This film is part of Free

On with the Furry Dance

Lively revelry in an ancient tradition from Helston, Cornwall

Non-Fiction 1925 1 mins Silent


Eccentric local customs were manna to the newsreels. The Cornish town of Helston's Furry Dance (aka Flora Day), held annually in May, was one of countless such events that peppered the newsreel year, especially in summer - a 'slow news time' then just as it is today. The film is a fascinating record of one of England's more ancient folk customs - not that its history much concerned Topical Budget, which was happy to celebrate another example of Great British eccentricity, a "weird in and out the houses 'hop'".

Usually held on 8 May, the day-long festivities begin with a band marching through the town, accompanied by children dancing in the streets. The Furry Dance itself involves the band striking up a horn-pipe tune and leading the dancers, in couples, through a succession of houses. The event mark the passing of Winter and the beginning of Summer - "For Summer is a come O, and the Winter is a gone O", as the ballad Hal-an-Tow, a later addition to the ceremonies, has it. It's thought to be one of Britain's oldest surviving folk traditions, dating back to pre-Christian times.