Valley of Lights parade finale, Hebden Bridge

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After the excitement and spectacle of Todmorden’s Valley of Lights celebration on Saturday, expectations were running high for the Hebden Bridge leg. Swapping the rain for a clear, frosty moonlit night, the town shivered with cold and the thrill of anticipation.

Handmade Parade invited me to come and take some panoramic photos, so I was lucky enough to get a grandstand view of the finale at Old Gate, right across the river. We watched as the lantern parade culminated in the participants lining the riverbanks, waiting expectantly. Performers filed over the old bridge, heralding the start of the finale performance, and then we were treated to an hour of stunning dance, theatre, puppetry, drama and pyrotechnics.

The atmosphere in the crowd was electric, fuelled by the eye-catching performances (from the highly talented local Handmade Parade and FlameOz crews). As I’d sat behind the fire sculptures at Tod, it was great to get an audience-eye view of the main show. Two fire dancers started the finale, marching over the bridge and twirlingFirst watching the tableau depicting the rainclouds gathering over the valley’s characteristic landmarks… cottages, mills and even Stoodley Pike. As the rainclouds encircled the valley, a huge furious paper dragon came down Old Gate, wrapping itself around the players; then shadow puppeteers evoked the enveloping wall of water which the flooding brought to the valley. Stellar fire performances from FlameOz gripped the audience, while a fiery sculpture of the dragon glowered in the gloom behind. This ramped up the excitement further, before a wall of pyrotechnics lit up the length of the river and bought the event to a close. Epic stuff…

If you click the image at the top of the page you’ll be able to view three different 360° panoramas, shot from a pole above the crowds. They show different stages in the show; from the lantern landmarks, to the fire sculpture, and the pyrotechnic fountains at the finale. And if you pan around you’ll see the crowd agog and enrapt, and may even spot some wide-eyed children looking from the first floor window of the cottage behind us.

After that we moved to the car park to see the 200 LED-strewn riders on the Night Light Bike Ride as they streamed in for a quick break before moving onto Mytholmroyd, before heading down to the canalside for food, drink and craft stalls at the Night Market & Canal Boat Flotilla. A hot cider from the Real Cider Company, and a Porcus sausage barm did wonders to restore circulation after several hours in subzero temperatures.

It was great family night out, and felt like a resounding success. It shows that, despite adversity and hardship, local talent and enthusiasm is enough for a community to tease out a silver lining from dark storm clouds here in the Pennines!

A flaming fire finale to Hebden Bridge's leg of Valley of Lights, Nov 2012


Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival

This is the ceremonial procession of the annual Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival, which I shot earlier today. The day was blessed by largely good weather, and the dancers, musicians, mummers and other handsomely-attired people made for an extraordinary spectacle.

“Rushbearing dates back several centuries to the time when rushes provided floor covering in the churches. Each year, the old, rotten rushes were thrown out and new ones were taken to the churches in carts. This gradually turned into a celebration and holiday involving revelry, music and morris dancing.

The modern Festival is the only one of its kind in Yorkshire. The focal point of the event is the sixteen feet high, two-wheeled, handsomely decorated and thatched Rushcart, which is pulled by sixty local men dressed in Panama hats, white shirts, black trousers and clogs. They are accompanied by music and five or six teams of morris dancers.

A team of young ladies take turns to ride on top of the cart. A very precarious position indeed. The colourful procession is an unforgettable spectacle as it winds its way through local villages over the course of the weekend.” (excerpts from

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Greg Wilson opens ‘Electrospective: Manchester Pre-Rave ’82-’88’

Seminal north west DJ and producer, Greg Wilson, opens proceedings at the Electrospective event. Held in the artistic hub of Islington Mill in Salford, the event aimed to highlight the creative and cultural importance of Manchester’s dance and music scene during the 80s. Discussions and showcases shone a light on the relatively undocumented period of 1982 to 1988, as new music influences and techniques helped shape a generation of young, mixed audiences; and lay a template for the dj culture/house/rave era which followed.

Greg Wilson opens Electrospective at Islington Mill, Salford

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Greg’s undisguised passion and knowledge of this fertile period of Manchester’s musical history underpinned the event, and he chaired a discussion with four of the major DJs of the time: Hewan Clarke, Colin Curtis, Chad Jackson and Mike Shaft. Their anecdotes, opinions, musical knowledge and sheer enthusiasm gave a fascinating insight into the late 70s and 80s in Manchester. During a few hours genres such as post-punk, jazzfunk, soul, electrofunk, hip hop, electronic disco and proto-house were covered, alongside clubs like the Haçienda, Legends, Rafters, The Gallery, Angels and others.

Two core pillars of B-Boy culture: breaking and graffiti, were also represented by the Broken Glass and Street Machine crews, and Gecko. Unfortunately I had to leave before the breaking and DJing started, but I’d attended the Broken Glass reunion gig in 2004, and expect the floorwork was equally good this time round. Special mention must go to Tim ‘Bones’ Forde, whose documentary ‘The Birth of the British B-Boys’ was shown on rotation at the event. His introduction and tribute to a former crew member added poignacy to the event. You can watch his raw and passionately personal account here on YouTube.

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