Unmissable September events in Cornwall

Porthleven Arts Festival in September will feature a host of live performances

A mermaid day at the Porthleven Arts Festival will welcome merfolk from Cornwall and beyond to join The Porthleven Mermaid in the harbour - Credit: PICTURE: PORTHLEVEN ARTS

Su Carroll picks out the best of Cornwall's events throughout September and beyond 

Porthleven Arts Festival brings together the best in Cornwall's writers in September

Literary and artistic talks and events are at the heart of the Porthleven Arts Festival. - Credit: PICTURE: PORTHLEVEN ARTS

Porthleven Arts Festival
The picturesque harbour village of Porthleven in Cornwall is hosting a brand new Arts Festival this autumn, created and curated by the newly formed Porthleven Arts Community. This new Community Interest Company launched in January with the aim of supporting and bringing together local artists, innovators and creatives as well as offering more opportunities to experience art. Membership is free.

This ambitious new festival will be held over ten days in ten venues and marks the first of an annual celebration of art from dance and drama to painting and film.

The festival will be directed by Kelvin Batt, owner of the Mussel Shoal restaurant in Porthleven and co-creator of the famous Masked Ball Festival. Events include a film festival with a floating screen in the harbour and evening screenings showcasing local films; a mermaid day celebrating sea swimming, mermaid myth, magic and art; a series of literary talks and poetry, performances and events; classical music concerts; celebrations of Porthleven’s heritage, a postcard auction and an en plain air outdoor painting competition.

The Festival will also welcome multiple award-winning physical theatre and performance-parkour group Prodigal UPG to the harbour for a high-energy physical theatre and free-running parkour performance. They’ll also be running workshops.

The work of Porthleven artist Jim Tinley will be celebrated following a retrospective of his paintings in August. Jim worked out of an old shack before joining a number of other artists at Breageside Studios. He discovered photorealism as an art form, and the people and history of Porthleven feature in many of his artworks. Local filmmaker Roger Hosking has made a documentary about his work and other films about the history and heritage of Porthleven will also be screened.

Other screenings during the festival include Salty Sisters by Pippa Renyard and her husband Dave about the group Pippa started to share the benefits of cold water swimming and Bait by Cornish director Mark Jenkin. Released in 2019, this story of the problems of a fisherman encountering second home owners won him a Bafta. Porthleven Arts co-ordinator Hannabeth Johnson says: “We have designed the festival to take place in existing venues across Porthleven - there is no need for lots of additional infrastructure or disruption
to the village - just plenty of opportunities for participation and experiences around the arts.

“We hope the community of Porthleven will come together and support this event which should help boost our economy after what has been a really difficult time.”

The Porthleven Arts Festival is September 25-October 3. porthlevenarts.com

Cep in woodland at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk

This year’s Heritage Open Days theme is Edible England - Credit: PICTURE: NT IMAGES/ROB COLEMAN

England’s largest festival of history and culture returns with lots of chances to explore the gems on our doorstep in a packed programme of free events. This year’s theme offers a recipe for discovery: Edible England. From woodland foraging to factory floor, forgotten recipes to regional delicacies, the Heritage Open Days will explore the past, present, and future of England’s culinary heritage and culture. 

In one Cornish town a number of events will take you to buildings not normally open to the public. Liskeard Unlocked includes the Grade II listed Westbourne House which has never been open to the public. In Redruth, artists Anna Maria Murphy, Sue Hill and Ciaran Clarke are taking part in the High Street Sound Walks project with a self-guided, immersive sound walk to help people discover the town’s past. Step through time with figures such as Robin Knights, grandson of John Knights of the iconic Redruth department store. Elsewhere, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is hosting tours of war graves at Falmouth and Penzance cemeteries.

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Sarah Holloway, programme manager for Heritage Open Days says the plan is to connect people through shared experiences. “This year, that feels more important than ever,” she says. “It’s also one of the reasons we chose Edible England as our theme. Food brings people together and what we eat and drink is at the heart of much of our culture, our history, our communities, and our daily lives.”

Heritage Open Days is September 10-19. Full details at heritageopendays.org.uk.

The Minack Theatre in Cornwall plays host to Matthew Forsythe

Matthew Forsythe as Kenneth McCallister in A Night In November - Credit: PICTURE: SIMON FALLAHA

A Night in November
The Minack Theatre’s run of dramatic plays continues with the 25th anniversary production of A Night in November, a multi-award winning play from Irish writer Marie Jones, who also created Women On The Verge Of HRT, Fly Me to the Moon and the hugely popular Stones In His Pockets.

One-man show A Night In November is the story of Kenneth McCallister, a clerk in the local welfare office and is set against the backdrop of The Troubles. Kenneth is a Belfast Protestant who has followed all the rules. He loved who he was supposed to love. He lived where he was expected to live. He fought who he was taught to fight. That is, until one night in November when he did the most exciting, outrageous, crazy, mad thing he's ever done.

The play is directed by Matthew McIlhinney, the son of author Marie and husband Ian McIlhinney, star of Games of Thrones, Derry Girls and The Fall and a director in his own right.

Playing Kenneth is actor Matthew Forsythe who takes on the challenge of playing dozens of characters in the story.

“The actor, director and producer of this production of A Night in November were not even teenagers when this play was first performed,” says Marie. “The fact that more than 25 years on it still resonates with them is humbling and the passion they bring to re-staging it for another generation is incredibly exciting.

“Now 25 years after the events and more recently after Brexit, parts of Northern Ireland believe they are more British than those in Chiswick or Finchley. Identity is still at the fore in Northern Ireland and reactions to the Northern Ireland Protocol shows it can’t be taken for granted but I believe through dialogue it is possible to change.”

Matthew McElhinney says he thinks this is an important play. “It is a play that faced death threats, survived bomb scares, united communities, built a peace process and travelled the world. In Compton it belonged to the Black Community, in Brooklyn it belonged to the Jewish Community, and in Belfast, its home, it belonged to the brave who dared question ‘is it possible to change?  It is a privilege to bring the play to audiences.”

There’s more Irish drama at the Minack with Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane. First performed in Galway in 1996, it tells of lonely Maureen Folan who lives in a rundown cottage in the mountains of Connemara with her manipulative mother, Mag. One day an unexpected admirer arrives, putting the two women at odds.

A Night in November is at the Minack Theatre September 26-30 and The Beauty Queen of Leenane is October 12-21. Book online at Minack.com 

Cornwall Playhouse 
After more than three years and a £21 million refurbishment, the old Hall for Cornwall is ready to raise the curtain as it welcomes audiences back to the renamed Cornwall Playhouse. The first show at the Truro venue is, appropriately enough, Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical. This brand-new show is based on the true story of Cornwall’s favourite singing sea-shanty sensations and the smash-hit 2019 film which grossed over £11.5 million worldwide at the box office.

When a group of Cornish fisherman came together to sing the traditional working songs they’d sung for generations, they hoped to raise a few quid for charity. Nobody, least of all the fisherman, expected the story to take them to the Pyramid stage of Glastonbury.
The show will transport you to the high seas with some of your favourite shanties from Keep Haulin' and Nelson's Blood to Sweet Maid of Madeira.

Fisherman's Friends: The Musical is at the Cornwall Playhouse October 13-30. Book online at hallforcornwall.co.uk

Cornwall plays host to the Ocean Film Festival in September

Changing Tides is one of the films in the Ocean Film Festival - Credit: PICTURE: LUCY GRAHAM AND MATHILDE GORDON

Ocean Film Festival

The Ocean Film Festival is back before live audiences with a brand-new collection of the world’s most inspirational ocean-themed films, from below and above the surface. 

The festival originated in Australia, with the aim of inspiring people to explore, respect, enjoy and protect the oceans. As well as mesmerising films, each screening will see a free prize giveaway to win ocean-related goodies. None of the films featured appeared in virtual events over lockdown. The selection of short films include wild seafaring voyages, extreme watersports and marine conservation from the least explored depths of the planet. 

Films include Changing Tides where university friends Lucy and Mathilde tackle an ambitious kayaking trip along the Inside Passage, down the coast of Alaska and Canada with zero single-use plastic. In three months they travel in two kayaks across 2,000km facing giant icebergs, abundant wildlife and physical trials. With all of their 500 meals stored in paper, Changing Tides joins the duo on a journey of adventure, challenge, friendship and a deep love of the world’s oceans. 

Another uplifting story is Rebirth, Laura Basil Duncan’s documentary about Basque surfer Benoit. After suffering the traumatic loss of his arm, the film follows his determination to get back on his board and ride the waves again. It won the Audience and Impact awards at the Portugese Surf Film Festival last year.
The Ocean Film Festival is at the Regal Theatre, Redruth, on October 27 and November 11. To book go to oceanfilmfestival.co.uk

Joff Winterhard is among the literary line up of September's North Cornwall Book Festival

Joff Winterhart is an author and illustrator - Credit: PICTURE: NORTH CORNWALL BOOK FESTIVAL

North Cornwall Book Festival 
An impressive line-up of writers, artists and performers are set to appear at this year’s book festival at St Endellion near Port Isaac. They include BBC journalist George Alagiah whose illustrious career includes

interviews with Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. His debut novel The Burning Land was published last year. Associate Lecturer at Plymouth University Tom Vowler is the award-winning author of What Lies Within and That Dark Remembered Day whose new novel Every Seventh Wave was published earlier this year. Rachel Joyce is the author of Sunday Times bestseller listed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect and 2020’s Miss Benson’s Beetle. Louise Doughty is a newspaper columnist, critic and radio presenter whose novel Apple Tree Yard was adapted for television.

Lamorna Ash spent eight days on a fishing trawler out of Newlyn and wrote about the experience in her debut book, Dark, Salt, Clear: Life in a Cornish Fishing Town which was published last year. Joff Winterhart is an author and illustrator. Also appearing is jazz singer Barb Jungr, still delighting audiences after a 45-year career  who has a new collection of songs by Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen: Forgetful Heart: Dylan and Cohen and Love.

A number of short films were made when last year’s festival was cancelled which include a series of interviews and readings from many of this year’s festival authors which can be viewed online. The North Cornwall Book Festival in St Endellion is September 23-26. Book online at ncornbookfest.org

Comedian Kerry Godliman brings her new show to Cornwall in September

Stand-up Kerry Godliman’s new show is Bosh - Credit: PICTURE: TONY GLYNN PR

KERRY Godliman
The charmingly straight-talking, quick-witted and acclaimed stand-up and actor, Kerry Godliman, is back on tour after a “break” (otherwise known as Lockdown). Between a needy cat, a constantly disappointing campervan, ever-raging feelings of mum guilt and bewilderment at the phasing-out of thimbles and doilies, Kerry needs to offload. Join her for this thinly disguised therapy session.

Straight-talking, quick-witted Kerry is best known for her appearances on Mock The Week, Live At The Apollo, Taskmaster and 8 Out Of 10 Cats. But she has also carved out a parallel career as an actress, receiving critical acclaim for roles in Derek, Save Me, Call The Midwife and the Netflix hit After Life, written by and starring Ricky Gervais, which is back later this year for a third series. 

Kerry Godliman is at St Austell Arts Centre on October 28. Book online at staustellartstheatre.org.uk.

The St Ives September Festival brings together art and live performances

Folk hero Martin Simpson plays St Ives September Festival - Credit: PICTURE: GRAHAM WHITMORE

St Ives September Festival
This popular annual 15-day extravaganza of all things arty is back with a packed programme of music, theatre, films, Open Studios, poetry, exhibitions, workshops and more. For music fans there is everything from Olivier Van De Hende performing Bach’s First Cello Suite, to Bluegrass band Flats and Sharps, the Cornish Roots Big Band and folk heroes Martin Simpson and Martin and Eliza Carthy.

As you would expect in St Ives, a lot of the events revolve around art including two talks about Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, linked to an exhibition of photographs, and an event revealing how St Ives Library was the beneficiary of the Festival of Britain to commemorate its 70th anniversary.

Film screenings include An American Potter in St Ives, a documentary about Warren Mackenzie, and No Holds Barred about Cornish artist Matthew Lanyon. The St Ives September Festival is September 11 to 25. For information go to stivesseptemberfestival.co.uk

Rare Breeds Month
The Lost Gardens of Heligan is travelling back in time to the glory days of this estate near Mevagissey. Rare Breeds Month means lots of traditional activities including a blacksmith based in The Barn in the Paddocks working with heavy horses and poultry breeder Roger Thomas with his rare breed chicken van.
Heligan’s own rare breeds will be on show alongside visiting animals. Heligan’s love affair with rare breeds began when Heligan co-founder Sir Tim Smit spotted rare breeds on his first visit to the Royal Cornwall Show. Not long after he re-homed two rare breed pigs, Horace and Doris.
Other events during the month include a dog show, a focus on regenerative farming and land management through livestock rotation, information about conservation through consumption and rare breed meat on the menu in the cafe and products in the shop.
September is Rare Breeds Month at Heligan. For full details go to Heligan.com