A fiery festival, bringing warmth to the dark days of winter, is flaming back into action on Saturday, February 3, in Marsden
The Imbolc Fire Festival, a biennial event, will once again light up the town with a lantern procession led by ‘druids’, giants and fire performers. It will travel from Station Road to Standedge Visitor Centre at Tunnel End, where an evening of music, dance and theatrical spectacle is planned, culminating in a firework display. One of the highlights of the event is the symbolic battle between giant characters representing The Green Man and Jack Frost.
Imbolc, named after the ancient Celtic festival which welcomes the first stirrings of spring, arrived in Marsden in 1993 and was an annual festival until 2014. It is now celebrated every other year. In the run-up to the festival there are lantern-making workshops for participants. It’s not too late to take part – there’s one on Saturday, January 27, at Standedge visitor centre from 10.30am until 3.30pm. All are welcome and there’s no need to book a place.
The last festival in 2016 attracted around 3,000 people, despite poor weather. Long range weather forecasts for this year, however, indicate that the evening will be dry but cold.
Imbolc festivities start around 6.30pm with road closures in the town centre, as lantern holders, entertainers, dancers and musicians gather for the parade, which begins at 7pm.
Imbolc is run almost entirely by volunteers. One of the organisers, Angie Boycott-Garner, explained: “It’s 25 years since we started and there are three of us who do nearly all the work. That’s why we decided five or six years ago to make it every other year. It was becoming too much to organise it and raise all the money we needed every year. Everything is done by the volunteers, except the fireworks. We have a pyrotechnic company to provide the display.”
As well as fire performances, the entertainment will include fire sculptures. One will be of a spring cuckoo, chosen to thank the Cuckoo’s Next community charity shop in Marsden, which has helped to fund the festival, which costs around £7,000 to stage.
There will be plenty to see and do at Imbolc. All visitors are invited to join the procession (and dress up in costumes that capture the spirit of the event); music is being provided by local bands, including Slipstix Sambastic, a samba band from the University of Huddersfield; dance group Mr Fox will be performing after the fireworks.
Hot drinks will be on offer at Tunnel End and Marsden’s hostelries will be gearing up for a busy night once the festivities are over – around 9pm.
Angie says the festival has grown greatly since its early years but is weather-dependent. “Obviously the weather affects us a lot. One year it was really snowy. But we’re keeping our fingers crossed,” she said.
“We advise visitors to arrive early to get parked and join the procession. There should be enough parking at the Tunnel End car park, which is in Marsden.”