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Light Research @ MMU

Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival 2013

On  February 24, 2013, over 3000 people attended the biannual Slaithwaite Moonraking festival, in west Yorkshire.

The festival’s origins date back to the early 19th century when a group of Slaithwaite men profited from smuggling illicit alcohol via the Huddersfield Narrow Canal that passes through the town. One night, they were loading barrels of illegal booze when an excise man appeared. The barrels were quickly dumped into the water and they later returned to retrieve them. However, two more excise men caught them in the act of fishing out the barrels and pretending to be inebriated, one of the men, Fred, said in his broad accent, “Canst tha nooan see that t’ mooin’s fell in’t watter, and we’er rekin ‘er aat?” In other words, the moon had fallen out of the sky and they were raking it out. The festival commences with a large paper lantern designed in the shape of the moon being lifted out of the canal by crane

SAM_1293 It is subsequently carried at the head of a procession featuring a number of  bands over 220 lanterns designed by local participants according to this year’s theme, ‘time’. The lanterns, made out of withies (flexible willow branches) and paper, are carried along the circular walk through the town.




SAM_1297The festival is an excellent example of vernacular creativity and the potential for light to be used at a local level to transform the experience of local space and promote a festive atmosphere.


March 6th, 2013 - 13:14pm

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