117th Matlock Bath Illuminations opening night

Boat builders Christine Dence, Richard Wood and Pete Hartshorn once again dominated the main attraction at Derbyshire Dales District Council's annual Matlock Bath Illuminations.

This year's festival - the 117th - burst into life on Saturday (6 September) and will run every weekend until 25 October in the District Council's picturesque Derwent Gardens.  Book online.

The Motley Bunch from left Christine Dence Pete Hartshorn and Richard Wood 300pxAnd the spectacular 'Last One Home', a tribute to World War One bi-plane the Sopwith Camel, earned Matlock boat building team Christine, Richard and Peter – who call themselves the Motley Bunch - their sixth first prize in just eight years in the popular decorated boats competition.

The trio retain the Arkwright Cup, donated in 1903 by Sir Richard Arkwright, and the Centenary Cup, plus a cash prize of £270.

Their boat will be on show every weekend, along with eight others, in the unique parade of decorated boats that is rowed up and down the River Derwent during the Illuminations.

Decorated boats on the DerwentSecond prize this year went to Matlock's David Gregory – competing for the 44th consecutive year - with his entry 'Not Quite Crown Derby', inspired by the china steam train designed to celebrate the christening of Prince George. David won the Plumtree Cup and £235.

In third place was 'Fireman Sam – Ready for Action', designed by Ian Page of Cromford. He won the Sheffield Wire Rope Cup and £205, followed by 'Chitty on Tour' in fourth, inspired by Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which won designer David Harrison from Ashbourne the Dave Sanderson Trophy and £170.

Judges are selected at random from the opening night crowds and it's a friendly competition, with all none prize winners receiving £165.

Making up this year's Illuminations flotilla are 'Gondola' by Paul Henshall from Matlock, 'Dusty' by Michael Hall from Ashbourne, 'Trix' by Mathew Hall from Ashbourne, 'Iggle Piggle and Friends' by Rory Harrison from Ashbourne and 'Alice's Misadventures' by Isabel Flavell from Matlock Bath.

The big switch on performed by Cllr Carol Walker and helpersThe boat Judges were Charlotte Kerry and Ben Daisey from Clay Cross, Louise and Neil Hopwell from Heanor and their children Lily, Dylan and William, and Maurice and June Opie, both aged 83, visiting from St Austell in Cornwall. Lily, Dylan and William Hopwell assisted Chairman of the District of the Derbyshire Dales Councillor Carol Walker to push the switch in the Derwent Gardens bandstand to officially start the 2014 season.

The impressive opening night crowds, entertained by Bakewell Silver Band, cheered as the parade of boats took to the water, headed by a candle-lit model - put together by all the boat builders to show how models used to look when the tradition started over a century ago. This year's boat was a poppy-themed tribute to World War One.

The parade of illuminated boats takes place from 7.45pm every Saturday and Sunday evening until 25 October and can be viewed from Derwent Gardens. The Gardens and nearby Lovers' Walks are also bedecked with colourful lights.

Cllr Geoff Stevens MBEDerbyshire Dales District Council Chairman Councillor Geoff Stevens MBE, who has compered the Illuminations since the 1960s, said:

"The boat builders continue to be the stars of the show, and on a beautiful clear night, the moment all of the boats switched on their lights on the Derwent was absolutely breath-taking.

"The District Council is immensely proud to stage a unique family experience, and we are hoping for good weather during the season to hit our target of 100,000 people coming into Matlock Bath to boost tourism, trade and jobs locally."


Find us on Facebook


Follow us on Twitter