In the space of three months last year I visited virtually every sightseeing attraction in Cornwall (not as some sort of bizarre personal challenge, you understand, but for the new Time Out Guide to Devon & Cornwall). And of them all, Geevor Tin Mine, on the moody cliffs of Pendeen, was the most rewarding – not least because it came as such a surprise.
Mining heritage centres in Cornwall have a tendency to contain interesting but ultimately very dusty exhibitions, with captions in fading typewriter ink. But the entire 67-acre site at Geevor, whose engines fell silent in 1991, has been painstakingly and sensitively preserved, thanks to some £3 million of grant funding – and in 2008 it gained the thoroughly modern, interactive Hard Rock Museum. Clearly not endowed with a huge marketing department, Geevor doesn’t seem to get the talk-time it deserves.
But one thing has niggled me since my trip to Geevor. Being an incurable claustrophobe [How do I know I’m incurable? Because I think I’m normal and you’re all clearly mad], I ashamedly skipped the most important bit of the museum – the underground tour, conducted by ex-Geevor miners.
I will be going back to Geevor to conquer this in 2010 (and for one of the cafe’s superb pasties), and seeing Fiona Crisp’s Subterannia exhibition at Newlyn Gallery last weekend served to strengthen my resolve.
Large-scale photographer Crisp delves deep underground at Geevor with her camera – and the results are surreal and pretty powerful, with enough compositional impact to hold their own as works of art while also acting as detailed historical documents.
•Fiona Crisp’s Subterannia is at Newlyn Art Gallery (New Road, Newlyn, Penzance, Cornwall TR18 5PZ) until 17 April 2010; free entrance.
•Geevor Tin Mine, Pendeen, Penzance, TR19 7EW; admission £8.50.