Penzance is invaded by giants - and West Midlanders - at the annual Golowan Festival which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year

Penzance is invaded by giants - and West Midlanders - at the annual Golowan Festival which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. EMMA PARFITT stops by...

The Golowan midsummer community arts festival swings into town from 19 to 28 June. So why not grab your good seafaring Cornish pirate, (or otherwise) and make it an amazing Mazey Day (27 June) for all to remember for years?

They don’t roll the Golowan midsummer flaming tar barrels down the streets in Penzance any more at the Feast of St John… or light bonfires around Mounts Bay and beyond, as they did in the 1800s. But some Cornish folklore experiences are worth reinventing, particularly the ones that go with a certain swash and buckle.

Visiting Penzance a number of years ago our family loaded into the Grade II-listed Admiral Benbow Inn in Chapel Street - one of the oldest drinking houses in the town, and sat down to a feast on pirate-themed ice-cream sundaes, amid the various maritime historia that might make any good pirate turn in their watery grave.

I can recall we ordered a few aptly labelled muzzle loaders’ – huge dishes of a sundae from the Admiral’s à la carte bill of fare in the Lady Hamilton lounge, home to a magnificent cannon and ship’s figurehead and it certainly left a lasting impression, as did the other shipwrecked’ treasures incorporated into the fabric of

the building.

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Pirates look no further than the rather wooden man reported on the roof of the Admiral pub in March this year, drawing in customers as reported: having seen the man on the roof, we had to explore the inside!’ So it is to this theatrical setting that we are drawn to see the annual turn of events that makes Golowan roll up - the Cornish festival of midsummer, in the town.

Golowan is the old Cornish language term for midsummer and since its revival in 1991 Visit Cornwall states that it has proved to be: one of the most colourful community festivals in the South West.’ It has even broken records - in 2011 the Golowan festival was recognised by the Guinness World Records, breaking the record for the largest number of pirates in one place at the same time!’ This year the RNLI are hosting a pirate-themed event on Newlyn Green in the town, and for the third year running, Golowan is sponsored by Truro and Penwith College.

From 26-28 June Penzance harbour hosts PZ 2015 - the traditional boat festival, running in tandem to the much loved Golowan. Music, cabaret and fine food ensure entertainment with further excitement garnered with a parade of sail. Penzance is to be a likely venue to see the West Cornwall Maritime Trust’s lugger Barnabas, SS634, built in St Ives, in 1881. She will leave PZ, we are informed, to re-enact the route of the herring fishery around the British Isles, and heritage boat crews on luggers, gaffers, pilot gigs, and crabbers may join in, as the wet dock opens two hours before high water, and until an hour after.

The ten-day festival culminates in one big Mazey weekend and Friday’s Mazey Eve sees a mock Mayor election, fire celebrations and a firework display.

We can also expect to make an acquaintance of Penglaz – the Penzance Obby ’Oss’ of a hobby horse that makes an appearance on Mazey Eve, leading a procession. See and giddy up, - Golowan will go out with a gallop.

Top five unmissable events at the 2015 Golowan Festival

1 Mazey Day - Saturday 27 June: around 40,000 people throng Penzance. Over the Mazey Weekend and on Mazey Day the town is filled with five different parades of schools and local community groups, celebrating 25 years of the Golowan Festival with marching bands, street entertainers, huge colourful images, music stages and market stalls throughout the town.

2 Quay Fair Day - Sunday 28 June. The action moves down to Harbour and Quayside with market stalls, beer and music tents, Kids on the Prom’ events for children and along the promenade at Newlyn Green, Penlee RNLI will be hosting an all -day fundraising event on a Pirates theme. So you can expect to see the town filled with a few Jack Sparrow lookalikes!

3 The Election of the Mock Mayor of the Quay: on Mazey Eve , Friday 26 June. The annual and ancient celebration of the traditional democratic ceremony to elect the Mock Mayor of the Quay that will fill Queen’s Street with manic madness that manifests all that is delightfully silly and special about the Golowan Festival.

4 The Serpent Dance led by the mystical Golowan Oss, Penglaz, lights up Chapel Street and the harbour area in a fantastical frenzy on Mazey Eve before the whole bay is lit up by a firework display at around 11.15 pm.

5 The festival will open in style with a launch party, hosted by main sponsors, Penwith College on Friday 19 June. Following this, on Saturday 20 June there will be a night of music and dance at the Ritz, featuring Porthleven-based band, Rosie and the Goldbugs and from Cambridgeshire, a dynamic female folk rock band, named Keltrix - stars of the past two St Ives September Festivals.