Tourism in Penzance & West Cornwall
Festivals in Penzance & West Cornwall
Penzance and West Cornwall have several festivals throughout the year to celebrate aspects of their cultural and artistic heritage, all of which provide spectacles and entertainment for both locals and visitors alike.
Golowan Festival & Mazey Day
The Golowan Festival - named for Gol Jowan in the Cornish language meaning "Feast of John" - is a recent revival of an ancient festival celebrated in years gone by to mark the arrival of Midsummer. Originally revived as a project amongst some local schools, helping to bring their heritage to the children of today, this has now become a ten-day celebration of music and the performing arts with venues all over Penzance during the second half of June.
The Festival runs for approximately ten days in late June, with details being available in the Events Diary. The culmination of the Festival is over three days of the weekend around St John's Eve. Summer Fire on the Friday of that weekend is a spectacular fireworks display as a finale to some light-hearted events around the Jubilee Pool on the Promenade.
Mazey Day on the Saturday of that weekend sees the town centre transformed with banners and leafy decorations, the streets closed and street markets, processions and a Serpent Dance featuring walking displays made by the children of many of the local schools in, and around, Penzance. Quay Day on the Sunday is a celebration of the harbour and Penzance's maritime history with visiting boats welcomed and decorated to add to the festive atmosphere, many stalls and street performers around the harbour, and a fair with traditional rides and entertainment.
A memorable contributor to these events is the Golowan Band whose musical style is like no other! They lead the Mazey Day processions and will be found playing in many unlikely locations around the town, along with other invited bands and performers from most of the Celtic regions of Europe. Venues for other performances include the Acorn Theatre, in Parade Street, and the Golowan Marquee, erected adjacent to St Anthony's Gardens.
On August Bank Holiday Monday - the last Monday of August - Newlyn becomes host to visitors from all over the country and further afield for the Annual Newlyn Fish Festival. This celebrates Newlyn's heritage of fishing and seagoing which have been a vital part of Cornish life since time immemorial.
The Harbour is filled with fishing boats of all types and sizes, as well as visiting boats ranging from modern Naval craft to wooden sailing ships. Many of the boats are open to visitors who can learn much of the hardships of the men who make their living from the sea.
In the main Fish Market, displays of the types of fish to be found regularly landed here can be seen - including shark, rays and skate, as well as the more commonly known fish - and stalls selling fish, fish products and numerous nautical items complete the Market displays. Outside, around the quay are numerous other stalls and entertainments to complete the enjoyment of this very popular event.
The Montol Festival is an annual celebration held on the eve of the Winter Solstice, which in Cornish is "Montol". The eve of the Winter Solstice has also been celebrated as the date of King Arthur's birthday by the Cornish for over 1000 years. At the heart of the Festival are the ancient traditions of Penzance at Nadelik (Cornish language for Christmas) including the singing of Cornish Carols, Mummers' plays, the Candle Dance and Guise Dancers.
During the Festival, people are encouraged to wear the traditional masks and costumes of the Guise Dancers. Guise dancing was so popular in the 19th century that many people compared Penzance to the Venice Carnival as many people would (and still do!) dress in that style. Like the Golowan Festival, the traditions are surrounded by a week long programme of community events - most of which are free. The main event is on Montol Eve itself with lantern parades and a beacon at Lescudjack Castle and the night lighting of the Mock (Cornish yule log) ceremony in Penzance Town Centre attended by the Penzance Obby Oss Penglaz.