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Today I’m sending out the stirring, sincere sounds of James Findlay, who was the starring guest at Penzance Folk Club last night upstairs at the Benbow.

It’s been a couple of years since Findlay won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award but the early twentysomething must still have felt pretty fresh-faced when looking out over PZ folk club’s mature crowd. I am a big fan of traditional folk music – indeed the name of this blog is a tribute to mighty Cornish folkie Brenda Wootton – and it was a treat to have this rising star in our midst. I live in hope of a revival of a 1960s Count House-style folk music scene in West Cornwall… anyone fancy kicking things off?

www.jamesfindlay.co.uk

www.penzancefolk.co.uk

Click through for another vid from last night… Read the rest of this entry »

A video about long-time friend of pasties & cream Paul Spooner and his ‘mechanical cartoons’. If you can’t afford one of his automata, you could always buy yourself a bar of Eden Project chocolate, which is illustrated by Paul with the story of chocolate. The sea salt one, in particular, has a nice briny kick.

‘Got absolutely drenched making this,’ says the author of this rather therapeutic slowmo clip.

Check out how moody and cool the Jubilee Pool is looking in its close-up in The xx new video Chained, from the album Coexist, out now. Very taken with Penzance’s handsome lido, they were apparently. The underwater shots were filmed subsequently in a water tank. Ha! Don’t blame them – tis chilly in there.

www.jubileepool.co.uk

Now Kernow is some way from the city (no, not that one, I mean the city). And every time I get that donkey of a FGW train, it feels ever so slightly further. But for one day a year, on St Piran’s Day fittingly, Cornwall gets its moment of fame in London for the ‘Kernow in the City‘ event, showcasing Cornish artists, music and film.

There are to be real Cornish pasties and ale, live shows from the Crowns and the Loose Salute, Cornish language workshops, visual arts, plus singer-songwriter Ruarri Joseph, who I’ve never seen live, though I am fond of the sweet chorus I have posted above. Touch of the David Gray? That’s alright, that’s alright…

Sat 10 March 7pm, £10 adv / £12 door. Rich Mix. More info on Kernow in the City here.

This is one of my favourite carols, the St Day Carol (or Sans Day Carol), thought to originate from St Day, near Redruth, in the 19th century. It was translated from Cornish roughly to the lyrics of ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ – and I think the melody has a lovely lilt, as demonstrated by these charming chaps with stunning ‘taches.

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas. May your days be laden with Rodda’s and lit by gently flashing fairy lights. And may your mornings-after be quickly and painlessly cured by sea breezes. See you in 2012 – thanks for reading my Cornish miscellany. Back dreckly.

Just wanted to throw a link to casio duo Hedluv + Passman‘s long-awaited video of Cornish anthem, Doin it Dreckly, which is gathering momentum in these parts. Sumptuously filmed on the streets of Redruth. Love them.

Also love their blog: http://hedluvandpassman.wordpress.com. The album, ‘We Came Here Not For Gold’, is available to buy here.

If you didn’t catch this week’s episode of Grand Designs, in which Kevin McCloud follows the renovation of a dilapidated Cornish enginehouse from beginning to near-end, you should definitely watch it online here, where it will be available for the next month.

Apart from being a fascinating insight into the demands of turning one of Cornwall’s crumbling mining remnants into a home, with the attendant historical and physical challenges, the programme is a lovely little portrait of how things work in a Cornish community.

Mind-bogglingly multi-skilled stonemason Adam Purchase manages to make it all happen on an improbably small budget. He achieves this mainly by being generally adaptable and creative but also by calling in favours from neighbours and friends with skills (while giving out favours just as generously), mate’s rates, and gentleman’s agreements. At one point, one of the helpers says ‘Who needs that cash stuff, eh?’ and I think that’s my favourite line of the show. Well, it’s a good job really, since there’s bugger-all of it in these parts!

Did anyone work out where it was? I didn’t.

This is extraordinary. Apparently taken on the north coast. Gone off the idea of that cliff walk now?

Shocking-quality phone vid for you of Dartmoor dweller Seth Lakeman’s sell-out show at the St Ives September Festival last night. You know you can rely on me for plenty of distortion on the sound, and erratic framing. Still, hopefully this snippet conveys something of his electric performance of eerie, insistent ‘Kitty Jay’ – in my view his finest song.

Btw, if you missed Botallack O Clock the other night, fret not: the excellent Third Man Theatre are performing their ambulatory show ‘The One that Got Away’ this week, meeting at the Guildhall: details here. Am hearing great, often surreal things.

PS I feel duty-bound to point you to the full version of Kitty Jay with crystal-clear sound.

OK, I realise that two consecutive blog posts have contained images of bunting fluttering in the Cornish breeze – you’ll have to forgive me (particularly male readers) but really you’ve got to make hay while the sun shines.

This is a clip of Porthleven Food Festival on Saturday, taken from next to the food marquee, where I sat pint of Betty in hand, enjoying Read the rest of this entry »

What do you make of all this then?

My mouse-clicking finger looked sharp today when I received an email with a link promising a ‘punked-up version’ of old-as-you-like Cornish folk song Lil’ Eyes.

This little blast of Cornish anarchy comes care of a band called Crowns – a rocky, folky, Pogues-inspired band made up of four 21-year-old Cornish lads from Lanson currently living in exile (while Read the rest of this entry »

Cornish band Brother & Bones rocking out in a big, bare studio in the middle of Bodmin Moor on their new single, directed and produced very neatly by Luke Pilbeam of
esspproductions.co.uk. Like the arty, reportage-y shots.

Forthcoming live dates at http://www.brotherandbones.co.uk.

…If You’ve Got Long Hair.

People seemed to enjoy the video I posted the other month of Penzance in the 1960s, so here’s some more grainy black and white footage of Cornwall that’s come my way – this time with some fairly surreal narration.

As some of you will know, pasties & cream – as well as being the name of my humble blog – is the title of a seminal Cornish folk album (and song) by the late, great Brenda Wootton.

A folk singer from Newlyn, born with an extraordinary, pure voice, Brenda is to the county of Cornwall what Edith Piaf is to France, or Mercedes Sosa to Argentina. Clearly Cornwall is, ahem, a lot smaller, and those singers are infinitely more famous, but the stories and music share a number of similarities.

Brenda has been gone some time – she died in 1994 – and fans like me had to make do with her old, classic albums, most no longer even in production. Until, that is, a sound engineer in Porthleven unearthed a box of previously unheard, master tapes in his loft of a concert Brenda Wootton gave in the Bobino Theatre in Paris in 1984.

Against the odds, the tapes were in amazing condition and, after being remastered, have just been released as a new album entitled ‘All of Me’.  I got given a copy for Christmas and… Read the rest of this entry »

On account of semi-comatose stints by the wood burner, brought on by the repeated appearance of a family-sized tub of Rodda’s and vats of egg nog, this video of Montol is going out a week late.

As in previous years, it was a suitably elemental, quirky affair up on the beacon: full moon; big fire; masked people; music in a minor key; person dressed in horse skull.

And with it belated happy festivities from pasties & cream!

www.montol.co.uk

I had an intensely festive evening in Truro last night. Mulled wine & chestnuts – check. Choirs & carols – check. Hotdog from a van – check. Train home – an hour+ late. No problem, First Great Western, it’s Christmas.

I stopped by the Cathedral to see my Mum singing with the Riverside Singers – here’s a video of them performing the soothing hymn, ‘Brightly Beams’ (also on the Fisherman’s Friends album earlier this year). As ever with my videos, Read the rest of this entry »

art of cornwall

If you missed the documentary on BBC4 the other night entitled ‘The Art of Cornwall’, fret not – you can still catch it on iPlayer here for another four days.

It is well worth watching, energetically narrating the remarkable story of how St Ives came to be one of the Britain’s most important art colonies, and generously seasoned with anecdotes and background about the lives of the main players (Ben Nicholson, Babs Hepworth, Wallis, Frost, Heron…).

Even if I did find the commentary by Dr James Fox a little over-dramatised and breathless at points, his levels of enthusiasm and depth of knowledge won me over (and helped me overlook the wearing of a suit on windswept Cornish cliffs in the opening frame and the glossy sports car ;-)). Apart from anything else, there is some truly inspiring footage of West Penwith. Take a look.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00wbn80/The_Art_of_Cornwall/

Here’s the Beeb outline:

“For a period in the 20th century, Cornwall was the home of the avant garde, eclipsing Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve got a bit of a thing at the moment for monterey pines (see also banner pic!), so here is a quick vid of the fireworks on Friday going off behind the silhouette of a monterey pine in Penlee Park (aka the cheap seats).

battery rocks penzance

Last week I was airing my concerns over Cornwall Council’s plans for Penzance harbour on pasties & cream. Well, on Friday I went to the public meeting in St John’s Hall called by the Friends of Penzance Harbour. My attendance of said meeting in a dusty town hall bang in the middle of Friday night is testament to my love of PZ’s waterfront!!

Turns out I was not alone – it was packed. It got quite heated in there – well, you know, as heated as things ever get in this mellow corner of the country, ie clapping, a few ‘hear, hears’ and a spot of hissing. There was an overwhelming sense of frustration and anger in the crowd about how the episode has been handled – one speaker even questioned whether the lack of public consultation flouted the Aarhus convention  (the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters)… to much vigorous nodding.

I took a few short vids.

Here is one deceptively gently spoken speaker:

And the lone representative of Option A speaking:

Every few weeks, I escape the Metropolis on a Saturday morning and burn over to Higher Trenowin farm shop up on the scenic PZ-St Ives road.

It is an exemplary farm shop, as I was saying the other day, but to be honest I take almost any excuse to go for a drive that road – it climbs high out of Penzance and gives an instant feeling of space. There’s a excellent layby en route – here’s a very short vid from last weekend.

I had the good fortune of hearing about the Gilad Atzmon and Orient House Ensemble gig at the St Ives Club last Friday care of the St Ives Jazz Club. I saw that the Guardian had given it four stars at Ronnie Scott’s the previous week; they said: “A shrewd pacer of live shows, Atzmon steered tonight’s performance from ambiguous, unsettling microtonal and geographical drifts between the west and the Middle East, toward an optimistic, conventionally tempered finale on Wonderful World, pulled off without a hint of cheesiness.”

I wouldn’t say we are spoiled for ‘microtonal and geographical drifts’ in these parts so it’s fair to say I jumped on it. Held at the old-fashioned Western Hotel in St Ives, the St Ives Jazz Club does an impressive job of making it feel like a bona fide jazz club with near darkness, tealights and even some men in black-rimmed glasses. And the music was superb – tight, irreverent and diverse.

Here are a few clips I took on the sly (trying to hide the phone from the jazz purists). Check this amazing drum solo – watch this guy, he’s called Eddie Hick:

More tracks at myspace: http://www.myspace.com/orienthouse

http://www.gilad.co.uk/the-orient-house-ensemble/

On Friday, I winched myself out of the house and down to the bench on Wherrytown Beach to spectate at the annual sea swim race from Newlyn to Battery Rocks. The conditions were ideal – one of those calm, blue late summer evenings that make you get all pretentious and emotional about the Cornish light.

Next to me on the bench was a friendly Newlyn octogenarian, who told me about how ‘when he was a lad’ – ie before the advent of ‘health and safety ‘n’ all that’ – the race started with a dive off Newlyn harbour wall. Wetsuit? ‘Naaaw.. wouldn’t have known the meaning of the word’. We are a bit soft these days, aren’t we? Not his 19-year-old granddaughter, though, who last weekend swam from the Brisons (rock a mile off Cape Cornwall, ie in the Atlantic Ocean) to shore. Hard. Core.

As you can see in the vid above (look for the moving dots), the pack spread out quickly, with the top ten looking impressively bullet-like and splash-free. It was an inspiring sight – it even made me harbour some ambitions, possibly fleeting, about entering next year. But the Brisons, never.

sea swim newlyn to battery rocks

Click through for more pics. Read the rest of this entry »

Blimey, last night was wild. I went down to the promenade for some wave watching early evening and here’s what I saw.

(Overheard in Coop: the Scillonian came in “virtually on its side”. Doesn’t bear thinking about.)

Check out these daredevils:

Ben Skinner riding the Cribber off Newquay – up to 40ft – plus mini interview. Too cool.

brother and bones cornwall

I went to a great gig at the Acorn in Penzance last night – it was the launch of Brother & Bones’ new album, supported by up-and-comings Rokshan and Ryan Jones (of the Hitchcock Rules).

Brother & Bones were accompanied by a full string and brass section and the high-emotion, epic sound was – and I’m trying not to say this too lightly – quite reminiscent of Muse. Impressive stuff. Check out their myspace.

I tried to get some footage on my iPhone of their more high-octane songs but it distorted (far too much energy, it seems, for such a small mic) but this sweet acoustic lullaby came out sort of OK for the first half. Sorry must do better!

And here, by polar contrast, is a masterclass in how to make a VERY cool music video of the wilds of west Cornwall – the lead singer Rich of Brother & Bones doing a more slidey guitar thing:

In the absence of an official music vid for ‘Into the fire’ by Thirteen Senses on YouTube, I was quite amused to find this Grey’s Anatomy sequence to the tune instead. Apologies for the gross & gory still that comes up before you start the video (and the even grosser snogging scenes)…

It’s catchy, isn’t it? Thirteen Senses formed in a bedroom in Penzance, though they have since flown the Cornish nest and released three albums – and it is oft quoted (in seemingly every article ever written about them, so I didn’t want to be an exception) that they are the only Cornish band to have had a top 20 single (with Thru the Glass).

Check their myspace here.

Here’s some shaky footage from my phone of Flora Day children’s dance in Helston on Saturday – a scene of great purity, as always, before the Spingo takes its toll.

Can you spot newly reelected Lib Dem Andrew George in Hal-an-tow regalia in this vid?

Just stumbled across Mildred the surfing sheep – the star of Cornish outdoor/surf apparel company Finisterre‘s new advertising campaign. In the same, surprisingly popular video genre of surfing animals, a Peruvian surfer brought us Pisco the surfing alpaca not long ago.

Random!

finisterre-cornwall

finisterre clothing from cornwall

Finisterre has a nice-looking merino base layer range btw. Merino base layers have become a bit of an obsession of mine since I discovered their many merits (feel like a t-shirt, act like a jumper!) on a trip to the Arctic Circle last year.

http://www.finisterreuk.com

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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