A journey to freedom of expression in art

It’s International women’s day, so what better excuse to focus on the contribution women have made to the creative arts.

For years women have been represented as a subject rather than the creative force in creative communities. Having the time, money and social freedom are influential factors that are allowing women to have a rewarding career in the arts.

Unfortunately, in most of the museums and galleries around the world, the old masters still dominate the walls of the most famous institutions. A silent statement that reinforces the idea that men are the leaders of the creative arts. But there is hope. As more women take over important curatorial roles in leading art galleries and museums, the imbalance is starting to be addressed, and more solo shows by female artists are now being scheduled into museum timetables.

In Falmouth and Penryn, we are lucky enough to have a legacy of strong women who promoted the arts to make it an acceptable career. The rising middle-class Quaker sisters Anna Maria and Caroline Fox were responsible for creating what came to be known as the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society. Now a centre for the arts, the Poly was partially designed to offer educational opportunities and exhibitions of the arts & sciences to the working people of Cornwall. It was a place to meet and share expertise in art practices.

Anna Maria lived unusually for her times. She was an artist and a global traveller. Much like the Bronte sisters, who were also of this age, Anna Maria’s legacy as the founder of the UK’s first adult learning establishment is still noticeable in Falmouth. The art classes she organised at the Poly in 1833 were the educational precursor to the development of Falmouth School of Art.

Under the name Polytechnic Society (RCPS) art classes continued until dedicated private art school premises in Arwenack Avenue were opened n August 1902. On offer in this establishment was the opportunity to take part in Freehand Drawing, Model Drawing, Painting from Still Life, Drawing from the Antique, Drawing of Plant Form, Drawing in Light & Shade, and from memory. It wasn’t cheap at four and ten shillings per session, but it was an opportunity to gain a qualification supported by the Board of Education. Tacita Dean, Jessica Warboys, Kate Holford, Susanna Heron and Judith Kerr are just a few of the inspirational women artists who have benefited from those humble beginners and trained at the Art School, which is now part of Falmouth University.

Although a change in the art world is gaining momentum, a high percentage of galleries represent more men than women. Thankfully our local Terrace Gallery is amongst the five per cent of galleries that have achieved an equal parity of male and female artists. The change is coming…slowly, but it is coming

What is a museum?

Tuesday marked the last field trip and penultimate session of the Citizen Curators course. The classroom sessions have been enlightening, and we have touched on the definition of a museum during the last six months. Still, our perceptions were tested thoroughly in this session as the classification of a museum was once again re-addressed.

Our group consisted of a selection of members from the seven different museums involved with the course. Some of these institutions are traditional museums with dusty artefacts, perilous swords and gruesome stuffed animals. But others like the Falmouth Art Gallery and the Clay Works at Wheal Martyn are more niche and don’t fall into the traditional Victorian image of a museum.

‘Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society.’ – The Museums Association (MA) definition in 1998

Established at the beginning of the Millenium, Shelterbox, are in their twentieth year of providing emergency aid items and shelter equipment to families cast out of their homes by natural disasters or conflict. The visitor in Truro highlights the need for this invaluable service.

A charity which receives no funding by the state, Shelterbox visitor centre, the location of our visit, ticks many of the boxes as a potential independent museum. It displays the essential objects deployed in the event of a specific emergency and the items needed for communities to recover from unexpected displacement. The curated exhibitions enable visitors to engage, learn and be inspired by the work the organisation carries out. Tick, tick tick!

Shelterbox have collected together artefacts, specimens and content to represent all stages of a disaster for the exhibition. It invites visitors to adopt the role of a packer assembling their signature green boxes for imminent disaster. Or the role of an observer after the worst-case scenario has happened when all is lost or buried. Beautifully shot audiovisual content also documents the success of the project from a grassroots perspective. It also subtly invites visitors to empathise with those who have benefited from the gift of essential tools to enable communities to rebuild. It is an interactive record of our modern world which has cultural and historical importance in educating all generations to the plight of the world’s population. Tick, tick, tick.

In my eyes, the groundbreaking Shelterbox visitor centre ticks many of the classification boxes and deserves recognition as a modern museum.

New surroundings for a new year

Art is a very personal thing, so it’s completely understandable that not all artists are commercial and want to sell their work or make a living from it. My hubby and I are both graduates of Falmouth School of Art. But I have never sold any of my paintings or sketches. And the same was true of Dave until three years ago. 

Our journey to our new workspace started when friends invited us to join them in Wexford for the Art in the Open Plein Air festival. We had a fabulous week indulging in what up to then had just been a hobby. And left a couple of our paintings with our hosts to say thank you for their incredible hospitality. Thrilled, they persuaded Dave to enter his work into the exhibition which closed the event. We genuinely expected to receive them back in the post a few weeks later, but they all sold. Understandably, Dave’s confidence received a massive boost. So when the opportunity to enter the Imagine Falmouth exhibition arrived, he decided to take the plunge and his entry was accepted. He sold his piece and was over the moon. 

The seed had now been well and truly planted, and he decided to set his sights on becoming a professional artist when he retired. But working from home, although very cost-effective is not easy ideal. And after two years of working in the conservatory, I was ready to take the step away too.

We both needed somewhere to work on raising our game, so we started looking for a studio. A move that we hoped would help Dave focus on developing his professional practice. And give me somewhere to separate my work as a content writer from my personal ambition to finish my novel.

Frustratingly despite the huge artistic community in Falmouth, or maybe because of it, artist studios are very hard to come by. We knew a few other friends who were in the same position, so when we saw a property listing in the estate agents window, we had a light bulb moment. 

In January we picked up the keys for our new professional home at the Terrace Gallery in Penryn. It’s fast becoming a home from home for other artists and creative businesses which offers invaluable exhibition space for artists and makers who struggle to get their work shown in the larger galleries. The handy event space also provides local artists & makers with the opportunity to share their inspiration, techniques and craft as talks, workshops and short courses.

As artists ourselves, we know the equilibrium between the time and effort that goes into creating original artwork, and the sale price is often unbalanced. Thankfully the commission rate for the gallery is low and the cost of hiring the event space reasonable. 

Dave’s first giant leap is nearly upon him as he prepares for his first exhibition in February. And I have rescheduled my calendar to make sure  I take some personal writing time during the week…so maybe I will finally get to finish my novel afterall!


The 18th Cornwall Film Festival

Written for Creative Culture South West

If you are a screen addict like me, a film festival is a perfect place to get a sneaky peek of the latest releases before they hit the mainstream cinemas. It’s also a great place to catch up on all the diverse indy features and shorts that don’t make it as far as your hometown screens. 

Some festivals follow film genres other follow themes. The 18th Cornwall Film Festival took place last weekend with the theme ‘Evolve’. It’s not quite in the league of the most prestigious film festivals in the world like Cannes, Berlin, and Venice, but it has a heart of gold and still attracts some great films. It celebrates the undiscovered, the old and the new. This year the festival headliner was Jojo Rabbit a sidesplitting black comedy written, directed and in parts acted by Taika Waititi. Based on Christine Leunens book Caging Skies, the plot revolves around a young boy in Hitler’s youth army who finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. 

The Cornwall Film Festival isn’t just about the most popular films. It hosts masterclasses by world-class professionals for anyone starting out in the filmmaking business. And a schools programme which celebrates film and brings visual education to 5-19-year-olds, and their teachers. This year’s film screenings, to help their creative and personal development included Diego Maradona documentary, Revolting Rhymes, Jellyfish and the skateboard film MID90S written and directed by Jonah Hill.

The masterclass highlights for the first day of the festival weekend included a scriptwriting session with Alex Kendall, and talk about Alex’s route into the industry, developing work for shorts, feature, various productions. The second of the day was from BAFTA winner Joan Stribling giving a talk on makeup for the film industry, with a demo and Q&A. Richard Cambridge, co-founder of WeAudition was the third masterclass which highlighted the opportunities that have opened up by digital casting for actors and how filmmakers can extend their reach for projects. And the fourth was a BFI NETWORK, Show and Tell – South West funded films session, with speakers, Sophie Mair, Dan Gitsham, Rebecca Wolff and Yazmin Joy Vigus. The panel-led forum was a group of filmmakers, all of whom had recently received BFI NETWORK funding. The discussion included invaluable information on applying for funding, the pre-production and production process, and distribution plans in relevance to recent case studies of funded work. The BFI networking event which followed, plus bubbly, set the ideal tone to enjoy in the emotive documentary film ‘Cliff Top Session’ produced by the very talented Martha Tilston who closed the evening with a few songs.  

The core events for the Cornwall Film Festival span a long weekend. Still, traditionally the most popular days are Saturday and Sunday. It’s also a chance for regular pass holders and drop-in film buffs to sit back and enjoy the cornucopia of Regional and International shorts, classic films (The Blues Brothers and The Breakfast Club), and new releases. Good Posture, the sharp-witted comedy starring Emily Mortimer and talented newcomer Grace Van Patten lightened the mood before the hard-hitting feature System Crasher. The beautifully shot Only You was the Saturday evening gala film which was accompanied by a Q&A with the film’s very talented writer/Director Harry Wootliff. Who also generously gave her time to run an afternoon masterclass.

The final day of the festival featured the compelling documentary-style film Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska). The heart-wrenching story of a deserted Macedonian village, a 50-something woman, and her invasive neighbours who turn her life upside down and threaten her livelihood. The hard-hitting Monos (Alejandro Landes) followed. But Jojo Rabbit brought the cheer back to the auditorium as did the crazy but amusing Australian zombie flick, Little Monsters (Abe Forsythe) which closed the festival.


Citizens curation – Falmouth Art Gallery

I frequently write about private views, exhibitions and gallery openings around the Southwest on social media and blogs. So I am very familiar with the significant contribution Falmouth Art Gallery make to the community. Inspired by my recent involvement with the Citizens Journalism Network, I decided to enrol on the Citizen Curator work-based training programme.

The programme, provided by Cornwall Museums Partnership in collaboration with seven museums around Cornwall is funded by the Museums Association’s Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund.

As a writer, it is a fantastic opportunity to have hands-on experience of the historical collections within the museums and highlight their stories. Throughout the six month programme, all the attendees have the chance to visit all the associated museums, attend field trips and events, to uncover the hidden diversity of Cornish society. And translating any new knowledge into a form that will engage and inform their community.

Citizens Journalism – podcast series

In the first half of 2019, I joined the Citizen Journalism News Network course at Exeter University.

This course was designed to give attendees the confidence and skills to actively engage with the local news networks and spread information within Cornwall. My aim of the course was to gain the skills necessary to create a series of podcasts which would highlight the achievements of an unrepresented group of professional writers throughout the southwest. 

I started this course with no knowledge of how to produce or record a podcast. All I knew about the media was first-hand knowledge from listening to a variety of other podcasts.

One of my hobbies is scriptwriting, so I set out to apply similar writing and structuring techniques to the podcast script. By the end of June, my first dummy version of the Writers of Cornwall podcast for The Writers Collective was complete. Although not perfect, it was a great learning experience, and hopefully, further podcast episodes for the Collective albeit with a better production quality will follow soon.

Minack theatre – chance of a lifetime

The beginning of June marked the end of a fantastic course ‘Writing for Stage’ with the amazingly talented Jane Pugh – supported by director and performer John Brolly.

This amazing course hosted by The Writers Block at Cornwall College was aimed at new writers, as well as those who had already written plays. So I was among talented company! Although a screenwriter myself and annual reader for the Nick Darke Award, I have never tackled writing a play. So I was intrigued by the difference between writing for the two disciplines.

The course looked at the creativity and craft of writing for the stage and explored theme, story, characters, dialogue, setting and staging.  Each week was a mini-workshop with a group discussion. And when our plays had been suitably developed we gave each other invaluable feedback before we shared our final pieces at The Minack Theatre.

The event on June 8th was amazing. Despite the lousy weather for a few days before, the day was stunning and offered far-reaching views of the Atlantic ocean. With a cluster of friends and relatives for support, we congregated in one of the practice rooms in the bowels of the theatre, eager to hear each other’s play excerpts.

Jane had guided us perfectly to realising our potential and developing a collection of diverse stories. All the plays were very different with amazing characters and flowing believable dialogue. And we were all very grateful for her dedicated input and enthusiasm throughout the eight weeks.

Please click on the MP4 below if you would like to watch the read-through of my play ‘Dealing with it’.



Living the dream

Who wouldn’t want to soak up the sun and rhythmic crash of the pounding surf over breakfast? For a minority of the UK’s population, it’s a reality, but for the rest of us, it’s just a dream. So when a couple of my closest female friends came to stay, I decided to treat them to a well-earned slice of luxury.

As a year-round visitor to Castle Beach, I had watched the construction of The Falmouth Hotel Suites with envy. To me, they offer the perfect holiday solution – stunning views, full self-catering facilities, privacy to lounge about in your pyjamas, and the bonus of a first-class restaurant & spa just a few yards walk away.

Our first essential stop of the weekend was the squishy sofas by the panoramic windows in the hotel bar. As my friends eased into the coastal lifestyle with a large glass of Tarquins, I glowed with pride as they lost themselves as I often do in the ever-changing sea views.

When we eventually left the comfort of the lounge to explore the lodge that was to be our home for the weekend we were pleasantly surprised. The furnishings were entirely contemporary which gave the living spaces an airy seaside feel without being kitsch. The double rooms were thoughtfully situated at the back of the apartment to avoid the first of the of the suns rays and the inevitable dawn chorus from the gulls. And the terrace was ideal for soaking up the last sunny rays of the day with a glass or two of Curio before heading out to dinner in one of my favourite bars to catch up on each others news over dinner. All in all, it was an idyllic start to a fantastic weekend.


A new venture for a new year

March is named after a Roman god, Mars, who the Romans prayed to for help with expanding their empire, so it seems a fitting month to soft launch a project I have been working on for a while.

The Writers Collective went live on social media today. Aimed at writers of all specialisms in the UK and beyond. It has been designed to be an online hub for connecting professional writers with writing services, as well as a directory for businesses to find writers and advertise jobs. Commercially orientated, the website will also provide an arena for writers to share their work,  discover events, courses and jobs.

The Writers Collective Community is hosted from on the Facebook page of the same name and is where all the interaction between writers will happen  – hopefully sparking discussions of subjects which affect all writers from struggles with running a small business, networking opportunities and the isolation of working as a freelancer. All subjects I personally face and have been talking over with my fellow writers in the south-west region.

Wish us luck…

Banishing the black

At nearly 6ft I’ve never been a girly girl. So booking myself into my favourite local spa for a lash lift and tint was an adventure into new territory for me.

I do love a good spa session,  and I have been to many all over the world. But in the past, I’ve always opted for more practical treatments. Massage, detox scrub and even the odd pedicure or two. Venturing into the world of beauty therapy was just something that had never crossed my mind. So why now?

Well, there is a practical reason for my strange behaviour – winter is here! Which for me means no more outdoor swimming. However, for sanity’s sake I still need my watery escape, so I’ve been forced inside by the rubbish winter weather.

I’m not the only one who swaps brine for chlorine during the long Cornish winter months. As soon it feels like they are pushing the limits of masochism, many of my fellow wild swimmers also retreat to the nearest pool to satisfy their aquatic addiction.

The pleasure of diving into crystal clear waters and defying the effects of gravity are proven to be both physically and mentally therapeutic. Personally, my enjoyment comes from letting my thoughts wander as I push myself to the limits through still waters. And more often than not I surprise myself with some very creative problem-solving.

Anyway, to cut what has now become a long story about mindfulness short. The leisure suite where I swim also has a spa.  And December’s bargain-priced promo was a Lash lift and tint, which was just too tempting to miss. As much as I love swimming, most waterproof mascaras don’t live up to their hype, and I often come out of the pool looking like Alice Cooper. So my creative problem solving came into its own and today’s little lash lift experiment will hopefully banish my scary post swim appearance for once and all –  well for the next three months anyway.