On Saturday the Cornish town of Helston celebrated its famous ancient festival – Flora Day. For the people of Helston this is the most important day in the year with many returning to their home town to join in the celebrations. This ancient festival is to celebrate the end of winter and mark the arrival of spring.
There are four dances during the day at 7.00am, 10.00am, Midday and 5.00pm.
The same group of people dance at 7.00am and at 5.00pm, these were traditionally the servants and workers of the town dancing at the beginning and end of the day.
The 7.00am Dance.
At 10.00am the Children’s Dance takes place. Approximately 1000 children dance, they are aged from approx 7 to 18 years and represent each of Helston’s four schools. They are all dressed in white, with their appropriate school ties for the boys and headdresses for the girls in their school colours.
The Midday Dance is perhaps the highlight of the day, it was traditionally for the gentry of the town. The men wear top hats and tails and the women are in beautiful dresses.
There is also a colourful pageant, the Hal an Tow, which tells the history of Helston with the participating characters singing about the challenge of the Spanish Armada, the English patron saint, St. George and the fight between St Michael and the devil.
The music is played by Helston Town Band.
In 1911 Katie Moss, a London composer visiting Helston observed the dance and on the train home she wrote the words and music of a song about her day out. The song was called ‘The Floral Dance’ made famous latterly in the pop charts with versions by the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band and another version by TV personality the late Terry Wogan.
Here is a short video so that you can sample the music and atmosphere of the day.