Golowan goes global
PUBLISHED: 16:26 14 May 2014 | UPDATED: 16:26 14 May 2014
The Golowan festival attracts tens of thousands of people - and prides itself on doing something different every year: for 2014 the midsummer festival's theme is going global in recognition of the Cornish Diaspora which saw 250,000 people leave the county in search of work overseas and their 11 million descendents worldwide
The Cornish Diaspora
New for this year will be an exhibition recording some of the stories of the people who left Cornwall in search of a new life during the Cornish Diaspora. It is estimated that between 1861 and 1901 a quarter of a million people left Cornwall to make a new life overseas. Cornish men – mostly miners – and some women moved to Australia – where the world’s largest Cornish festival is now held, as well as South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and New Zealand.
It is thought that some 11 million people can trace their ancestry back to Cornwall – many have formed associations and meet regularly. The exhibition hopes to tell some of their, and their ancestors stories.
The midsummer Mazey Day is a Cornish tradition and the Golowan festival that encircles it from 20 - 29 June promises to offer something for everyone, from food to crafts, entertainment to exhibitions.
You can expect global music, including African drummers from Ghana, top Bangra bands alongside show stalwarts, the Golowan Band “When the Golowan Band starts up, you feel that the festival is really alive,” says show director Tracy Bowers.
A brief history
Celebrations – the Feast of St John was marked with bonfires, flaming tar barrels and torches until the late 19th century and Penzance was one of the last towns to lose the tradition in the 1890s – due to fire risks. But in 1991, the tradition was revived – with a one-day celebration on Mazey Day and grew to include many old and new traditions: including the mock mayor (last year a giant badger), the appearance of Penglaz, Penzance’s ‘Obby ‘Oss accompanied by the Golowan Band, fireworks, processions and Serpent dances.
The event, which is sponsored by Truro and Penwith College for the second year, features a programme of mostly free events and brings in an estimated £1.5 million to the local economy. It attracts an estimated 30,000 – 40,000 people each year. “Although it is a local festival it attracts people from all over the country - and all over the world. There is a Mazey train that leaves Birmingham at 5am on Mazey Day to bring people here.”
“It’s the only thing that really brings the whole community together,” explains Tracy. “We have artists, businesses, schools, performers, shops and families. And of course we couldn’t do any of it without our volunteers – we need 100 volunteers to help, ideally 130.”
The festival programme begins on 20 June and some of the highlights include a fairground, craft far, street food and street entertainment and Mazey Day, which takes place on the Saturday and is a day of awe-inspiring processions: with some of those taken part creating decorations and sculptures that are 20ft high. The day is also marked with a giant marketplace of foods and crafts On Sunday there is the Quay Fair Day and fireworks on the harbour as well as a bustling market and entertainments around the harbour. Handmade banners and flags adorn the town during the festival.
“You’ll see traders selling a diverse range of products sourced from countries around the world and, of course, many Cornish items, crafts and foods,” adds Tracy. “As you browse, keep a look out for:leather goods from Madagascar, Celtic dragon wood carvings, Nepalese fair trade goods, locally crafted jewellery, pottery and paintings created by local artists, Zulu beaded jewellery and much, much more...”
Other new events for the year include performance of Three Billy Pigs by the Noisy Oysters, and Kids on the Prom event on Sunday which will feature a series of art and science activities. There will also be a line up of poetry performances and swamp circus on Friday.