Last Saturday (12 December 2020) saw LS11 residents out in (socially-distant) numbers, to enjoy the spectacle of Christmas carols and festive cheer blasting out from an illuminated open-top bus and bicycle procession – as a Covid-safe alternative to the popular annual Lantern Festival.
Over two hours, the bus wove its way through dozens of streets in the Cross Flatts neighbourhood, then Beeston Hill and Hunslet Moor, before finishing in Holbeck. Volunteers dished out sanitised (!) sweets and posters all along the route. Over 500 people came out to enjoy it from their doorsteps and on street corners, and thousands more caught it online via the Facebook live stream.
The event was coordinated by members of local churches, featured the acclaimed West Hunslet Salvation Army brass band, was supported by Slung Low, and was made possible by grants from the White Rose Office Park and Munroe K. It marked the finale of a community art project which saw scores of local people submit images for inclusion on a poster themed around ‘hope’ (read more here).
Mark Hodgkinson, local resident and Salvation Army project leader, helped lead the event. He commented:
“It’s been a strange year for everyone, and we were gutted not to be able to do the normal Lantern Festival. But this turned out to be a really positive new way to take the hopeful story of Christmas into the community; it was a complete joy to see people coming out of their homes to sing, wave and clap as the bus came past. We’re already now looking ahead to next year, there’s a good chance the bus will feature again – and we’d love to hear from people who want to work with us on it.”
The Lantern Festival was launched in 2013 by the Churches Together in LS11, as an event in Cross Flatts Park that brings the community together and gives a chance to celebrate and reflect on the meaning of Christmas. Over the years, the festival has gone from strength to strength with new ideas developing each year. Hundreds of people from all corners of the community attend each year.