Say the names Cuckoo, Moonraker, Leadboiler and Lily anywhere outside of the Colne Valley and people might just nod their heads slightly, smile politely and step aside. But any mention of these names along the banks of the river Colne and locals will be more than happy to recount stories of wilful birds, contraband, boiling water and persecuted Huguenots. These are, of course, the stuff of legends and each of the legends proudly belong to one of the four villages along the valley. So for those not in the know: Marsden is Cuckoo, the Lilies belong to Golcar, Linthwaite lead boils and Slaithwaite proudly rakes the moon. If you want to find out more about each of these stories and see some wonderful paintings that illustrate the tales follow this link:
The legends are celebrated in various ways: Marsden goes Cuckoo for a day in April (which is slowly becoming Cuckoo weekend), Golcar enjoys Golcar Lily Day in May (which is still just a day) and every two years in February Slaithwaite steals the show with the Moonraking Festival (which now lasts for a whole seven days).
It’s now thirty years since the people of Slaithwaite first paraded the streets of their village with hand-made lanterns towards the canal where a paper moon was raked out to the delight of the waiting crowd. Each of the proceeding festivals have had a theme and to celebrate this landmark year the theme for 2015 is, coincidentally, ‘Landmarks’. In recent years competition to build the biggest and best lantern has become fierce and the themes have led to inspiring paper lights in the shape of Dr Who’s Tardis (time), a mouse and clock (nursery rhymes) and our very own star (which managed to hold its own against any number of themes until it finally disintegrated in a snow storm in 2013).
This year the festival runs from the 15 – 21 February and includes lantern making, music, story-telling arts and crafts and culminates in the unique finale on the Saturday evening when thousands of people will line the streets of Slaithwaite with their lanterns to watch the moon raking. Don’t miss out – Slaithwaite Moonraking has quietly turned into one of the best local arts festivals and is great fun for all the family.
Find out more: http://slaithwaitemoonraking.org/
To celebrate this year’s Landmark festival the painting, Where We Start which features Marsden and Slaithwaite’s very own famous landmark, Shooter’s Nab, is now available to purchase. The painting was completed in response to the poem, Tuesday Afternoon which was written specially for the now legendary Write Out Loud Poetry Jam at last year’s Marsden Jazz Festival. It was really heart warming to get so many requests for copies of the poem following my reading so in lieu of publication I’ve decided to make the poem available below. As a special treat – a handwritten version will accompany the painting when it is sold.
In other arts and poetry news, a small selection of my work will feature in the Hand Made Trail as part of the Moonraking festival – this will be in the form of a pop up gallery created by the excellent Enjoy Art gallery from Marsden where a more permanent collection of my work is still available to view. The Art Finder shop is slowly coming to life – you can follow my exploits by pressing the big button on the left hand side of this post.
In poetry news, I’m very excited to be reading alongside Tom Clearly and Steve Anderson at the Square Chapel, Halifax on Thursday 12 February. Wordplay has become a popular monthly event that also includes five open mic spots. The nights are hosted by the fabulous Keith Hutson so please come along if you are in the area.
I’m also really please to see that the Little Book of Poems has finally made it to publication. This was an idea dreamed up by local resident Jennifer Smith-Wignall to help raise funds for our local hospice, Kirkwood. The anthology features my poem Clocks which some may already be familiar with and a brand new poem, Bradley Woods inspired by the artist, Peter Brook. You can find out more about the project here:
From the halls this week we celebrate local duo O’Hooley and Tidow who launched their amazing album, The Hum last year in Marsden and have just been nominated for Best Duo in this year’s Radio 2 Folk Awards. The duo will also play a sold out show at The Watershed, Slaithwaite on Thursday 19 February as part of the Moonraking festival.
They are twelve, just. It is May
and the sky seems restless; the sun
rooting out the last of winter beyond
the dry stone walls and farm gates.
It gets their necks, warms their backs,
delivers a thirst that’s like nothing
else. The puddles they walk through
sparkle in the sun, a dizzying collection
of stars and clouds and sky.
They are heading to the mountain,
or Shooters Nab as one day they might know it,
climbing the fence that holds back the moor
letting their shadows stray beyond reach
over bog cotton and peat. Here they turn right,
follow a path and let the village drift from sight.
Red flags hang motionless in the distance;
they signal the firing-range; something they’ve
only heard about. There is no sound, no distant
echo of gunshot; just laboured breaths,
footsteps and the birds, still unknown, that cry out.
From a distant window the quarry beckoned;
a last frontier; a no-man’s land beyond
the snow line. Up close it looks like teeth.
They are out of bounds, beyond their limits,
amongst cathedrals of stone abandoned
to the moor. A ghost of a road
leads them to shadows where names and dates
exist between man-made scars.
There is nothing here: secretly one had dreamed that
beyond this place he would see the ocean;
a new land from which to escape. The other considers talk
of radio signals and strange night-sky activity but says nothing.
They both listen to the sound of their own breathing
and search the wind for the hum of the village.
There is nothing. The cold sets in as they search
the furthest corners where, in the darkness, they find snow;
just a tiled piece of earth no bigger than a child’s
blanket discarded by winter; alien ice
that they now dare each other to touch
to fill their pockets, scratching at the stuff as though it
might burn before they give in and run
from the place, downhill, criss-crossing
the path were invisible sheep bleat and
where ice mixed with dirt is launched to the sky
so that they blind themselves just to see where it falls
before shaking the cold from their fingertips and scraping
mud from their nails. The red flags begin to snap in the wind.
Beyond the wind sounds rush in: friends playing in the street,
neighbours shouting, cars, buses, the mill turning out
or the Earth turning, skipping a beat.
They are twelve, just. Out of time
as they run, letting the weight
of their own bodies carry them, letting the wind
rush over them as they jump the fence, jump
into light above a valley that twitches to realign
itself with a future place,
a place where you retrace each step,
listening for the sound of birds: curlew, grouse
or something else, something beyond the wind.