that festival organisers have no idea what will appear on the streets and in the windows of Slaithwaite. Who knows what wonders await?

Three webinars will be held on Facebook to help show people who to create illuminated pictures. The first one will be on Saturday February 19 (3pm) called ‘Cut It!’; the second is on Sunday February 20 (3pm) called ‘Colour It!’; and the third is Monday February 21 (3pm) called ‘Construct It!’

Tune in on https://www.facebook.com/slaithwaitemoonrakingfestival each day at 3pm or watch afterwards on the Facebook page.

There are also two half-term Moonshine workshop sessions for children aged eight and over. Sessions are 9am-11am and 12noon-2pm on Monday February 21 at The Watershed in Bridge Street. There is no charge but donations via the website or Lunar Levy boxes will be gratefully received.

To book email sky.a.j.burton@gmail.com or ring 07879 470083. Places allocated on first come, first served basis. Sessions have been financially supported by Slaithwaite Mutual Aid Fund.