Slaithwaite’s Moonraking Festival can’t go ahead this year – but that hasn’t stopped the spirit of the festival gripping the whole village.
The traditional festival may be cancelled but ‘Moonshine’ – a fabulous festival of light – will see Slawit transformed into an illuminated al-fresco art gallery.
‘Moonshine’, which runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (February 18-20), is a spectacular community art project which celebrates the creativity, resilience and uniqueness of the area.
Every street in the village has signed up to take part. Households and businesses are busily colouring, constructing and cutting out bold and dramatic shapes to turn their windows into brightly-lit artworks.
People of all ages and abilities are being invited to make illuminated pictures to share with their neighbours, safe from inside their own homes.
Individuals will display their artworks in their windows alongside their neighbours and light them up as it goes dark to bring cheer to their streets, terraces and cul-de-sacs.
These can be enjoyed as a street and also as part of socially-distanced walks around the village for local people taking their daily exercise in bubbles.
Those from outside the area can enjoy videos, photographs and live broadcasts on the website and social media.
Festival director Gill Bond said: “It is so important to build connectivity in the face of the increased isolation we have faced through the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have been championing the power of creativity through the festival for over 30 years. People have grown up with it as part of their lives and want to pass on the spirit of it to the next generation.
“The power of both Moonraking and this lockdown ‘Moonshine’ project is that together we create something bigger, our individual artworks, be they a lantern that is processed or a window picture that is lit, combine with others to create installations of light that everyone has ownership of and is part of. Together we make our village special.”
At this time of year, locals would be preparing to celebrate Slawit’s legend of Moonraking with music, stories and lanterns.
Families look forward to designing and making lanterns from willow and tissue paper in a programme of community and school workshops.
This builds towards a grand finale where a giant moon is raked from the canal and the moon and lanterns process around the village.
Lockdown restrictions meant a cancellation. Undeterred, festival artists came up with ‘Moonshine’ to harness the community creativity of Moonraking and spread hope and positivity around these dark times, building on the neighbourly spirit that the pandemic has brought to light.
Festival artists Frances Noon and Rachel Ellis have created a set of prototypes, templates, “how to” guides and videos and are running online workshops to build skills and confidence to encourage the widest possible range of people to participate.
A network of ‘Street Ambassadors’ have stepped forward, being the point of contact for their street, delivering materials, support and information to their neighbours to make sure that as many households as possible join in.
They will also help to tell the story of the individuals taking part and what they have enjoyed about being involved.
Artist Rachel Ellis said: “Moonraking has always been an opportunity for people to come together. We can’t be together in the traditional sense but we can light up our houses sending out a message of love, hope and togetherness.”
Seven hundred resource packs with materials and ideas have been delivered to households by Street Ambassadors, who have been briefed on how to do this in a Covid-safe way.
Local schools, businesses and community groups are also taking part.
A so-called ‘Lunar Levy’ scheme, where locals have contributed their small change in shops and local businesses over the course of the last year, has helped fund the event and also bring in grants from Arts Council England, Kirklees Council and the Judith and Neil Charlesworth Fund from Kirklees One Community.
For more see the website or search for Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival on Facebook.