The Second Final Day

Thursday February 10th and Plan B is in operation. The forecast is good – clear and crisp. I am hot-footing it to Thornaby from a day’s work in Dewsbury, and Gilly from Sunderland. She will get to school an hour or so before me, at 4.30. It’s tight.

The school administrator, Karen, picks me up from the station and drops me off at the school gates. The sky is deep blue and as I turn into the building, I can hear the murmurings of people gathering in the yard. I pass the hot chocolate and star biscuit department and head for the hall. Most of the lanterns are gone and so I make for the yard and find Gilly and before a minute or two has passed, I am helping her line up the parade. Scarlett, four year old daughter of a teacher in school, is brandishing a pram lantern made for her by Kayleigh. ‘What do you think of this?!’ she asks.

The Choir and the Star of Children's Wishes and Dreams

The choir is in place, next to the star of children’s wishes and dreams.

The star has been finished to perfection by the champion lantern-makers and has a secret message on the back, to be revealed at the very end of the evening.

The Mayor and his wife, plus the former Mayor and his wife have arrived. The former Mayor is also a Ward Councillor. ‘I’ve been to all of these. We wouldn’t miss it for the world’. There is an archway of balloons over the gate, with a ribbon stretched beneath, waiting to be cut.  The Rhythm Train Samba Band are ready to trot and a lot of people are in the playground standing by their lanterns. It feels as though all of Tilery is on tiptoes.

The Mayoral Party

The choir sings the songs it rehearsed with us a week before, their voices swirling about the yard. Then, the Star of Community Lantern is lit by two of the champion lantern makers. It has been decided that there will be a roll of core lantern makers, who will take turns to light this lantern every year. It is carried by Mr Repton at the head of the procession.

There are official words of welcome from Mr R, the Mayor and the former Mayor, and then, The Official Bearer of the Scissors is called upon, to carry the scissors to the Mayor. (A story is revealed later of the drama leading to this moment. The Bearer’s Mam wanted her to go to a birthday party, but the Bearer dug her heels in and insisted on fulfilling her official duty.) Daniel leads everyone in a count down from 10 and then GO! The ribbon is cut, the band plays and we are off.

Lining up in the playground

Gilly and I help filter the lanterns and their carriers out of the yard. At the front, behind Mr R, are the Mams with their host of small, blue-lit lanterns – the angel, the prams, the trains. The Year 6 lanterns punctuate the parade, with two side-by-side bringing up the rear. The Sure Start lantern is the marker for the band and so at that point, we stop everyone in order for the Rhythm Train to take its place. Their trusty leader, Martin, walks backwards for the whole procession, whistle in mouth, directing the percussion. Even when the front of the procession is across the green, there are still lanterns in the yard. It is a very long parade.

The Parade leaves School

Once everyone is out, we run along to catch up with the front. A bollard in the middle of the pathway that had been removed earlier in the day has been mysteriously reinstated. Gilly stands there to check that all and sundry get past it safely and I warn folk of the kerb just beyond it.

There are people waving from windows, standing in doorways in their pyjamas. Janette’s fence has been decorated with fairy lights for the occasion, setting an example for next year. Children and families are delighted with their lit-up creations. The mosque is being team-carried by the family and friends. Luke is carrying the shield with another, previously unseen young man.

‘Where’s Ben?’ I ask.  ‘In his bed poorly.’

‘What about Kieran?’  ‘On his x-box.’

We then fantasise about the entire parade stopping in front of Kieran’s house, knocking on the door and getting him to join in…

There is a lantern that catches fire – a candle tumbles out of its holder. Thankfully, it is dealt with expertly and quickly and the vast majority of the parade are oblivious of the incident.

The Parade

The parade wends its way around Tilery and Portrack and back to the school grounds. There are scissor sisters ready to snip the lanterns from their carrying sticks and Gilly, Mr R and I with help from a host of stewards, orchestrate a display.

The walkers go for hot chocolate and then return to stand and gaze at the amassed lanterns.

Princesses dressed for the occasion

Then we all sing.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine

Kayleigh’s daughter Yasmine comes and throws her arms around me and we dance for the whole song.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine

The Display

Small children are waving their silvery, glittery stars in time with the music.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine

A little girl comes up to me and says’ Can I say thank you?’

‘Of course’, I reply ‘What for?’

‘For helping us make the lanterns’.

A child looks up at Mr Repton and says

‘This has been the best day of my life’

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Then, The Star of Children’s Wishes and Dreams is turned and its secret is revealed.

357 Days to the next Lanterns Parade

The Display


Kayleigh taylor · February 14, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Fantastic lantern parade. loved everything about it. cant wait for next years counting the days down already. a great big thank you to mary and gilly u are stars and make it more special by you’s bein there.

Incy Wood · February 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Wow- I’ve just read the whole 2011 Tilery blog.

How fantastic, the sense of community that comes just from this blog is huge! It made me want to be there.

I really enjoyed reading about everyones journey towards the event, how possitively bumps in the road were delt with. How caring and supportive everyone is from the year 6 boys entertaining the charming toddler to the mums helping so many lanterns.

Well done to everyone involved, the lanterns look great!
I shall definately be recommending this blog to all the people I work with.

Talya Rochester · March 7, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Looks to have been an amazing evening! I love the idea of secret messages on the lanterns…

This is obviously a community event in the very best sense; even without being there, you can sense the enjoyment and the feeling of belonging.

Lynda Burgessq · March 17, 2011 at 7:38 am

It’s lovely to read about “the other” lantern land – makes you feel like you are in a fairy story! Looking forward to meeting some of the creators at our lantern land.

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