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Cornish Festivals - Flora Day, Helston (Furry Dance) 2017

Updated on April 13, 2017

Flora Day 2017 Date:

Flora Day will be on Saturday 6 May 2017, starting at midday at the Guildhall for the Midday Dance.

Helston Flora Day is an annual festival heralding spring, that's held on May 8th, unless the 8th is a Sunday or Monday, in which case it's held on the Saturday before. Winter's gone, so everybody's out in the streets to celebrate the new life springing up all around.

Helston Flora Day really brings out the crowds who have come to watch, or to dance. It seems like the whole of Cornwall is lining the streets, all freshly decorated with colourful flowers

Flora Day in Helston is a programme of four dances and a Hal-an-Tow (a mystery play), spread across the day. The Flora Dance, or Furry Dance as it's also known, twists and turns its way through this ancient Cornish town and the route doesn't change, even it that means that the Flora Dance has to traipse through people’s houses, across their gardens or straight through the shops.

The whole town is decorated with greenery, many of the people are wearing greenery outfits and the Town Band play all day long, providing music to the dancers, they have a splash of greenery in their hats too, you'll notice this is Lily of the Valley, which is Helston's symbolic flower.

Originally, most likely, a May Day celebration, it was moved to May 8th to commemorate the town's patron saint, St Michael, who is said to have saved the town from what appears to be a meteorite hit in AD 495, you can still see the boulder that crashed down as it's still visible as a wall in the Angel Yard.

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley is Helston's symbolic flower, so it features heavily in the Flora Day celebrations.  The members of the Town Band wear a sprig of it pinned to their hats, the men dancers wear a sprig of it on the left, with the flowers pointed upwards and the ladies wear a sprig of Lily of the Valley pinned upside down and on the right.

Hal an Tow, Coinage Street, Helston Flora Day Photo by: Rod Allday
Hal an Tow, Coinage Street, Helston Flora Day Photo by: Rod Allday

Flora Day Helston: Past Dates

Flora Day 2016 was on Saturday 7 May

Flora Day 2015 was on Friday 8 May

Flora Day 2014 was on Saturday 7 May.

Flora Day 2013 was on Wednesday 8 May.

In 2012 Flora Day was on Tuesday 8 May.

In 2011, it was one of those years when the Flora Day Dance was moved to the Saturday. Saturday May 7th 2011. With the 8th being on the Sunday, it's always moved to the preceding Saturday.

Flora Day Future Dates

Flora Day will be held on the following dates in future years:

  • 2017 Saturday 6th May
  • 2018 Tuesday 8th May
  • 2018 Tuesday 8th May
  • 2019 Wednesday 8th May

7am, Flora Day Morning Dance

It's up for an early start and to the Guildhall for the first dance of the day at 7am.

This first dance used to be for the servants of the wealthier residents of Helston. 

Hal-an-Tow

8am, Hal-An-Tow. A Moving Pageant

The Hal-an-Tow is a pageant, including characters such as George & The Dragon, Robin Hood, St Michael and The Devil - and more. It moves around the town, playing out small scenes of fights, depicting the good conquering the bad. This is a representation of the spring beating the winter.

The Hal-an-Tow starts at St John's Church and moves through the town, stopping at regular spots to play out the next mini play.

10am, Flora Day Children's Dance

At 10am it's the children's turn. Over 1000 local children, aged between 7 and 18, take part. The local schools they come from are St Michael's School, Nansloe School, Parc Eglos School, and Helston School & Community College. The schools take it in turns each year to be at the head of the dance.

You might notice that the boys are wearing different ties - this is how you'd know which school they come from. For the girls, which school they are from is shown by the flowers in their head garlands.The flowers in their hair are:

  • St Michaels School: cornflowers
  • Nansloe School: daisies
  • Parc Eglos School: poppies
  • Helston Community College: forget-me-nots

All the girls wear white, like miniature wedding dresses. The boys are in suits.

12.00pm, Flora Day Midday Dance

The Midday Dance is a formal affair, by invitation only. It's the top brass that are invited, so considered to be a huge honour to take part. Ladies and gentlemen are dressed up to the nnes to take their places. It's best evening gowns and top hat and tails all round.

This is considered "the main event" and probably the one that anybody visiting Flora Day in Helston expects to see. The Midday Dance is the one also known as the Furry Dance.

The Midday Dance starts at the Corn Exchange,

Cornish Festivals - Flora Day, Helston, Cornwall.  8 May Each Year.   Source: C.WM
Cornish Festivals - Flora Day, Helston, Cornwall. 8 May Each Year. Source: C.WM

5pm, Flora Day Evening Dance

This is the chance for those who danced at 7am to have another dance through the town. It's the shortest of all the dances of the day.

The Evening Dance starts at the Corn Exchange.


Food & Drink at Flora Day

There's no special foods associated with the festival, but the town's shops are open and selling hot pasties and other Cornish food.

Also, there'a a whole street of market stalls, with the usual foods to be found.

With all the different Flora Dances going on - and the Town Band playing, food on tap, all the town's hostelries open for business and everybody in such good spirits, it's a full day out.


The Blue Anchor

The Blue Anchor brews a famous ale called Spingo - and plenty of pints of this will be flowing on the day. You'll find the Blue Anchor near the bottom of Coinage Street, it's a 15th century pub steeped in bloody  history, with landlords being murdered, having tragic accidents and one hanging himself.

Spingo is brewed on the premises and the Blue Anchor is Cornwall's oldest brewery.


Directions to Helston Flora Day Dance Start

A
Guildhall, 7am start:
Guildhall, Helston, Cornwall TR13 8ST, UK

get directions

Make sure you arrive in plenty of time. The whole town is shut down for Flora Day, so you'll see signs to the temporary car parks.

Address: Helston, Cornwall, England.

Photos By

Rod Allday: Coinage Street, Helston, Hal-an-Tow

If you have any photos of Helston Flora Day to add to this page, simply leave a comment with the url of the image.

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