Albion, Art, Folk Tale, TOLL, travel, Trickster

…and breathe…

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It wasn’t until I went to thank the young lady behind the counter that I realised. She tried valiantly not to giggle. My son, a little later, had no such qualms and laughed out loud. The ‘thank you’ had come out as no more than a whispered squeak.. which is more than I can manage now. Apparently, I have laryngitis. I am currently voiceless and not at all happy about it. Ani keeps looking at me as if I have lost the plot… she may have a point.

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It has been a very busy few weeks… between the preparations and the workshop itself, then the opportunity to spend time with friends from far-flung places, we have barely had chance to stop and take a breath. I have hardly scratched the surface retelling our adventures… and they are not quite over yet! But this weekend there was finally nothing pressing to do… it was the perfect time to just kick back and relax.

Instead, I drove north again.

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I was not able to resist stopping on the way at Edensor to see if the church was open… but more of that later. We were heading for Holmfirth, you see… and we had to go… Okay, ‘had to‘ might be a bit misleading. We wanted to be there. It was the Holmfirth Folk Festival… and Mister Fox would be attending.


We may have stopped at the odd hostelry along the way. It was a hot day and we really wouldn’t have wanted to get dehydrated… and anyway, we almost had to stop at High Bradfield, having done so with ‘Ned’…and we could hardly pass Fox House without stopping. We had plenty of time.

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The town of Holmfirth nestles deep in a Yorkshire valley and the torchlit procession of Foxes winding down through the town is quite spectacular. The steep lanes, the cobbles and old sandstone make a perfect setting for flames and shadowy figures in the night.

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We had been there one rainy night two years ago with ‘Ned’ when he had been over from America and had managed to get some superb pictures. We were hoping for more…but this time, we wanted to capture the procession if we could.

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Holmfirth grew around a corn mill in the 13thC. Later, the cloth trade helped the prosperity of the town, before it began to live up to its name. ‘Holmfirth’ comes from old English and can be translated as Holly Wood. From 1898, Bamforth and Co Ltd., a local company,  were early pioneers of film, until they entered a far more lucrative market producing the traditional saucy postcards popular for decades at the British seaside.

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Today the town is perhaps best known for its role as the setting for Last of the Summer Wine… and the old, worn stone, the hills and ginnels, were just as much a part of that much-loved series as the characters themselves.

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Arriving in the afternoon we had more than enough time to meander through some of the old streets and alleyways in the sunshine before wandering round to greet the Foxes as they readied themselves for the evening.

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Where do they come from?
They come out of the night…
Where do they go to?
Back to the night they return…
They dance in the dark to pipe and drum and fiddle
They dance in the dark with fire and brandished flame…

No-one knows who they are…

Mister Fox: The Legend

That last line is no longer strictly true. We are privileged to be amongst those who know the faces behind the masks of Charles James Fox and his dancers. We even know them by name and there is a magical and childlike thrill for me in conversing with an unmasked Fox, mingling unseen and unknown with crowds who would soon share our delight in a dance of masked mystery.

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The town was heaving with people. Cherry trees and spring flowers added to the colour of summer dresses, Morris costumes and folk musicians. Many wore wreaths of greenery and it seemed as if our Green Man had passed through the town spreading springtime.

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Being Yorkshire, the sunshine didn’t last. After a tentative attempt at a few flakes of snow, the sky settled for heavy rain instead and seemed to enjoy clearing the streets for a little while. We retreated to the car armed with a pizza and waited for the appointed hour.

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Cameras at the ready, we were in position early, knowing the route the Foxes would take and waiting for darkness to take the place of dusk. Around us the revellers intent on enjoying folk music and a Saturday night on the town seemed oblivious to the magic about to happen.

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Then the night was painted red… and two photographers grinned at each other across the street… the Foxes were on the move…

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