What’s it all about?
In the late 1800s, Golowan was one of the last surviving midsummer festivals practiced in Cornwall. Traditionally, blazing tar barrels were paraded around the town’s streets and bonfires were lit on the surrounding hills which could be seen all around Mounts Bay and beyond. In the 1890s the authorities in Penzance outlawed the festival due to the increasing fire risk and the centuries’ old festival died out. Revived in 1991, The Golowan Festival has today become the most colourful community festival in the South West, blending Cornish tradition with contemporary imagery and ritual.
The festival brings the past and present together in a community celebration of the traditional midsummer Feast of St John. The festival has a packed programme of artists in celebration of music, performing arts and theatre. Events include a fireworks display on the prom, Mazey Day, spectacular parades through the streets and a host of street entertainment.
There's music in the streets, music in the pubs, music in the marquee and other venues around the town.
How can you take part?
The festival is one big spectacle and to say there is a lot to see and do is probably an understatement. Listen to traditional music played by the Golowan Band, don’t miss Penglaz, the Penzance ‘Obby ‘Oss that makes an appearance on St John’s Eve and you can take part in the Serpent Dances when everyone joins hands and snakes through the streets. There’s also the Quay Fair where you’ll find stalls selling local food, arts and crafts, the fun Mock Mayor Elections and the Summer Fire celebrations featuring a spectacular firework display. One of the highlights of the festival is Mazey Day (27 June 2020) when the streets of Penzance are decorated with greenery and locals and school children dressed in colourful costumes process around the town carrying spectacular sculptures based on local themes including giant fish, ships and pirates.
Did you know?
In 2011 the festival broke the record for the largest number of pirates in one place at the same time, as recognised by the Guinness Book of Records. 8,734 people arrived on Penzance seafront dressed as Pirates smashing the previous record of 6,166.