30th year of Bolsover Lantern Parade is celebrated in town's new winter festival
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More than 500 lanterns will be carried along the route from Bolsover Castle to the Market Square on December 2 during one of the biggest light parades in the UK.
Emily Bowman, managing director of Junction Arts which organises the event, said: “Lantern parades are a symbol of creativity, celebration, and community. Reaching 30 years of Bolsover Lantern Parade is such a wonderful achievement for the town, as an extraordinary community of lantern makers continue to shape and celebrate one of the area’s brightest traditions.”
The lantern parade will be a highlight of the new Bolsover Winter Festival, a whole weekend of festive fun in the town, which includes live music, entertainment and a traditional Christmas market with more than 100 craft and gift stalls. Junction Arts is staging an additional event called Bright Winter Nights on December 1 when light projections, images and sounds from the last three decades will bring the castle walls to life, featuring the stories of local people and their lantern parade experiences.
Generations have grown up watching and taking part in the most magical event on Bolsover’s calendar.
Friends Michelle Smith and Andrea Hill first got involved in the parade in 2005, helping their children create lanterns at the local infants school, but 18 years later they’re still involved and producing winning creations.
Michelle, 56, has lived in Bolsover her whole life. A miner’s daughter, she was raised on the Castle Estate and married a lorry driver 27 years ago. Her children Ryan, 25, Ria, 23 and Chloe, 21, have grown up with one family tradition – making lanterns and walking in the Bolsover Lantern Parade.
Since 2007 the Smith family has teamed up with Andrea and her son Aaron to make a lantern, and each year the creations get bigger and better. They’ve won best lantern six times.
Michelle said: “The most impressive lantern we’ve made must be the Coca-Cola Christmas Truck. We’ve also made a giant Dumbo, whose ears flapped and moved, we’ve made a racing car, a huge Paddington Bear and Clifford the Big Red Dog! We like to make something that the kids recognise and get excited about.
"As the parade gets closer people start asking Andrea and me what we’re planning to make, but we always keep it a secret until the big night. We love seeing people’s faces when they see the finished lantern.
"Over the years we have learned a lot about making lanterns, with the help of Junction Arts and now we’re experts, we can help other people.
"It’s a magical thing for people who live in Bolsover, it's something to look forward to and something that feels unique to our town – it really does bring the community together. It makes me feel proud, nostalgic and humbled to be part of such an amazing event.”
Bolsover Lantern Parade began its journey as part of the town’s annual Bolsover Victorian Festival. The organisers Junction Arts teamed up with Old Bolsover Town Council, English Heritage and other community partners to create a cultural event that would bring light, people and a strong community spirit to the streets.
Recalling the first year, Mel Makin, 52, who lives in Bolsover, said: “I ran Bainbridge Hall Youth Club. Tina Glover from Junction Arts came to see us and started the first parade with members of the youth club. The first parade was a bit chaotic; it was a new thing and the people of Bolsover were unsure about what it was all about at first, but they soon came to love the idea and got involved.
"It gets better year on year, it’s just a brilliant event. I love seeing the kids of 30 years ago with their own children, the whole community coming together. The event gives kids a memory, I remember it, my kids do and now I’m making memories with my grandchildren.”
Each November lantern-making workshops take place in schools and in the community. More than 12,000 lanterns have been created in 150+ workshops since the event began. The works of art have been made using 1000 kg of willow, 1000 litres of glue mixture, 1,600 rolls of masking tape and more than 20,000 lights.