Holmfirth, nine o’clock on a Saturday night… the smell of fish and chips leads three hungry travellers in search of food, the smallest of whom is fairly bouncing up and down at the prospect of a real Yorkshire fishcake… a creature quite unlike anything you can get elsewhere. Thick slices of potato hold a slice of fish, the whole battered and deep-fried. Comfort food at its best… and possibly most calorific. Still, the night was chilly, the rain still falling, the clothes still damp. But who cared? We had a rendezvous with Mr Fox.
We knew we would be very lucky to find them that night, knowing our guest would love the spectacle, the music, the dance… and knowing too that we had this one chance to share something so special during his brief visit. This type of thing is close to his heart. But lucky we were. The Holmfirth Folk Festival was the venue and as we waited the excitement grew.
A flare went up and a few moments later we heard the drums echoing through the streets of the town, filling the valley with a sound deeper and older than the usual Saturday revelry. The towering, menacing form of the black-draped crow began to pace the street in front of us as we waited for the line of torches we knew would appear. The drums grew louder, the dancing flames snaking through the trees ahead… a flash of light set the silhouettes aflame, lighting the mask of the Silver Fox. Then the magic began.
Brasiers mark the dancing ground, pipe and drum mark the tempo… trails of whirling flame make their mark upon the darkness as the foxes dance in the night. It mattered not at all that the rain came down steadily… the warmth and light of the flame filled an enchanted space for a time that was not bounded by the clock but by the music and the weaving of stories in fire and light.
Fire streaks in the blackness, drums flame, gold and red reflecting on the wet ground… pictures cannot capture the atmosphere, the tension in the air as an age-old story is danced in a way our ancestors would have recognised, capturing the primal spark of life as the story unfolds in a language as old as time. If you can find Mr Fox… you will find magic.