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Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
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3:11 PM 2nd February 2021
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Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival

Excitement is building in the West Yorkshire village of Slaithwaite, as “Moonshine”, a Festival of Light is taking place this February half-term (18-19-20 February), which builds on the 30-year-old traditions of The Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival.

The whole village is being transformed into an illuminated al-fresco art gallery, in “Moonshine” a spectacular community art project as a celebration of the creativity, resilience and uniqueness of the area. 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 and will be recorded and shown on the website and social media.

At this time of year, locals would be getting ready to take part in the Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival, a biennial community event celebrating Slaithwaite’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. Covid 19 and the lockdown restrictions have meant that the planned 2021 Moonraking is unable to happen. There can sadly be no lanterns, music or procession this year.

Undeterred, Festival artists came up with “Moonshine” as a new idea to harness the community creativity of Moonraking and spread hope and positivity around these dark times, building on the neighbourhood 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 of 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, be creative and have a sense of pride in their community.

This time is, of course, slightly different but those underpinning values remain the same. 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." Artist Frances Noon said " It is lovely to see the community taking part in this version of Moonraking. We have enjoyed the challenge and the fun of making our online films and new support materials for the website. Currently we are making up the materials packs and sending them out into the community through our wonderful ambassadors and can’t wait to see the picture windows that they make. "Resource packs with materials and ideas are being delivered to households by Street Ambassadors, who have been briefed on how to do this in a covid-safe way. Local schools and community groups are also taking part.


There’s also an invitation to local businesses to join in with the event, to decorate their windows to celebrate their contribution to community life locally. They are invited to decorate their own windows, host a “gallery” of contributions from schools and community groups or to “sponsor” or commission a Moonraking artist to design a bespoke picture window for them. This has been made possible due to fundraising through the “Lunar Levy” scheme where locals have contributed their small change in shops and local businesses over the course of the last year, which has in turn helped to lever in generous grants for our registered charity from Arts Council England, Kirklees Council and the Judith and Neil Charlesworth Fund from One Community.

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 epidemic. 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.”

More details can be found here: https://www.slaithwaitemoonraking.org.uk/