Helston Flora Day

7th May 2016

hal-an-tow dance parade

The Flora Day celebrates the arrival of spring and takes place around the streets of Helston in Cornwall. Highlights include the Early Morning Dance, Hal-an-Tow, the Children's Dance, the Ancient Furry Dance and Evening Dance.

The origins of the festival are lost in time, although it takes place on the anniversary of the Apparition of St Michael, Helston's patron saint. A further legend suggests that a "fiery dragon" dropped a huge rock on the village centuries ago, and the dances celebrate the people's survival.

The Day always falls on 8th May, unless that happens to be a Sunday or a Monday, when it moves to the previous Saturday.

"Dancing here, prancing there, jigging, jogging everywhere". To the beat of the big base drum, elegant gentlemen and their ladies dance in and out of Churches, shops and houses.

Coinagehall street plays host to many stalls selling souvenirs, crafts and food, running all the way down to Coronation Park, where the fairground is located. The celebrations last well into the evening with Helston's many public houses doing a roaring trade.

Details of the Dances

Morning Dance - Starts from the Guildhall at 7am

The day starts with the morning dance (originally for the servants of the gentry) with the Gentlemen wearing shirt and tie and the ladies wearing light summer dresses.

The Hal-an-Tow : Starts on St John's Bridge at 8:30am

This is by a boisterous dance called the Hal-an-Tow. Verses of this have reference to Robin Hood, the Spanish Armada and St George and the dragon.

The Children's Dance : Starts from Wendron Street at 10.30am

Next to follow about 10.30am is the Children's Dance. The boys and girls are all dressed smartly and are decorated with flowers and lily of the valley.

The Midday Dance : Starts from the Guildhall at 12 noon

At noon the main dance of the day is started. This is the formal dance with the men wearing morning dress and the ladies magnificent ball gowns and magnificent hats. This dance is always led by a couple born in Helston.

The Evening Dance : Starts from the Guildhall at 5pm

For those that can pry theyselves from the bars, the evening dance rounds the day off in style, starting at the Guildhall.