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The Lamplighter Festival, Todmorden

After the overwhelming enthusiasm and participation which greeted last year’s Valley of Lights events in Todmorden and Hebden Bridge came a spectacular new nocturnal experience: The Lamplighter Festival, Todmorden.

On November 23, after the Christmas lights were switched on, Tod – a town with an individual character and strong arts heritage on the Yorkshire / Lancashire border – was illuminated with performance, parading, participation, pyrotechnics and passion. I positioned myself to capture some of the excitement of the procession with some elevated panoramas.

The town centre was lit up with a lantern parade, spectacular fire performers, illuminated installations and sculptures, shadow puppets, glowing show bands and belly dancers, and night markets.

The event was produced by Handmade Parade CIC, supported by Todmorden Town CouncilCalderdale Council and Thingumajig Theatre.… and enjoyed by most of the town. A great, memorable night for all involved!

You can view these as a set on 360Cities here, or click on the individual images below)

Valley of Lights parade finale, Hebden Bridge

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser.
Click here to view a fullscreen version for some mobile devices. 

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

 

Valley of Lights, Todmorden

After severe flooding hit the Calder Valley twice in rapid succession this summer, the local communities reacted brilliantly to this devastating challenge. Businesses and individuals pulled together, demonstrating the indefatigable local spirit and individual outlook which characterises the upper valley, bringing together neighbours and strangers alike.

With many residential and commercial properties affected for months by the floods, it’s been a tough year, and collectively the area deserved a reason to celebrate their achievements since… and let their hair down. Fast forward six months and cue the Valley of Lights; a unique initiative spearheaded by Totally Locally, supported by Calderdale Council and creatively led by Handmade Parade. Embracing the pool of talent, enthusiasm and skill of hundreds of artists, performers, producers, retailers and members of the public, it’s an event spread over ten days in the three towns worst affected by the flooding here – Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd.

Designed to celebrate the Upper Calder Valley; its people, its creativity, its uniqueness and its hundreds of small businesses, it combined community initiatives with a series of spectacular performances, outdoor markets and displays. It’s a gloriously welcome way to usher in the start of the Christmas period, and the switch on of the lights in each town.

It was Tod’s turn first on Saturday 24th November, and as luck would have it, the heavens opened just before the start of the celebrations. Ironic considering the heavy rain in the summer. However folk round here are hardy and won’t easily turn down the excuse for a celebration and performance… especially one designed to showcase their triumph over the natural elements. Besides, we do parades and parties well around here, such as the Pollination Parade early this year.

After the Christmas Lights switch on, performers and musicians led a Lantern Parade around the town, before a spectacular fire finale in at the Rose Street / Bramsche Square site. Tod Market stayed open late, with both regulars and local artist makers selling their wares, encouraging shoppers to spend their pounds close to home. Musicians and street performers weaved among the heaving crowds, raising smiles and spirits through the rain.

Meanwhile there was a spectacular wharfside flotilla along Fielden Wharf on the Rochdale Canal, featuring lit-up inflatables by Spacecadets (you can view some panoramas of their work from Preston in 2006 and the Lowry, Salford in 2007 respectively). Live music was performed by Daniel Weaver from an open narrowboat: you can just spot him through the crowds during the timelapse video above.

Friends and food clients alike, local food heroes Porcus and the Bear Café set up stall to warm the hearts (and bellies) of the brave souls who ventured out in the rain. I set up my trusty GoPro and recorded a (very soggy) timelapse video of Porcus serving up their homemade rare breed sausages, while I tried out my new DSLR in wet weather conditions. All in all it was damp but delightful night, perfectly showcasing the diversity and distinctiveness of the local area, and making people rightly proud of what they have and hold dear!

High above a Handmade open workshop in Hebden Bridge

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at preparations for this year’s Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade. After capturing some of Thingumajig and Handmade’s creations at the recent Pollination Parade, director Andrew Kim asked me to come down and capture the joyously organised chaos of dozens of kids and adult helpers, all working in sync to make the parade more spectacular then ever. This was meant to be the last open session before the big day, and it was always going to be a wonderful spectacle.

Now in its fifth year, the parade gets bigger and better with every iteration. This year’s theme is ‘Enchanted Wood’, and floating high above the floor at Victoria Mill where the dress rehearsals and last-minute refinements were taking place, that woodland motif is apparent. From oak leaves to giant hedgehog and deer, the puppets and costumes look fantastic, and the excitement was palpable.

Originally scheduled for Saturday 23rd, the parade had to be rescheduled following the severe flooding which so badly affected parts of the Calder Valley on Friday 22nd. Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Todmorden were all hit by rising water levels, and on the Saturday everyone was focused on mucking in and cleaning off Hebden’s centre. However with some nifty and rapid reorganisation, the parade was rescheduled for Saturday 30th June, to happily co-exist between the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival launch and the Mytholmroyd Gala.

This is just a sneak peek… hopefully you can come along on Saturday at 11am to see the rescheduled parade… show your support for the many children and adults who’ve worked so hard to make this happen; the resilient Hebden Bridge community, and the Calder Valley in general. It might rain on our parade, but it won’t extinguish the spirits of the people which makes this part of the world so special!