Skip to Content
Cornwall Museums Partnership

Dancing to the stories of clay at Wheal Martyn

On Saturday 21st October, Wheal Martyn hosted a rather spectacular dance festival.  The performance of ‘Clay’ drew quite a crowd, filling the large Atrium at Wheal Martyn.

A museum is not the obvious venue for a Community Dance Festival, but the audience were soon captivated by the dancers telling the stories of Wheal Martyn and the china clay industry through beautiful dance and movement.  The flowing shapes and choreography transformed the dancers into beautiful representations of the gushing water powering Wheal Martyn’s 35foot waterwheel, to clay, sand and mica settling out in tanks, and on through the processes to create our daily china clay products of toothpaste, paper, make up and more.  Key historical moments were depicted through spoken word and dance interpretations, enthralling the audience.

The troupe of performers came from Mevagissey School Dance Club, Doubletrees School and St Austell Home Ed Group, whilst dancers from inclusive dance groups ‘Shallal2’ and ‘Out There’ returned for the second time this year to perform their work at Wheal Martyn.

The community dance festival was in partnership with Shallal2 from Shallal Dance Theatre, an inclusive arts charity in Falmouth.  Jo Willis, Creative Director of Shallal, worked closely with Gemma Martin at Wheal Martyn.  Jo delivered dance workshops for groups in the beautiful surrounds of Wheal Martyn.  On a workshop day you might well have turned the corner at Wheal Martyn next to the Crib Hut and found a group of young people recreating the movements of the plunger pump drawing up the clay slurry from the pit!

Gemma Martin, Education Officer at Wheal Martyn, said “it has been wonderful to watch the young people develop through this project.  Their confidence to move, create shapes and work together has blossomed through the experience.  The result is a beautiful collection of dances that depict the heritage of our local Clay Country in a rather wonderful way.  They should all be very proud!”

Generous funding from Arts Council England and FEAST meant that all the workshops and the performance were free for all to enjoy, which really helped to open the doors of Wheal Martyn to new faces.  Several parents at the Festival commented on how pleased they were to be back at Wheal Martyn, and one said “I haven’t been here since I was at school myself.  I must come back here again soon!”

Arts Council England supported the project at Wheal Martyn through its investment in museums in Cornwall as part of their Major Partner Museum programme, being delivered by Cornwall Museums Partnership. FEAST is a programme to make great art happen across Cornwall. FEAST harnesses the talents and energy of Cornwall’s artists and communities, generating new opportunities for everyone to enjoy the arts. The focus is on bringing people together to share experiences as audiences or participants, and on animating local celebrations and cultural life.

A final comment from Gemma Martin following the performance was “we are really excited to see what happens next.  Working with Shallal has been fantastic, we will certainly be planning more dance for the future here at Wheal Martyn.”


Notes to the Editor:

Investment for FEAST comes from Arts Council England and Cornwall Council.  The programme is managed by Creative Kernow. 

Cornwall Museums Partnership exists to create a bright future for Cornwall’s heritage by supporting Cornwall’s 70 museums to thrive. 

Through its network, it fosters a culture of collaborative working to help museums and galleries create moments of wonder which enrich people’s lives.


Gemma Martin, Education Officer. Tel. 01726 850362

Wheal Martyn –

Our Funders