Random Acts of Art
Updated: Jun 8
Lock down has left us bereft of live performances, whether it be festivals, bands in pubs or theatre we've all missed the joy of the shared experience and taking home warm memories of time well spent with talented people.
Online shows and performances have kept us going, but somehow these experiences simply aren't the same as being entertained by real people. With this in mind, Kneehigh have launched a project celebrating 40 years of Kneehigh with 40 different moments of wonder and surprise. Keep your eyes peeled over the coming weeks, who knows what might pop up in your town or village? From the Bay to The Clays, Kneehigh surprises will be popping up in unexpected places.
For further info on #randomacts and details on the artists involved visit Kneehigh's website -
March of the Tractors – The Great Carnival Tractor Run
The Cornish have Carnivals in our blood; give us a float and we’ll decorate it, dress us up in colourful costumes, parade us through towns and villages led by Carnival Queens and we are in our element. Kyla Goodey, (Trifle Gathering Productions) and Charlie Bunker (imPOSSIBLE Producing) took our Carnival tradition one step further by organising the March Of The Tractors through the Clays as their contribution to the Random Acts.
Working with a small band of fellow creatives alongside Roche Pantomime Players and Black Voices Cornwall, Kyla and Charlie produced a Tractor procession like no other paying homage to our wonderful NHS and traditional Cornish Carnivals. As the tractors trundled their way through the Clays blasting out the summer sounds of reggae and disco, families danced in their gardens while others waved from bedroom windows. With perfectly random timing, one Cornish bride was surprised and delighted to witness the moment when the surreal Tractor Carnival passed by Whitemoor Chapel on her wedding day.
Cornwall has maintained a strong community spirit throughout the trials and tribulations of the global pandemic and the story of the day The Great Carnival Tractor Run visited the Clays will be handed down for generations to come.
Photos Courtesy of Steve Tanner
The Adventures of Pasty Man and Pastry Maid -The Cornish Caped Crusaders
Within minutes of Cornish masked Crusaders Pasty Man and Pastry Maid hitting the streets their secret identities were uncovered; who else but our very own Kernow King Ed Rowe and his trusty sidekick Jenny Beare would pop up offering pasty making lessons and giving away pasties?
The popular duo have visited schools, homes and car parks on a whistle stop tour to share the pleasures of our national dish served up with a side order of comedy. Returning to Ed’s home village in the shadow of the iconic Roche Rock, Pasty Man and Pastry Maid made an unexpected whistle stop at the football club to entertain small groups of families gathered for the Tractor Carnival.
The stop off was not part of their schedule for the afternoon; the pair were on their way to visit an isolated couple on the outskirts of Roche when they spotted the March of the Carnival Tractors. Identifying a readymade audience when the tractors had left, Ed produced the pasty table from the car before you could say ‘teddies, onions and a proper bit of beef skirt’.
Going into the final week of Random Acts of Art, keep your eyes peeled as Pasty Man and Pastry Maid will make a few more appearances before hanging up their masks and capes in a secret location known only to themselves and a few Cornish Knockers
Photos Courtesy of Steve Tanner
Musician Richard Trethewey’s Granny was just 9 years old in 1933, but this grand old lady vividly remembers the Reverend Perry-Gore donning a pair of skates and taking a daring spin on a frozen clay pit in Nanpean.
Last weekend Richard meandered through the village recreating the event in song accompanied by an amazing automaton of the Skating Vicar designed and built by artist Tony Crosby. As Richard brought this almost forgotten piece of local history to life, children and families watched from their windows, with noses pressed to the glass just as Richard’s Granny had done all those years ago.
A lovely addition to Kneehigh’s Random Acts was made even more poignant when Richard stopped to serenade his proud Granny at the village memorial. There have been many beautiful moments during this Kneehigh project, but none so moving as the intimate few minutes when Richard and his Granny were the only two people in the world.
Using Richard’s song as the soundtrack, Kneehigh have released a beautiful short film of Rev. Perry-Gore’s story. Take a few minutes to enjoy the magic –
Photos Courtesy of Steve Tanner
Light Over Darkness
Charlie Bunker (imPOSSIBLE Producing) and freelance artist Ami Lafferty turned a dream into beautiful reality with a little help from their friends.
As we slowly find ourselves coming out of lockdown, Ami and Charlie brought us a compelling piece of community theatre recreating ancient Diwali rituals using Cornish clay, flowers, music, fire, wishes and community. People gathered quietly on Pentewan sands to bear witness to marking the past, celebrating the present and wishing for the future. Standing over a log fire actor Richard Good opened proceedings by blowing a Conch shell – the traditional signal to draw attention to a festival.
The Gorran Cold Water Crew heard Richard’s call and slowly processed across the beach led by musician Jim Carey marking time with a sombre bass drum beat. Lining up across the sand the swimmers strode down in unison to the waters’ edge before bravely taking the plunge. While the Cold Water Crew enjoyed their dip, musician Seamas Carey joined Dad Jim to entertain us with an upbeat and diverse repertoire of Cornish, Galician and Scottish bagpipe tunes with a Bollywood twist. Jim and Seamas led us on a Pied Piper style walk across the beach to the River Vinnick, known locally as the White River, where we discovered flowers, leaves and branches floating down towards the sea. Plymouth University Students Helen, Maya and Savanah were on hand to scoop everything out of the water aided and abetted by excited children who were thrilled to be involved.
The traditional Diwali festivals stretch across five days, but Ami and Charlie’s shortened version gave us a taste of how it must feel to be part of India’s most important religious festival – albeit on a blustery Cornish beach.
Photos Courtesy of Steve Tanner
Millinery Marvels For The Brave But Slightly Bonkers Cold Water Crew
Some of us enjoy a relaxing swim at the height of summer when the temperature sizzles and our Cornish seas are balmy, while others have taken to Wild Water Swimming every day. One such barmy army are the Gorran Cold Water Crew who head for the sea every day, supporting each other through wind, rain and glacial conditions. Artists Sue Hill and Meier Williams have designed and fabricated a fantastical swimming hat for each of the Gorran Crew and the wild swimmers have recently been taking their daily plunge proudly sporting their designer headgear. The hats and the swimmers have quickly become newsworthy with television crews and the media popping down to Gorran for a close up of the brilliant variety of horses, birds, tin mines and boats bobbing about in the sea.
Sue and Meier’s splendid creations have been gifted to the brave Gorran crew so don’t be surprised if the millinery marvels continue to appear over the coming weeks
Abstract Dance Film Screened on Local Pub Wall
Kneehigh’s Random Acts project is not only celebrating long term collaborations with accomplished performers and creatives, but is working alongside Hall For Cornwall and their talent development team to offer a platform to a fabulous array of bright young things.
ORA was devised and performed by three new artists, Zoe Waters, Jenna Smitham and Katie Pritchard – RAA is the first time they have worked together. Filmed locally by Zoe, Jenna and Katie with slow motion footage by Neal Mcgaw, ORA was inspired by our Cornish landscape and heritage.
As darkness fell, St. Blazey locals were surprised recently when this beautiful film popped up on the wall of their 17th Century Four Lords pub.
The stunning musical accompaniment was an adaptation of Richard Gendall’s De Sul Vyttyn (Sunday Morning), with piano by Seamas Carey and vocals by Zoe Waters – the song was recorded and mixed by Jim Carey.
Once again the man behind the video installation was Josh Pharo.
Photos of ORA screening courtesy of Steve Tanner
Anarchy Fuelled By A Proper Cornish Pasty
As stately Bec Appleby continued her Royal visit of St. Austell in the guise of Catherine The Great, the younger and more rebellious elements of Random Acts were spreading anarchy, brandishing bombs and banging out a rocked up version of Trelawny.
The plot was carefully planned by mob leader Larissa Pinkham with assistance from her film maker brother Sebastian and her friend musician Helen Nash. Decking out a truck with Cornish tartan, St. Piran’s flag and hay bales, the trio donned capes, mad wigs, sequins and gold wellies before hitting local housing estates and supermarket car parks. This was an in and out stealth mission to surprise and leave bystanders asking ‘What was that?’ and it worked.
Each flash mob performance lasted just two minutes, but the fun and energy the anarchic crew put into each brief appearance was superb. Larissa, brandishing colourful smoke bombs, shouted and sang her way through a rocked up Cornish punk version of Trelawny supported by Helen’s fabulous skills on the cello.
Larissa and her anarchists were enormous fun, but at the end of a long day they had one more performance planned as they headed out to Little Harbour Childrens’ Hospice. Families and staff welcomed Larissa, Helen and Sebastian to the grounds and the young anarchists performed as if it was their first outing of the day. A powerful and beautiful moment mixed with joy, laughter and a few tears.
Sebastian is currently editing his film of their amazing day which will be gifted back to the community as a permanent memory.
Musician Dan Oates arranged the anarchic, rocked up version of our Cornish national anthem.
Night Time Guerilla Projections
Award winning lighting and video designer Joshua Pharo has been hitting the night time streets with guerrilla projections on buildings throughout the Clays and St. Austell. Four short films were created from classic local stories collected during Anna Maria Murphy’s much loved Rambles. The Walk Home, The Pit Postman, The Glass Eye and Two Slices are particular favourites whenever Anna gathers an audience for storytelling; as with all the Rambles stories Anna turns them into vivid laugh out loud tales. The stories will now hold even more significance for anyone who caught Josh’s projections as his technical wizardry enhanced our own imaginings of the tall tales.
The projection in the centre of St. Austell evoked such strong and unexpected memories that it stopped me in my tracks as I walked out of Fore St towards Bodmin Road, on the building straight in front of me was the Old General Wolfe and for a split second I thought it was real. Josh used a very old photo of the famous pub to ‘bring it back to life’ for one night only. Sharing photos and live footage on social media resulted in a swell of joyful comments as people recalled the pub in its heyday. Remarkably, the daughter of the much loved landlord and landlady was watching the footage and recalling her own happy times behind the bar with her parents and brother.
Stirring even more memories of times past, the story of Two Slices was screened on the night; told to Anna Murphy by Sue and Andy Ward about a regular customer in their legendary Thin End Restaurant.
Happy days were recalled as old friends began sharing recollections and stories on social media. We may have been locked down for months, but these random acts of art are lifting spirits and bringing people together in a very different and socially distanced way.
Cornish Buccawiddens Pop Up Around St. Austell
Adding to the Kneehigh fun in St.Austell town centre, artist Zenna Tagney’s hand crafted clay Buccawiddens (Cornish Pixies) are randomly appearing on buildings and in shop windows. Searching for the cheeky Buccawiddens is great fun for all ages, there are no prizes for finding them, but there is a sense of achievement when you spot one that has been well hidden.
There are more little characters appearing around the town, look up, look down, look all around - who knows where you will spot one? Apparently there is a Buccawidden hiding in a large plant pot in the town centre, but I searched in vain. Maybe you will have better luck, get searching!
Interactive Clay Country Story Map
Two young artists, Zenna Tagney and Merran Coleman, have collaborated on a beautiful hand painted Clay Story Map which is on display in St. Austell’s ancient Market House. Everyone is welcome to visit Zenna to mark their own special place on the map and/or share their stories to join other memories alongside the art work.
If you have a memory you would like to share or to add to the map, pop in and see Zenna in her studio - Unit 18 upstairs in the Market House.
Ugly Stairwell Transformed Into A Colourful Art Gallery Overnight
Last week, under cover of darkness, aided and abetted by Richard Seary, Julian Seary and the staff of White River Place, artist Ellie Williams transformed the car park stairwell in St. Austell town centre into a colourful art gallery.
Local people had submitted old and new photographs of events, family gatherings and well known landmarks from which Ellie created her stunning works of art. Ellie combines her fabulous drawing and painting skills with digital collage and inkjet printing to achieve breathtaking results.
The work will stay on display until the end of May, please pop down and appreciate Ellie’s talents for yourself, they are best appreciated up close and personal.
Thanks to Kneehigh’s resident photographer, Steve Tanner, for these (in his words) ‘few snaps’ taken on his phone. Steve’s legendary photos are works of art in themselves and he has performed some kind of magical trickery to completely alter the ugly background, giving the illusion that Ellie's beautiful work is on display in the Guggenheim.
Photos of Ellie Williams' Work Courtesy of Steve Tanner.
Daryl Waller Illustrates Stories From Anna Murphy’s Big Fat Book of Rambles
Story boards are appearing on poles and railings from the heart of the Clays down through St. Austell and across the villages nestling along the bay. Artist Daryl Waller has created colourful impressions of the local area and characters, some sit alongside stories from witty wordsmith Anna Maria Murphy while others carry words of wisdom eg ‘Worry Less Stay Strong’. Coming across your first story board is an unexpected surprise which leads to actively seeking them out – the search is a treasure hunt without clues as the person who placed the boards is keeping the locations secret.
The hunt is on and I am particularly keen to spot the board displaying the Calvino poem which the fabulous Carl Grose created. To date I’ve found four, so there is a long way to go!
Stay alert for these little works of art, once you’ve found one you will be hooked. Great fun for the children too.
Latest Update on the Story Boards
With a little help from a friend I have finally 'found' the beautiful Calvino Poem written by Carl Grose. Gorgeous art work by Daryl Waller. Thank you Ellie Woolman for assisting in my search. Driving around this week I've spotted loads more story boards from the Clays to the sea, happy hunting.
A Russian Empress, A Story Dress and a Connection to Cornwall
Bec Applebee’s Kneehigh connections go back a long way, so a 40 year celebration had to involve this wonderful performer. On Thursday locals in Tywardreath, Par and Charlestown were amazed and delighted to receive a Royal visit from Empress Catherine the Great of Russia on her whistle stop tour of the area.
The connection between the Empress and Cornwall, although not well known, is fascinating. In 1774 Josiah Wedgewood was commissioned to supply Catherine the Great with an 800 piece green frog dinner service; the clay for this incredible order came, of course, from right here in the heart of Cornwall where the finest clay in the world was mined. Hand painted on the service were picturesque scenes from Cornwall, Scotland, Wales and England – the finished set was carefully packed and sent on the long journey to the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.
Fast forward almost 250 years and Bec Applebee has designed and created the most incredible royal gown complete with hand painted underskirt depicting the story and travels of the dinner service with an amazing head dress to match. Starting early in the morning the Empress and her small entourage of Anna Maria Murphy and Kneehigh’s dedicated photographer and visual archivist Steve Tanner walked the streets engaging with passersby and spreading the word of Cornwall’s involvement in what is surely the rarest dinner service in Europe.
As with the previous Random Acts, people of all ages were enchanted when they encountered the Empress with children and teenagers eager to bow and curtsy before her, while adults called out ‘Your Maj’ as she passed by.
Like so many other artists and performers, Bec has not worked in over a year and her beaming smile told its own story of love for her craft and the sheer joy of being able to create something stunning to share. Bec, Anna and Steve were exhausted at the end of a very long day, but their hearts were full and their smiles were as wide as the folk they encountered along the way.
Catherine the Great will continue her tour, but as with all the Random Acts, she could pop up anywhere at any time. Stay alert!
The Story of 11 Doors - Dirty Dancing With Tin Bath and Washing
Anna Maria Murphy has an ear and a passion for true stories and trueish legends, Anna's famous Kneehigh Rambles have enabled her to fill books with wonderful Cornish tales to take liberties with and create magical works to share far and wide. One such story, discovered on a Ramble in Charlestown some years ago, concerns a well known cul de sac in the village simply called 11 Doors. Charlestown's maritime past is steeped in history with all manner of visitors heaving to in the village and a variety of appetites to be sated. Many sea dogs, as you would expect, were searching for ale, a warm bed and a buxom wench for comfort before returning to the wild sea, but others were looking for something else entirely. And so it was with one young man who sought nothing more than a good woman to bathe him with warm water and wash the brine from his clothes. The sailor found what he was looking for at 11 Doors, returning for his fireside bath and clean clothes each time his ship anchored in the ancient port.
This beautiful story has been retold in dance form throughout the village by the wonderful Suzie West and Rob Mennear. Suzie and Rob are much loved performers, teachers, choreographers and dance leaders across the Westcountry and work closely with many of Cornwall's own theatre and dance companies so it was no surprise to find their performances in Charlestown were both magical and awe inspiring. The brave choreography involved complex moves which included tipping Rob out of a tin bath, moving in and out of a specially designed door and hanging washing on a line. The fabulous musician and composer Jim Carey was once again called on to create the music for the performance while the pre recorded and captivating voice of the one and only Dawn French narrated the story to safely scattered passers by.
Gloriously sunny Cornish days added to the romance of yet another Kneehigh Random Act of Art, Perhaps the most surprising reactions were from small children playing in the park; their games were abandoned when they were drawn by Suzie and Rob's performances, sitting quietly drinking it all in and cheering loudly as the couple took their bows. Those children are theatre audiences of the future and perhaps one or two might even feel inspired to dance.
If you missed 11 Doors keep your eyes peeled over the coming weeks for further performances and the very special door with QR code which allows smart phone users to hear the story.
Sand Art, Wild Swimmers and Amazing Hats
Kneehigh kicked off two months of pop up performances in style on Gorran Haven Beach on Sunday 28th March with fabulous artist Tony Plant creating a beautiful display. Aided and abetted by eager Kneehigh people raking inside Tony's outline designs the team worked hard between tides to cover the beach with stunning designs. A random act of art, a moment in time enjoyed by people enjoying wild swims and people taking walks on a sunny Cornish Sunday. Gallery photos show an early morning start for sand artist Tony Plant along with Random Acts Lead artist and long time Kneehigh core member Anna Maria Murphy, photos of the design from the cliffs above the beach and finally Tony puts his feet up for a well earned rest and chat with Kneehigh founder and fellow sand raker Mike Shepherd.
Adding to the random theme, creative artist Sue Hill brought along two spectacular swimming hats that Carmen Miranda would have been proud of. Sue is creating a further 18 masterpieces for another Random Act of Art when local wild swimmers and their hats take to the water in the near future. Kneehigh artist Jenny Beare along with fellow wild swimmer Michael Bunney laid down their rakes to pose with their fab new headgear alongside the creator, Sue Hill.
The Hoss's Lament
Less than two miles from Gorran Haven is the ancient fishing village of Mevagissey, a village steeped in history, fishing, smuggling and ghosts. As dusk fell over the village on Tuesday a ghostly galleon appeared complete with figurehead and 1st mate. The ghostly apparitions told the story of The Hoss, a German barque that hit the rocks off Mevagissey in the 18 century with all hands lost. Artistic creator and performer Laura Frances Martin built the incredible boat and it was Laura the performer who wandered the streets with her 1st mate, Jenny Beare, singing a haunting lament of lost souls and things. The lyrics of this beautiful song were written by Carl Grose with music composed by Jim Carey, who both have a long and illustrious history with Kneehigh. The journey of The Hoss is not over as the boat has been gifted to the people of Mevagissey for future events.
As The Crow Flies
Jenny Beare is herself a miraculous and delightful work of art who will be popping up in numerous roles over the coming weeks. On Wednesday and Thursday Jenny took to the streets of Mevagissey, Portmellon and Gorran with her trusted puppet crow, her lantern, her accordion and her musician husband Jamie Crowe. Jenny told the story of The Walk Home, a well loved tale of a local couple whose romance could not last due to the long held antipathy between the two Cornish villages. The original song created especially for the event was written by Jamie himself. Jenny and Jamie are born entertainers, talented and funny they held their audience spellbound. Gorran locals who happened upon Thursday's street performance received an extra bonus when it was revealed that a local couple were celebrating 50 years together, inspired by this, Jenny and Jamie launched into an impromptu tribute to the Blues Brothers with Everybody Needs Somebody To Love. That's what Kneehigh's Random Acts is all about, expect the unexpected.
Historical Archive Film Footage Released on 1st April
Seamas Carey is a musician, performer, composer, all round funny person and now a film maker. Seamas created a very funny short black and white film, purporting to be recently discovered archive footage of life in and around St. Austell Bay and the Clays in 1912. Shot on an old Bolex camera to give an authentic grainy effect, the film was released on April Fool's Day and fooled many of us. Some viewers admitted watching it a couple of times before the penny dropped. One Kneehigh fan finally tumbled when he recognised familiar performers in the shape of Jenny Beare (as previously mentioned - Jenny is popping up everywhere!) Giles King and Jim Carey (Seamas's Dad). If you missed out on April 1st, you can still enjoy the joke as the film is available here - https://www.kneehigh.co.uk/aprilfoolsdayproject
The Distanced Dance
UPG Team's Emergent Ensemble
These day's Par's Cornubia Hall is a Community Hub, but in previous lives it has been home to many activities including a famous auction house, but in the dim and distant past it was a much loved local dance hall. Prodigal UPG's team of six young dancers drifted across Par, Polmear and Tywardreath over three days resplendent in top hat and tails, floaty gowns and tiaras. Each separated from their partners, the Distanced Dancers harked back to the heady days of ballroom and lost romance. A beautiful spectacle on sunny days capturing memories for some and inspiring others to dance along.
The words and photos are my own, I don't profess to be any good at photography or writing, but I write from the heart and I take snap shots on my phone - for more information on Kneehigh's Random Acts of Art and to view awesome, top class professional photos by the wonderful Steve Tanner, visit https://www.kneehigh.co.uk/shows/random-acts-of-art