Summer in Calderdale is usually fairly predictable. The picturesque streets of Hebden Bridge are generally lined with hanging baskets, there’s always long queues for ice creams and the area’s canals are often busy with holidaymakers
It will be the same again this year, except, come June 25, there will also be brass bands playing carols, a mass turkey dinner and guaranteed snow, as Calderdale reclaims the Christmas it didn’t get to enjoy last year.
It was on Boxing Day that the rains came, washing away livelihoods and leaving many of the area’s residents fearful for their future. Today it’s not exactly business as usual, but there is a general feeling across Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Cragg Vale that exactly six months after the disaster would be a good time to stage their own, slightly, belated festivities, complete with snow machines.
“The idea came from a conversation I had with with Tony Addison, whose Two-Tone comic shop had been flooded,” says Jason Elliott, the brains behind Christmas in Calderdale. “He said, ‘This Christmas was a right wash out. Why don’t we turn it on it’s head and do it properly when the sun’s out on June 25 instead?’ I told him to be careful what you wish for and so it’s proved.
“We wanted to throw a giant party partly because these towns deserve it, but we also want to show the outside world we are back up and open for business and invite those volunteers who came to help us in our time of need to join us for Christmas lunch.”
The event is just one of dozens which will come under the umbrella of the three-week Yorkshire Festival. First staged to mark the Tour de France’s arrival in the county in 2014, this year the festival, which gets its official launch today, has attracted an impressive role-call of international acts. “I am pretty confident that we have go the balance right between grassroots, community events and performances by some worldclass companies,” says artistic director Matt Burnham. “This is still early days for the festival – it’s only in its second year – but Yorkshire deserves to have a major arts festival which takes in the whole of the county and I honestly believe that the 2016 programme will give us the foundations to deliver that.
“I spent most of my early years in Leeds and Skipton and it’s great to be back after 25 years away. There is a real feeling in Yorkshire that we can now deliver world-class events and a recognition the importance that cultural festivals have in bringing people together.”