Unique Penzance festival finally returns to celebrate 30th anniversary

Giant models parade through Penzance during the Golowan Festival in Cornwall

Giant models parade through Penzance during the Golowan Festival - Credit: John Stedman

A traditional Cornish celebration, rooted in the past, is looking ahead to the end of June.

Up until the mid-1880s, the time of midsummer and the feasts of St John the Baptist and St Peter were celebrated enthusiastically in the market town of Penzance and its surrounding villages. In Old Cornish, the word ‘Goluan’ meant midsummer, marked by bonfires and fires which were at the heart of all the celebrations.

The later word, Golowan, comes from ‘gool’ Cornish for feast, fair or festival, and Jowan, the Cornish version of John – hence the Feast of St John.
Golowan would have faded into obscurity, were it not for its revival in 1991 as a community-centre festival of arts, music and dance. Plans to mark the 30th anniversary with a bang where impacted by covid restrictions last year and so 2022 will result in much celebrating. The theme is Back to the Future (Dehweles dhe’n termyn a dheu) and reflects the enthusiasm for keeping the fires of Golowan burning bright. 

Bands and dancing are an important feature of the Golowan Festival in Penzance, Cornwall

Music and dance are an important feature of the Golowan Festival - Credit: John Stedman

Golowan is rightly famous for its bright parades with giant characters, the Serpent Dance through the streets of Penzance, accompanied by the Golowan Band, and celebrations on Mazey Day and Quay Day. In the run-up to the street events, you can take part in workshops with costume, mask and headdress making as well as learning all about circus skills and traditional Cornish Dance.

The Golowan Festival 2022 begins in the last two weeks of June culminating in the weekend spectacular parades and performances of Mazey Day and Quay Fair Day on Saturday and Sunday June 25 and 26. For information go to golowanfestival.org.

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