Written by Amy Smith
Project Coordinator at Junction Arts
7 January 17

Junction Arts Banner showing Logo

A Magical Beast
On December 1st 2018 Junction Arts will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Bolsover Lantern Parade.

Rather proudly, I like to think of the event as a magical beast, living quietly in the grounds of Bolsover Castle, only to take flight once a year – revealing its scales, wings and fire – all thanks to the jaw-dropping talent of its lantern makers.

A Tradition was born
The Bolsover Lantern Parade began its journey on Saturday 26th November 1994 as part of the Bolsover Victorian Festival. Organised by Junction Arts in partnership with statutory, private and community partners, the event has become a cultural tradition for generations of people, as young lantern makers have grown up to become parents sharing the lantern making experience with their own children.

The Bolsover Christmas Festival and Lantern Parade is now one of the biggest events in Bolsover’s cultural calendar, bringing light, people (tourism) and an undeniable community spirit to the streets. I may be biased, but sustaining the Bolsover Lantern Parade for 25 years is a wonderful achievement for Junction Arts and the town.

Junction Arts Flyer, from the first Bolsover Lantern parade, 1994.
A snapshot from a 1995, Bolsover Lantern parade and Victorian Christmas Festival.

Combining Creativity and Heritage
Bolsover’s heritage continues to inspire families today, in remarkable ways. Last year, two determined lantern-making families joined forces to create a large lantern based on Bolsover Castle’s famous Cavendish horses. As the willow horse grew bigger and bigger, there was much debate over whether to add William Cavendish as a rider. As you can see in the picture below, the right decision was made and he really brings the horse to life; together they become a beautiful symbol of Bolsover’s past. (Incidentally, the lantern was so big that the family were unable to transport it home so gifted it to English Heritage, who still have it on display in the Castle’s Riding School!)

Another lantern maker, Wendy Stevenson, began her lantern making experience in 2016, combining her renewed enthusiasm for creativity with her family’s heritage. Wendy inherited her father’s brass mining lamp after he passed away in 2009 and, together with her sister Joan, wanted to celebrate his memory by recreating the lamp as a lantern for the Parade. The arts are a great tool to reimagine and bring life back to old memorabilia, especially family heirlooms!

William Cavendish and his dancing Cavalier Horse, Created by the Poulter Family, 2017/
Brass Mining Lamp, Lantern, By Wendy Stevenson, 2016.

As part of our 25th anniversary celebrations, we are interested in exploring the history and heritage of the parade, using the arts to uncover the personalities and stories behind the lantern makers and their lanterns. From Cavendish horses to mining lamps, we are always amazed and inspired by the ambition of our lantern makers.

Lantern parades are a symbol of creativity, celebration and community. Across the UK, you will find lantern parades, large and small that have their own identity and traditions based on diverse themes, designs, stories and rituals. Fundamentally, these community events are about creatively connecting people from all walks of life with both each other, and their heritage.

If you type ‘magical’ into a search engine, you are presented with hundreds of pictures of colourful illuminations, lighting up a dark winter night. No wonder lantern parades are growing in popularity and beauty world over – who doesn’t love a bit of magic?

Coco-Cola Lorry at Bolsover Lantern Parade, 2016
Giant Bird lanterns, Bolsover lantern parade 2010.

But how do we continue to make our Parade the spectacular event we aspire it to be year in and year out? The only real answer to that is to stay true and responsive to our communities. Funding aside, the magical beast would not have survived so long without the people who put so much thought, time, creativity and spirit into their lanterns.

Amy started her career with Junction Arts in 2012, as our Administration Officer. Following the arrival of a baby girl in 2016, Amy returned as a Project Coordinator and will be working on this year’s 25th anniversary of Bolsover Lantern Parade, an event that she is very proud of. Amy is passionate about dancing and continued learning, preferably with a side of Mexican food and a cool, flavoured gin and tonic.