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In this most dead of seasons in the far west, it’s a struggle to find somewhere open for any sort of refreshment, let alone somewhere cosy or chic. All the more fun, then, to discover not one but two interesting new cafes in the space of a few weeks. First up, the Dog & Rabbit in St Just. As befits a cafe in this most herbal and tight-knit of towns, it’s mellow and hand-knitted, with recycled cardboard for clipboards, vintage furniture, and a table selling home-made jam and properly free-range eggs.

(Marks deducted for being about to close in February!)

18 Bank Square, St Just, TR19 7HJ Penzance, Cornwall. T 01736 449811. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-Dog-and-Rabbit\

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For a couple of years I think I didn’t quite get Golowan. I was busy trying to find out what was happening where, searching the scant printed information for details – it all seemed too scattergun to get a handle on. Now of course I realise that this is absolutely the point of it, and its beauty.

It’s about the chaos and the wandering, the random discoveries, with mini stages and micro events on every street – some planned, some not. As Old Mike rightly said in his column in The Cornishman last week, Golowan is not supposed to be anything as divisive or elite as an ‘arts festival’; it’s a community festival and it represents Penzance perfectly in all its fruity glory.

This guy, who was kicking up dust on Greenmarket at a mere 10.30am, was a particular highlight – anyone catch his name?

 

Logan rocks – chopping boards by Samuel Walsh

It’s Open Studios time again – an opportunity to stick your nose into the studios of Cornwall’s many hidden away artists and designers, woodworkers, needleworkers and illustrators. Just look out for the orange circles.

It is oft quoted that West Cornwall has more working artists/sole-trading “creatives” per capita than anywhere outside London (or something…). The exact statistic has been distorted by Cornish whispers, but it is clear when you look at the Open Studios map that there are a lot of them – even the village of Nancledra, population 150, is stacked with dots.

I am particularly keen on visiting the arty clusters of studios like Krowji and Trewidden. It doesn’t feel quite so much like walking into someone’s house (with the attendant feeling of obligation to chat!) and you can see lots of different work in a small space in a mellow but bustling atmosphere. Plus you can stop by the wildly eccentric Melting Pot Cafe afterwards at Krowji, which on the whole I love, though I wasn’t so keen on being charged £2.45 for a slightly watery hot chocolate in a paper cup on Sunday.

Open Studios is on for the rest of the week, and I’m not done yet, but my highlights so far are as follows:

• Steam-bent wooden lampshades – Tom Raffield, Krowji

High-design steam-sculptured wooden lampshades, flower pots and assorted furniture. www.tomraffield.com
 
 

• Logan rock chopping boards – Samuel Walsh, Krowji, from £18

Stacked up, they look like the rocks of Bodmin Moor or West Penwith’s Logan Rock – and they are very strokable. www.samwalshfurniture.co.uk

• Paul Fry – Trewidden

Uplifting simple flowers against fresh white backgrounds. www.paulfry.co.uk

• George Meyrick – Krowji

Minimalist geometric 3D shapes and flat paintings. Could be interesting installing one in a Cornish cottage, where right angles are hard to find. More info on George here

 
For all details on Open Studios 2012, including full list of participating artists, have a look here: http://www.creativeskills.org.uk/open-studios-cornwall-2012
Free entry throughout.

A speed-blogpost to alert you all to the fact that comedic Trifle Gathering Productions – surely the hottest thing in Cornish theatre – are touring again, with west Cornwall dates imminent.

I freakin love these guys, especially Kyla who barely has to raise an eyebrow to get a belly laugh. They made a name for themselves in festivals around Cornwall with the surreal, mullet-haired Zodiac gymnasts (pictured below) and then in small venues and village halls with Charity Shop Cabaret.

The new show is called A CURIOUS EVENING OF TRANCE AND RAP WITH THE OGDEN SISTERS – and I’m afraid that’s all I know about it, so I’ll give you the blurb:

“Travelling back in time to a darkened room in 1892, Cornish production company, Trifle Gathering Productions presents A CURIOUS EVENING OF TRANCE AND RAP WITH THE OGDEN SISTERS. A new play written by Nick Whitby and Kyla Goodey, this all-encompassing trip into the world of Victorian mediums is to tour the UK from 17 March to 20 May.

Lettie Ogden has a gift. Born in 1867, the youngest of four girls, Lettie begins to experience Œraps‚ from the other side following the tragic deaths of her father and her twin sister Vivienne. Desperate to escape the brutal upbringing inflicted on them by the hated housekeeper Mrs Skunt, her two older sisters Adeline and Constant take it upon themselves to take their show on the road and to share Lettie’s gift with anyone who will listen.”

So that clears up the narrative, right?

Slightly clearer are the dates:

Tonight! Wednesday 4th April; Princess Pavilions Falmouth 7.30pm; 01326 211222

Thursday 5th April; The Acorn Penzance 8pm; 01726 879500

Friday 6th April; Devoran Village Hall 7.30pm; 01872 864854

Saturday 7th April; The Burrell Theatre Truro  7.30pm; 01726 879500

More details at www.triflegatheringproductions.co.uk.

hardys exotics, cornwall

It’s an exotic life we live in west Cornwall, isn’t it? If you look around at people’s gardens, you’d think it were the Canaries – no Penwith garden or yard is complete without a few succulents making themselves at home, a banana tree, or at the very least a palm.

The reality of the Cornish climate is a more mizzly and damp affair – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But what’s crucial plant-wise is our lack of frost and the year-round mild temperatures, which allow people to grow all sorts of exotic plants with great success. I’m determined to be one of them.

With that in mind I went over to the Hardy Exotics Nursery on the A30 at the weekend, and left quite overwhelmed with inspiration. I could have spent hundreds of pounds buying into the dream of creating a mini Eden in my diminutive Penzance yard, but my affections settled in the Echeveria section. These permanently flower-like succulents are impossible to resist with their pale pinky, green shades, and intricate patterns. I bought two (£6.50 each – the two pots pictured below) and left thrilled.

It’s the owners, though, that really make the experience – both are wonderfully generous and enthusiastic with their advice in a gentle, totally non-pushy way. They also responded well to my request for plants that are ‘very difficult to kill’.

Hardy Exotics Nursery, Gilly Lane, Whitecross, Penzance, Cornwall, TR20 8BZ. www.hardyexotics.co.uk Read the rest of this entry »

Enjoying the announcement of a micro-festival at Barefoot (the place I was rave-blogging about the other day) over the Easter weekend to celebrate the launch of their surf school and record label – uh-huh, a record label on our very own Lizard Peninsula. It’s £30 for a day ticket (£45 for the weekend) but I see BF have managed to lure some interesting folky/acoustic names to the deep south, plus it is being opened by none other than Michael Eavis (if ever there was a good festival omen…).

I’ve been checking out the artists, and here are the ones that caught my eye. The beard count is reassuringly high.

www.barefootkitchen.com

Neil Halstead (Mojave 3 – he’s a NQY boy)

Matthew P (summery acoustic…)

Harry Fricker (guitar-as-drum)

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Here’s a pictorial taster for an article I have out in Coast magazine this month (Feb issue) about the excellent new Newlyn School of Art, the brainchild of local artist Henry Garfit.

I attended the Landscape Painting course with local artist Mark Spray back in September and it was a most eye-opening, exhilarating experience. Beginners, have no fear – Mark’s unorthodox style, which includes the use of earth, paintbrushes strapped on to sticks and speed drawing, had even the experienced painters in my group flummoxed. Having not picked up a paintbrush since GCSE art, at least I was expecting it to be hard.

The school occupies a converted granite school at the top of Paul hill (the Board School) in Newlyn, paces away from the original, famed Forbes-led Newlyn School of painters in the late 19th and early 20th century. Other tempting courses include print-making, stone carving and Cornish gardens.

It is no mean feat to open a not-for-profit arts institution (with some Arts Council funding) in grim times such as these, so congrats. With our local arty institutions looking poorly – Acorn open but website looking unwell, Penzance Arts Club closed, Golowan funding cut – it’s brilliant to find something as fresh and new as this.

More info at www.newlynartschool.co.uk; £175 three-day Landscape Painting course.

I nearly died of surprise when I got to the cinema last night to find the Penwith Film Society‘s screening of ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ had sold out, and a cluster of people waiting for some unlikely tickets to become available. It’s not often the Saveloy sells out.

Other than the brilliant Penwith Film Society’s weekly screenings, there’s an awful lot of mainstream fare, so the second cinema-related surprise of the week is that there’s also a one-off screening of a locally shot art-house film taking place on Thursday evening.

Local film director Mark Jenkin’s second feature-length film, Happy Christmas, is the film in question – ‘an interwoven seaside hymn to gift-wrapped promises and unwanted presence’. It is filmed in Penzance and around West Cornwall – I am hoping from the photo stills to see some gritty after-dark shots of the prom. Drinkies & nibbles in the bar upstairs afterwards.

Book in advance. www.merlincinemas.net

www.penwithfilmsociety.co.uk

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.

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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