Helston, the Cornish market town, where for hundreds of years, the townsfolk have celebrated and enjoyed the wonderful tradition that is FLORA DAY.
This ancient festival is usually held on May 8th , unless that date falls on a Sunday or Monday, in which case the previous Saturday is taken. It is a Spring festival to celebrate the end of winter and mark the arrival of the new vitality and fertility with the trees and flowers bursting into life. The houses and shops of the town are decorated with greenery and floral arrangements to express the spirit of renewal.
When the big bass drum strikes the first beat of the dance at seven in the morning, the spirit of the day is stirred and the celebrations commence. Some eighty couples dance through the streets, entering selected houses and shops to drive out the darkness of winter and bring in the light of spring.
The colourful Pageant, known as Hal an Tow, tells the history of Helston with the participating characters singing about the challenge of the Spanish Armada, the English patron saint, St. George and the fight between St Michael and the devil.
Children from the schools of Helston enjoying the day.
The Morning Dance
Dancing begins at 7am when the early morning dance takes to the streets. This is the longest dance of the day and follows a route roughly outlining the extremities of "the old town". This dance was originally for the workers and servants who could have their enjoyment for the day before attending to their duties.
At 8.30am the Mummers' play known as the Hal-An-Tow starts at St Johns Bridge and is then performed at several more venues around the town. Watch St George and St Michael slay the Dragon and the Devil, cheered on by a crowd dressed in Lincoln green and Elizabethan robes.
The Children's Dance
The children of the town dance at 9.40am. Over 1,000 take part all dressed in white with the boys wearing their school ties and the girls wearing head dresses in their school colours. This dance starts at the bottom of Wendron Street.
The Midday Dance
At midday, there's the principal dance. This is The Ancient Furry Dance and was, in the past, reserved for the gentry of Helston and the surrounding district. Participation is still by invitation only and there is no greater honour for a Helstonian than to be asked to lead the dance. To do so you have to be Helston born.