• One of the biggest and oldest lantern parades in the UK!

  • Generations of families have participated and enjoyed the parade in the last three decades.

  • Over 12,000 lanterns created since 1994, and more than 150 community workshops have taken place.

The Bolsover Lantern Parade began its journey on Saturday 26th November 1994, as part of the town’s annual Bolsover Victorian Festival. Organised by Junction Arts, in partnership with Old Bolsover Town Council, English Heritage and community partners, the Bolsover Lantern Parade has become a cultural tradition for generations of people, as young lantern-makers have grown up to become parents and share the lantern-making tradition with their children.

Starting with lantern-making workshops during November at the Bolsover Assembly Rooms, the Festival culminates in a joyous procession around the town with a seasonal carol concert by the Christmas tree in the Market Square.


Junction Arts Managing Director, Emily Bowman said: “Lantern Parades are a symbol of creativity, celebration and community. Across the UK, there are many small and large lantern parades that have their own traditions based on diverse themes, designs, stories, and rituals. Fundamentally, these community events are creatively and physically connecting people across all ‘walks’ of life. Reaching 30 years of the 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.”




During the 1990s, the event was extended to include workshops with Bolsover primary and infant schools and has become a valued addition to the curriculum, combining local heritage with creative activity.

Over the years children learned to make lanterns in a variety of designs from castles to hand-held miner’s lamps in a variety of materials from traditional Chinese paper lanterns, recycled plastic lanterns and willow.

The Victorian Festival continued into the 21st Century and saw the town’s shopkeepers wearing period costumes and a competition for the best Victorian shop decoration, with parade participants in fancy dress and carrying beautiful candlelit lanterns. As we reached the end of the 90s, the Parade got bigger and better with creations honouring the Teletubbies to the Millennium Dome. Junction Arts also supported South Normanton, Pinxton and Whitwell communities in undertaking their own lantern parades to celebrate the arrival of the new millennium.




It was in the special millennial year that the Bolsover Lantern Parade broke from tradition as the procession circled the town and finished back off at the Castle. Students from Bolsover Secondary School performed Asian dances and the evening was finished with a fantastic firework display and family Barn Dance at the Riding House.  In 2000 Junction Arts introduced the familiar and uplifting rhythm of samba music to the parade and local schools made lightboxes inspired by Nigerian craft techniques and colours of the rainbow, with large-scale cone lanterns installed at the Castle to ‘celebrate light’.

In 2003, the event celebrated its 10th anniversary and the ‘Bolsover Illuminations’ project, involving the design and creation of contemporary decorative streetlights installed along Castle Street and Market Square. The 10th parade ended with an outdoor film screening of all the workshop programmes and festive songs by gospel and multicultural choirs.

Local resident, Wendy Fletcher remembers attending the Bolsover Lantern Parade since the beginning:

“The children made lanterns up to being adults, they have paraded with schools as pupils and staff members and been volunteer helpers. We remember the large screen in Frank Smiths ‘live streaming’ the event. Each lantern made had a ceremonial burning on returning home or the next day. We remember foggy years, wet years and very windy years. A great event!”



By the mid-2000s, the outer courtyard of the Castle provided the backdrop for an annual fire sculpture designed and made by volunteers, revealing the unusual talents and skills of local people.

As well as showcasing local talent, Junction Arts has supported regional, national and even international artists in bringing high-quality arts experiences to Bolsover. In 2011 Derby-based artist Elaine Lim Newton created a beautiful installation of illuminated ceramic sculptures with interactive soundscapes, called ‘Biome’. ‘Biome’ was composed of 15 large porcelain ceramic sculptures, mounted on custom-built metal stakes and installed in the Outer Courtyard.



2013 marked the Parade’s 20th birthday. Derbyshire Poet Laureate Matt Black experienced the event and wrote this poem for us:


Lanterns like cupcakes, ladybirds, rockets,

The Samba band in white suits with headlights,

Daleks, stars , musical notes, Minions,

Fiery castles made out of milk bottles,

Up here is where we celebrate sky,

And a flock of glowing Lantern birds takes flight,

Slowly out of the Castle, the crowds are waiting,

It’s a peace parade, a magical armistice day,

The Town Crier leads, Santa, drummers,

And all the lanterns follow, down the hill,

They spill out of the Cavendish, dancing

Because it’s Lantern Parade day,

In Bolsover town, where the people look up

And the castle looks down,

The birds of prey frown, and the children

Wear long-eared hats down to the ground.


2014 – 2019

Over the years, Junction Arts staff and volunteers have produced a large lantern to lead the parade, from a giant poppy to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War to the death star after the revival of Star Wars. In the late twenty-tens, Junction Arts introduced a lantern competition to the parade, where the brilliant talents of our community participants were judged by local partners and the town’s Mayor for prizes donated by local businesses. From fire-breathing dragons with articulated wings to steaming steam trains and characters from popular culture past and present, the ambition of local lantern makers was truly magical.

“We like making stuff as a family, it’s fun! It’s something we can all do together and you get to meet some great people at the workshops. We look forward to seeing everyone’s ideas each year and a lot of the families help each other out; it’s very sociable. The community really look forward to the event and it is a good talking point for the town.” Sharon Poulter



2020 – Present

COVID-19 couldn’t stop the Bolsover Lantern parade, in many ways it intensified the community spirit in the town.  In 2020, Junction Arts replaced the lantern parade with ‘Lighting The Way’; a special socially distanced event for the Bolsover community.

Junction Arts worked with artists Jess Kemp and Ruth Pigott to create Hope at Home Lantern kits for the lantern-making community to build at home. Over 500 lanterns were made and displayed with pride in care homes, schools and homes across the district. On Saturday 28th November, at 5pm, we asked everyone to hang their lit lanterns in their garden or window across the town and share images via social media using the hashtag #LightingTheWay.


In 2021, after the usual months of preparation, the lantern parade was cancelled due to severe winds, making it too dangerous for people to be outside.  Everyone was hugely disappointed, two years without the event – made everyone determined to make 2022 bigger and better than ever.

In 2022 the Bolsover community came back together like never before!

Approximately 1300 people carrying 400 lanterns took to the streets, where they were applauded and cheered on by thousands of people in huge crowds, for the entire kilometre-long procession.

Working with six schools across the district, 380 school children created paper or willow lanterns inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival. There were also additional workshops, with a puppetry skills masterclass with City Arts and puppet maker Bryony McCombie Smith, allowing our incredible makers to animate their lanterns using their arms and feet!



2023 marks the 30th year of the Bolsover Lantern parade and to celebrate Junction Arts wanted to extend the idea of community, light and arts with a new light show to Bolsover Castle.

Bright Winter Nights is an immersive light experience that will take place within the walls of the castle on Friday 1st December, the day before the lantern parade.  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.

Visitors can also view a newly commissioned community film as part of this magical evening.

The event is being organised in partnership with local Bolsover-based charity, the Freedom Project and English Heritage.

It is hoped that this will become an annual event, providing a whole weekend of festive fun for Bolsover for years to come.

For more information about this year’s event click here.