Tales travel through worlds, through time and through imaginations. And your head will be bursting with pictures and words if you spend time next week in Slaithwaite, where stories will simply come to life. VAL JAVIN reports
DO YOU want to hear a story? Then there’s only one place to be over the next week and that’s out and about in the Colne Valley.
Stop a man in the street wearing a fantastic coat covered in pictures. Pick your favourite image and he’ll tell you its story.
Or go to Frank and Daphne’s market stall, select an object and hear a tale from across the world.
It’s all an extension of Slaithwaite’s Moonraking Festival, in itself a celebration by the village of one of its very own stories.
For more than 20 years the moonraking event has centred on the village’s memorable tale of how back in the 1800s, two smugglers used their wits (and perhaps a bit of moonshine) to outwit local excise men and get clean away with contraband spirits.
Tradition has it that the duo were discovered crouching at the side of Slaithwaite’s canal, apparently peering into the water.
When challenged, they told the soldiers that they were trying to rake the full moon out of the canal, where it could be seen, reflected.
Convinced they were dealing with fools, the officers strode off amid guffaws of laughter. But the joke was on them as the sharp-witted villagers raked not the moon but barrels of whisky and rum out of the canal.
That speed of thought and sheer bravado is celebrated every February by today’s residents, who carry the moon through the streets re-creating that bit of magic and perhaps, of mystery.
Lanterns created by supporters of the moonraking tradition are paraded through the streets.
Many windows boast window lanterns and the whole thing culminates in a fireworks finale.
Now the festival organisers are widening the celebrations, to remind us all of the power of story-telling.
Gill Burton, of Slaithwaite-based Satellite Arts, said: “Stories are important to our culture and they are not just bedtime stories with our children.”
The Moonraking festival has been held annually since 1985, with only one year missed. Now the organisers are running a week-long series of events with storytelling at its heart.
Cultures from around the world have long used the written, as well as the spoken word to pass on stories and traditions.
And many feel that the oral tradition of storytelling is a vital tool in keeping not just our history, but events and people’s characters, passions and ideas alive.
In Slaithwaite, they are keen to host an annual storytelling festival.
For a taste of what’s in store in Slaithwaite go to a barn dance at 7.30pm on Saturday at the Civic Hall in New Street.
The Moonraker Band will get those feet tapping, but what could just move you still more are the stories from around the world which will be told by Rachel Rose Reid.
This young performer has developed a unique brand of storytelling and song.
The UK’s Young Storyteller of the Year grew up in a family of musicians and storytellers.
Catch up with her at 11.30am on Sunday at Slaithwaite Methodist Church, where she will be conjuring up magical moon tales.
Taffy Thomas is regarded by many as the major force in English storytelling. He founded and directed the legendary folk theatre company Magic Lantern and is artistic director of Tales in Trust, the Northern Centre for Storytelling in Grasmere.
Next week he’ll be donning his Tale Coat, which has become a real working piece of art. Point to an image and he’ll tell you one of his repertoire of 300 stories, tales or even elaborate fibs.
Catch up with him on February 13 at the Watershed at Bridge Street, where he’ll head a cabaret session which will include music from Noah Burton and Ruby Wood.
Taffy will spend St Valentine’s Day in the village pouring out his passion for stories. After all there can’t be many men who’ve been awarded an MBE for their ability to tell tales.
Satellite Arts are pretty good at the skill too and they’ll be pitching their market stall at the Watershed on February 12.
Here they will create the magical world of Frank and Daphne’s market stall, using an array of objects and puppets, music and mayhem.
Xylosound’s musical story will be heard at the Watershed on February 15.
Also, all week from Sunday to Thursday lantern-making sessions will be held four times each day to get that procession looking good.
For more festival details go to www.slaithwaitemoonraking.org