Lantern Parade

Company: Welfare State International
Location: Ulverston, Cumbria
Year: 1983

In 1983 Welfare State created the first Lantern Parade in Ulverston. Inspired by a traditional lantern procession in the North-East of Japan where the company were performing in an international theatre festival, the procession is now an annual secular ceremony in Ulverston. The first procession through the streets of the town involved one hundred people, who had made their own candle-lit lanterns from willow and tissue paper in workshops organised by the company.

John Fox:‘The fragility of it, the transience of it, is very important. The  fact that you’ve got to make it there and then. It’s perfectly clear the sculptural lanterns are made on site because they wouldn’t stand being carted round in a lorry. It’s fun, because you don’t quite know what you’re going to make, then suddenly you see it in front of you. It’s exciting for us, and I think the excitement communicates itself to the audience as well. The immediacy, the handmade , the transcience are useful counters to phoney propaganda which tries to pretend that LIFE is fixed and permanent and that if you are insured Death will go away.’

The highlight of the Charter Festival, the annual Lantern Parade each September has now been going for 30 years, with a different theme each year. Four processions, each with a street band, start from 4 cardinal points around the town and flow together in a ‘river of light’ towards the park where the finale takes place. Local residents are drawn to it as an intergenerational ritual, a moment of excess, coming together to celebrate.

Go to Welfare State International Lantern Festival audio page for further information.

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