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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!