Helston Flora Day May 8th

“I thought I heard the curious tone, of the cornet clarinet and big trombone…”

Let’s dance and sing our way through Helston Flora Day, usually held on (or occasionally) around May 8th, cancelled this year due to Covid-19. This wonderful ancient colourful Cornish festival goes back a long way, and may have started off as a ritual to welcome in Spring, following the dark Winter months. Some say the name ‘flora’ comes from an Celtic word ‘feur’ meaning ‘festival’

Dancing through the streets…!

Helston comes alive with a day long festival of dances, brass bands and pageant depicting Helston’s history called ‘Hal-an-Tow’. I was fortunate to be invited to take part several years ago dancing with a dear friend of mine, Russell Pascoe, and clearly nothing could have prepared me for the magic of the whole day.

Helston Flora Day has set processional dances held throughout the day from 07.00 in the morning until early evening, for adults and as well as special childrens’ dance. Couples swirl and turn in colourful clothes as the brass band accompanies them with the Furry Dance (rhymes with ‘hurry’), played many times over! Have a listen to this iconic music.

The music on Flora Day is always provided by the Helston Town Band who play from memory. It’s been suggested that a Cornish poet and folklorist called Margaret Ann Courtney, from Penzance, wrote the tune that was sometimes sung with these words by the local children. Can you fit this rhyme to the tune above?

“John the Bone was walking home , when he met with Sally Dover. He kissed her once he kissed her twice and kissed her three times over.”

In 1911, a British singer and composer called Katie Moss, visited the Helston Flora Day and took part in the dancing, having a marvellous time. On the train home that evening she wrote words and music of a song all about her experience that same day, and called the song, The Floral Dance. Here is a recording of the chorus that song. Can you hear any similarities to the tune of The Furry Dance??

For schools…Activities to do at home!

  • Can you create your own processional dance like the Flora Day dance? Keep the steps simple just in case you might need to dance it several times over through the streets of Helston!”
  • Can you create your own lyrics to the tune of The Furry Dance? Have another look at the John Bone rhyme for ideas.
  • Can you create your own accompaniment to fit the melody of The Furry Dance so that it sounds like a tune that the brass band might play? Why not make some instruments of your own out of junk or recycling items?
  • Can you design your own outfit to wear on Flora Day?

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