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Perhaps Helston's greatest claim to fame is the internationally famous festival of the Furry, or Flora Dance. This is held every year on May 8th unless that day falls on a Sunday or Monday, when it is held on the preceding Saturday.

You'll probably have to park outside the town and walk in. Thousands of visitors throng the streets all day and there's a carnival atmosphere from dawn to well into the night.

You'll find the town decked out with bluebells, gorse, laurel leaves and colourful flags. Dancing begins at 7.00 am, and at 8.30 there's the mummers'play known as the Hal-an-Tow, at several venues throughout the town. Watch St George and St Michael slay the Dragon and the Devil, cheered on by a crowd dressed in Lincoln green and Elizabethan robes.

The children of the town dance at 10.00 am, at midday there's the principal dance, with invited participants in top hats, tails and dress gowns; and a final dance at 5.00 pm. The dancers weave in and out of the shops, houses and gardens behind the Helston Band playing the famous Flora Dance tune.

The origins of the dance are certainly pre-Christian and are connected with ancient spring festivals all over Europe. Nowadays its ancient intention of ushering in prosperous harvests goes hand in hand with the splash of colour all over the town, the joyous music and high spirits of all involved

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Dancers follow the Helston Town Band as they take part in the Early Morning Dance as part of Flora Day celebrations, in Helston, Cornwall
The Flora Dance, also known as the Furry Dance, is one of Britain's oldest customs still practised today and is said to be a celebration of the passing of winter and the arrival of spring
       
A series of dances take place throughout the day, beginning at 7am, winding all over the town and even in and out of private houses and shops.
The midday dance was traditionally the dance of the gentry in the town; this is why men still wear top hats and tails while the women dance in their finest dresses
The Helston Town Band prepares to lead dancers leaving the Corn Exchange
The Helston Town Band leads dancers through a private house as they take part in the Early Morning Dance
Dancers follow the Helston Town Band through a private residence
Hal-an-Tow is danced in several places around the town, and the participants have to run from one performance to the next
Dancers follow the Helston Town Band as they take part in the Early Morning Dance
People dance in the early morning light
Participants in the midday dance make their way through the town
People watch from windows as dancers take part in the Early Morning Dance
 
 
 
 
 

Pictures above by Matt Cardy, stolen without permission from The Daily Telegraph
 
 
 
 
 
 
Pictures above by Matt Cardy, stolen without permission from The Guardian
Hal an Tow

Hal-an-tow, jolly rumble, 0.

For we are up as soon as any day, 0

And for to fetch the Summer home,

The Summer and the May, 0

For Summer is a-come, 0,

And Winter is a-gone, 0.

 

Robin Hood and Little John,

They both are gone to fair, 0

And we will to the merry green wood

To see what they do there, 0

And for to chase, 0

To chase the buck and doe.

Chorus

Where are those Spaniards

That make so great a boast, 0?

For they shall eat the grey goose feather

And we will eat the roast, 0

In every land, 0

The land where-e'er we go.

Chorus

St Piran showed his care for us

And all our sons and daughters, 0.

He brought the book of Christendom

Across the western waters, 0

And taught the love of Heaven above

For Cornishmen below.

Chorus

As for that good knight, St George

St George he was a knight, 0.

Of all the knights in Christendom

St George he is the right, 0

In every land, 0

The land where-e'er we go.

Chorus

But to a greater than St George

Our Helston has a right, 0:

St Michael with his wings outspread,

The archangel so bright, 0

Who fought the fiend, 0

Of all mankind the foe
Chorus

God bless Aunt Mary Moses

And all her power and might, 0

And send us peace in merry England

Both day and night, 0.

And send us peace in merry England

Both now and ever more, 0

 

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