Unmissable: December in Cornwall is packed with Christmas events

The traditional hand-made flower garland that decorates the Hall at Cotehele at Christmas

The magnificent Christmas garland at Cotehele takes ten days to hang. - Credit: PICTURE: NATIONAL TRUST IMAGES/STEVEN HAYWOOD 

Su Carroll counts down to Christmas with her advent calendar of festive events.

A new season

After a five-star reopening of the Hall for Cornwall with the huge success of home-grown show Fisherman’s Friends The Musical, the inaugural spring season has been unveiled and, with more than 40 shows between now and the end of April, there really is something for everyone.

Starting as they mean to go on, the Fisherman’s Friends show will be followed by another home-grown production, the pantomime Cinderella. There will be plenty of spectacle in the first family Christmas show since the Hall for Cornwall closed its doors in 2018 for refurbishment. It comes from the creative team behind Sleeping Beauty and Jack and the Beanstalk.

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT_TIMEPiccadilly Theatre LondonAcRoyal National Theatre

The original National Theatre production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - Credit: PICTURE: BRINKHOFF-MOËGENBURG

Packed with all the traditional ingredients of laugh out loud comedy, spectacular dancing, live music and singing - not to mention a large sprinkling of Cornish heart and fairytale magic – the retelling of the classic story of Prince meets girl promises to entertain audiences of all ages.

As for the rest of the spring season, take your pick from comedy, musicals, drama, music and events to inform and delight.

Patricia Hodge and Nigel Havers star in Private Lives

Patricia Hodge and Nigel Havers star in Private Lives - Credit: PICTURE: JOHN SWANNELL

In January the Truro theatre will welcome Patricia Hodge and Nigel Havers in Noel Coward’s romantic comedy of manners Private Lives (January 25-29) – a stylish revival of a popular play. Emma Rice, a name familiar to Cornwall audiences thanks to 20 years with Kneehigh Theatre, set up her own company, Wise Children, and has transformed Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (March 29-April 9) into a powerful theatrical experience with a modern day retelling of the classic novel.

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A tenth anniversary tour of the National Theatre’s Olivier and Tony-award winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time will be at the Hall for Cornwall April 19-23.

Comedian Katherine Ryan

Comedian Katherine Ryan - Credit: PICTURE: CARLA GULER 

If it’s West End hits you’re after then Hall for Cornwall has multi-award winning Everybody’s Talking About Jamie; the worldwide Queen and Ben Elton smash hit We Will Rock You and the long-running Willie Russell musical Blood Brothers, plus Saturday Night Fever, the Moulin Rouge extravaganza Come What May and Remembering the Oscars featuring Strictly Come Dancing duo Aljaz and Janette.
The comedy line-up includes top names Jimmy Carr, Sarah Millican, Katherine Ryan and Jason Manford and Jack Dee hosting the multi award-winning Radio 4 comedy show I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.

Comedian Jimmy Carr

Comedian Jimmy Carr - Credit: PICTURE: PROMOTER

For families there is David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny; the smash-hit Broadway comedy, The Addams Family and children’s pop concert Pop Princesses. Music fans can see Midge Ure and tribute shows celebrating the music of Elvis, The Eagles, Neil Diamond, Simon and Garfunkel, Abba, Elton John and 1970s disco. 

For the adventurous there are evenings with British astronaut Major Tim Peake on his first ever tour, bushcraft expert Ray Mears and Adam Kay’s multi-award winning show, This is Going to Hurt. 
For more information and booking go to hallforcornwall.co.uk.


Pendennis Castle in Falmouth

A very wintry Pendennis Castle - Credit: PICTURE: ENGLISH HERITAGE

To mark the end of 2021, festivities in Truro will go off with a bang. There’s Family New Year Fireworks on Friday December 31 at 7.30pm followed by the traditional midnight display to ring in the New Year.
It will be the culmination of weeks of events in the city.

During December there is late night shopping on Wednesdays to explore Truro’s wide range of independent and high street shops, bars and restaurants. The Truro Farmers Market’s BIG Christmas Market continues on Lemon Quay until Christmas Eve, with late night opening until 9pm on Wednesdays, along with a selection of street food and drink stalls on Boscawen St.
On Late Night shopping nights, to add to the festive atmosphere there will be entertainment dotted around as well as large-scale projections on to two buildings in Boscawen St and River St. The main shopping streets will be totally traffic-free on Late Night Shopping Wednesdays from 3pm and all day on Saturdays.

Father Christmas is visiting Truro at Christmas

Father Christmas is visiting Truro - Credit: PICTURE: VISIT TRURO

Youngsters can see Father Christmas in his grotto at Truro Cathedral on Wednesdays. Coppice Theatre have created Finding Father Christmas which will involve helping the elves find Father Christmas in the cathedral and hearing festive stories along the way. Towards the end of the 30 minutes experience each child will get to meet and talk to Father Christmas in his magical grotto in the cathedral’s crypt, and receive a gift.
Back for their third year in Truro with Jack Frost shows, and for the first time in Victoria Gardens, Coppice Theatre will also be performing their new walkabout show. Jack Frost 5: Lost in Time will be on Wednesdays December 15 and 22, with performances after dark in the gardens amongst the new Christmas Lights. The show involves finding Jack Frost who has got himself lost, and needs the audience’s help. It’s a chance to join Celia the Elf and help search for Jack Frost and hear wonderfully wintery tales along the way.

Illuminations in Boscawen Street in Truro

Illuminations in Boscawen Street - Credit: PICTURE: VISIT TRURO

Truro Cathedral is also the location for a seasonal concert by the Cathedral’s own voluntary choir, the St Mary’s Singers. Rejoice in the Lamb on December 4 will feature Barbara Degener on cello, Alden Wright on organ and baritone Charlie Murray. The programme features works leading through Advent to Christmas. As well as a special opportunity to hear JS Bach’s famous Cello Suite no1 in G Major, the programme will include Benjamin Britten’s thought-provoking cantata Rejoice in the Lamb and Vaughan Williams’ popular Fantasia on Christmas Carols.

Booking is essential for Finding Father Christmas at Truro Cathedral and Jack Frost 5: Lost in Tim and tickets are on sale at coppicetheatre.co.uk. For more details of all events in Truro go visittruro.org.uk. For the Rejoice in the Lamb concert book at trurocathedral.org.uk.

Mousehole Harbour Lights
First started in 1963 to decorate this small fishing village for Christmas, the Mousehole Harbour Lights are switched on each December until early January. There had been the inevitable question mark over this year’s display, but the volunteers who organise it have decided that most of event will continue as normal.  However, to avoid large crowds congregating in the village, the traditional switch-on night ceremony and Carolaire will not be held.  A soft switch on will be carried out instead, whereby the various displays in and around the village will be lit as and when they are ready.  It is anticipated that all displays will be completed and lit by mid-December.

The Mousehole Harbour Lights Committee is run solely by volunteers, raising money and ensuring the lights are ready for switch on. Because the 2020 display had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, there is a shortfall on fundraising of some £8,000 as they were unable to go out to undertake collections. They are instead accepting donations online where you will also find a raffle.

Since the first display, organised by local artist Joan Gilchrist, the lights have been extended and improved. In 1981 the Penlee Lifeboat Disaster resulted in the lights being turned off to mark the loss of 16 people – lifeboatmen and crew and passengers of the stricken Union Star - and they have been dimmed every year since on the December 19 anniversary.  mouseholelights.org.uk.

A Christmas Carol

David Mynne

Enjoy a one-man version of A Christmas Carol with David Mynne - Credit: Kim Latour / The Wallis Annenber

Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in December 1843, the story of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by the spirit of his former partner Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future. The word Scrooge entered the English language and the story of one man’s emotional journey has endured as a seasonal classic on stage, television and film.

Cornish audiences can discover the power of this mesmerising story in a solo performance by David Mynne, a founder member of Kneehigh Theatre. David was with Kneehigh for 40 years as a performer, maker and graphic designer. In 2013 he decided to create a solo show - Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. Other epic scale, one-man shows followed: Bram Stoker's Dracula and Homer's The Odyssey. 

In A Christmas Carol you can spend the evening in the company of a mean, tight-fisted, squeezing, grasping, clutching old miser and watch horrified as Ebenezer Scrooge is haunted by four creepy ghosts, each one more terrifying than the last. 

David will conjure up the dark, dirty, dismal streets of Victorian London and take you to the home of Tiny Tim and his poor family.

But don’t be alarmed… there are also plenty of laughs to be had. Suitable for children of eight years and above.

You can see A Christmas Carol at Praa Sands Community Centre on December 4, Callington Town Hall on December 5 and the Acorn, Penzance, on December 23. For more information go to davidmynne.com. 

Christmas Adventure Quest

Pendennis Castle in Falmouth

A very wintry Pendennis Castle - Credit: PICTURE: ENGLISH HERITAGE

Blow away the cobwebs at Pendennis Castle in Falmouth with an adventure quest for all the family. You can hunt for clues, discover fun facts and untold stories in the place where history happened at this fortress built by Henry VIII. The quest is included in admission prices, and it is cheaper to book in advance online. Takes place weekends until January 2

Another option for winter wanders is St Michael’s Mount. This iconic castle on the island off Penzance is open for several dates in December. Take a journey of discovery from sea level to summit. Follow in the footsteps of pilgrims and a legendary giant, explore the ancient harbour village, climb the cobbled path and ascend to the castle at the top of the island.

You can also enjoy a spot of Christmas shopping in the St Michael’s Mount Shop. Check online (stmichaelsmount.co.uk) for useful information before you visit. National Trust members enter free. english-heritage.org.uk 

The Cathedral Masquerade
This New Year’s Eve you can enjoy an evening of whimsical decadence in the impressive setting of Truro Cathedral, completed in 1910 and considered to be a masterpiece of Gothic Revival Architecture. Brought to you by the same team behind the splendid Great Estate events, this will be the first every New Year’s Party to be held in the county’s most prestigious religious space and will be bursting with atmosphere. 

There will be theatrical performances, street food, welcome drinks, a champagne bar and a Gin Lounge from Tarquin’s Gin, based in Wadebridge, with DJs, music and a silent disco. The arrival of the New Year at midnight will, impressively, be rung in by the Cathedral’s own bells.

The Cathedral Masquerade is a strict dress code of black tie and cocktail dress or ball gown with a mask of your choosing. greatestatefestival.co.uk.

Montol Festival

Cornwall embraces and celebrates its history and traditions, no more so than in Penzance where the midsummer is marked with the Golowan Festival. Now the town is rallying for a winter solstice event – the Montol Festival, by the Cornish Culture Association who organise Golowan.

The six-day arts and community festival hosts a variety of activities: lantern and mask-making workshops, strolling bands, carol services, storytelling, Mummers Plays, and as an essential part of the mix, late night shopping in Penzance. It culminates in Montol Eve on December 21 in dancing, with many people wearing traditional masks, adopting disguise and sporting “mock formal” costume and fire beacons being lit throughout the town, before the chalking and burning of the Cornish Yule log.

You will see fire performers and ‘Obby ‘Osses around Market Jew Street, Green Market and Causewayhead, to be joined by Christmas carol singers, choirs, dancers and stall-holders.  montolfestival.co.uk

National Trust's family days' out

There are some magnificent properties and estates in the National Trust’s care in Cornwall which can look spectacular at this time of year – winter walks around gardens and parkland and grand houses all dressed up for Christmas.

At Cotehele in South East Cornwall, the highlight for many visitors over the last 60 years is the garland that hangs in the Great Hall. Work usually begins in January to sow, grow and dry the 30,000 flowers needed for a garland. But during the pandemic there have been fewer resources available with the need to re-open the garden and the Valley Garden in the spring.

60ft long dried flower garland made from over 30,000 dried flowers and grasses inserted into a pitto

The magnificent Christmas garland at Cotehele takes ten days to hang - Credit: PICTURE: NATIONAL TRUST IMAGES/CAROLE DRAKE 

As the 75th anniversary of Cotehele being given to the National Trust is next year, they decided to dive deep into the archives and recreate how the garland looked in the 1980s – a more modest design inspired by decorative greenery and kissing boughs that the Tudors brought into their homes in the winter. Expect the magic of the retro green pittosporum and simple decoration.

The Hall is open daily (except Christmas Day and Boxing Day) until January 2. On December weekends and December 20-23 choirs from Devon and Cornwall will be performing between 1pm and 2.30 – but wrap up warm as they will be singing outside.

On Saturday, December 18 from 11.30am you can join in the annual Wassail at Cotehele which is designed to scare away the evil spirits from the orchard to ensure a bumper crop next year. Fancy dressed is encouraged – and be prepared to make lots of noise. nationaltrust.org.uk.

Percy the Park Keeper

Keep children occupied on a winter walk around a Cornish National Trust property with the Percy the Park Keeper trail.

Step into Percy's wellies and help him and his animal friends complete his winter tasks as he is busy on site with activities, games and clues along the way. The trails can be found at Lanhydrock, the magnificent late Victorian country house near Bodmin; Godolphin, the ancient estate with a medieval garden near Helston; the Elizabethan manor house of Trerice near Newquay and Trelissick, the estate with amazing maritime views at Feock near Truro.

Also at Trelissick will be festive displays and visits by Father Christmas (although these have already sold out).  On December weekends the cafe will be open along with the shop, second-hand bookshop and gallery which will have a variety of gifts.

The Percy the Park Keeper trail opens on December 4 and continues until January 3. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk.