When: 8th May 2018
Where: Helston, Cornwall
What is it?
On Tuesday 8th May, the Cornish market town of Helston will be celebrating Flora Day. This spring festival has taken place annually for hundreds of years. It marks the end of winter and the arrival of springtime, with trees and flowers bursting into life.
As part of the celebration the houses and shops of Helston are decorated with greenery and floral arrangements.
Flora Day springs into life at 7am with a morning dance through the old town. Every year around eighty couples dance through the streets, entering houses and shops to drive out the darkness of winter and bring in the light of spring. The dance commences as soon as Helston Town Band start up their drums.
This is followed at 8.30am by Hal an Tow, a colourful pageant telling the history of Helston. Pageant characters sing about the Spanish Armada, St George, and the fight between St Michael and the devil. Then at 9.40am the Children’s Dance begins from Wendron Street, with local school children all dressed in white. And that is just the morning festivities!
At Midday, the elegant dance begins from the Guildhall, just as the town clock strikes twelve. The dance then makes its way through the town with the men dressed in top hats and tails, escorting their colourful and beautifully dressed ladies. This is perhaps the most well-known of the dances, the Ancient Furry Dance was once reserved for the most respected local gentry, and the subject of the popular song, The Floral Dance.
The day ends with an Evening Dance, starting from the Guildhall at 5pm.
The heroes of the day are of course the Helston Town Band, who play the traditional tune as only they know how. Many of them process with the dancers on four occasions during the day around the four mile route, maintaining the rhythm and sounds that come and go throughout the day.
There will be collectors out during the day to raise money to support the band, so any donations from visitors to Helston Flora Day will be most appreciated.