For about thirty years now the community of Slaithwaite in the South Pennines has come together to celebrate Moonraking. And across all that time the Festival organisers have been successful in securing the grants needed, from a multitude of local and national sources, to stage the Festival, delivering enormous positive impact for the village along the way.
We recently learned that we've not been able to secure the funding needed to enable the 2019 Festival to proceed. Once again austerity takes its toll. The organising team, led by the indomitable Gill Bond, immediately leapt into action and launched this crowdfunding campaign.
Over three decades the Festival has delivered real value to Slaithwaite, and raised the profile of this beautiful place. Now it is time for all those who care about our community, who care for the Moonraking Festival and everything it represents, to repay that favour and invest in the future.
So what is Moonraking all about?
The origins of the Moonraking legend go back to the days when the canal, which goes right through the centre of the village, was a busy trade route, moving goods between Huddersfield and Manchester through the Standedge Tunnel under the Pennines. The story goes that local smugglers would hide their illegal bounty brought in by narrow boat under the canal bridge. On the night of a full moon, they took their rakes and went to fish out one of the barrels of rum, but they were caught in the act by the militia. They avoided arrest by claiming to be out ‘Moonraking’, the reflection of the full moon being clearly seen in the water!
In more recent times the legend is celebrated over a hectic Festival week of creative lantern-making involving hundreds of local children and their families designing and making large fantastical lanterns from willow withies covered in paper and glue.
At the end of the week the entire community, together with thousands of visitors, form a huge lantern-lit evening procession around Slaithwaite, culminating in the Moonraking ceremony where a giant lantern Moon is raked out from the dark waters of the canal and placed back up in the night sky.
"It's a fabulous spectacle and a real feature of the local calendar. To lose the event would certainly be a blow, that's why the charity behind the Festival has chosen to put this appeal together." said Bill Best, chair of the Festival management group. "We have thoroughly reviewed the budget and re-shaped the Festival to deliver a high quality event at the best possible cost, and that's left us with a clear target of raising £15,000. We believe that the people in and around Slaithwaite, and local businesses in the area, understand that the Festival is a valuable and important asset for our community, and that this is actually a small price to pay considering the value of the Festival to our community."
Time is of the essence
We need to act quickly. In order to put on a great Festival over the half-term week in February 2019, we need to know that we've reached our fundraising goal by mid-January at the latest, that's why we've set January 12 as our target date for this campaign.
So this year, we are asking everyone who cares for the Moonraking Festival, or who cares for Slaithwaite and the Colne Valley and wants to see this lovely place continue to thrive, to add us to their Christmas list, and make a contribution. Every bit of support that you can offer is extremely welcome. If everyone in Slaithwaite were able to give a fiver, we would be home and dry. But we recognise, of course, that this isn't an option for all of us. So please contribute what you can, and help us to reach our target.
Remember that the Festival can only go ahead if we raise all of the money. Be generous, and spare a few moments to let your friends and neighbours know about the campaign. Together as a community we can achieve great things.
Many thanks to Gary Stevenson for the use of his outstanding image of the finale of the festival.