Jan 112010

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Crowds watch the fire spinners

Marsden Imbolc Fire festival – West Yorkshire.

2009 was the first time I attended the event and I was blown away by how spectacular it was – especially as we were lucky enough to have snow on the ground.

The 2011 festival it is going to be held on the 5th of February (as always, the first Saturday in February) with the procession to Tunnel End starting at 7pm by the railway station.


Workshops are held at the Standedge visitor centre on Saturdays throughout January with a fire swinging and lantern making workshops.

See the bottom of this article for links to more photos.

This is an extract from the article I wrote for the Marsden Moods book:

Imbolc marks the time that the earth starts to wake up after it’s winter sleep. The Celtic tradition is over 2000 years old and was established in Marsden in the mid 1990’s. Initially set up by Kirklees Countryside Volunteers as an event for the local folk, it has rapidly expanded and now relies on many local volunteers. There are a few theories behind the name but my chosen one is that it comes from the Celtic “i mbolg” which means “in the belly”, referring to the pregnancy of ewes and the start of their lactation at this time of year, something that is important to Marsden, known for it’s sheep!

Fire Spinning

This spectacular event starts in the village centre before a lantern procession, accompanied by local Samba bands, to Tunnel End. Here there is a performance by the iplaywithfire fire dancers and Huddersfield University fire jugglers before the Green
does battle with Jack Frost, representing the start of the new season beating back the cold winter. There is an impressive firework finale created by PA BOOM Phenomenal Fireworks then a retreat to the village centre for a warm greeting in one of the pubs and often more fire dances (including one by the fantastic Mr Fox group).



Marsden is situated at the head of the Colne Valley, right next to the Peak District national park and the National trusts Marsden estate so is an ideal place to set off from on a walk to enjoy some stunning landscapes in the surrounding areas. It can be accessed by rail, bus or car. From Huddersfield, drop down to the right hand side of the A62 after about 6 miles. Crossing the pennines from Oldham / Saddleworth, Marsden is the first village you come to after driving over standedge. Some of the best accommodation can be found at the Tunnel End Inn since it is so close to the main parts of the event. They were also kind enough to allow us to use a room for a recent project (why not pick up a copy of the Marsden Moods book whilst you are there for some photos of last years event)! Accommodation can also be found at The New Inn, Hey Green and in nearby Meltham, Slaithwaite and Huddersfield. If you’re in need of somewhere to eat, I can personally recommend Mozzarella (Italian) and The Riverhead (great pub grub with a twist).


For a village of it’s size, Marsden boasts a number of big events as well as Imbolc. It is host to the Cuckoo festival (2) in April and the Jazz festival in October, events which I plan to write about in the future.

Photos I took at the event in 2009.

Photos I took at the event in 2010

Official Marsden Imbolc Facebook page

Kirklees Imbolc Events page

(Photos are ©Gary J Stevenson. Licences are available for image use online or in print)

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