Pit Paper Porcelain Performance Raises the Roof

On the evening of the 4th of December, the Atrium and Café at Wheal Martyn were packed with a bustling crowd, keenly anticipating the start of the performance of the Pit Paper Porcelain production. Nervous children took to their places and cleared their throats in preparation to stun the crowd. After months of work, the time had finally come for the performance!
The evening was a celebration of the work done over a 3 month community project at Wheal Martyn with 98 young people from Roche School, Treverbyn Academy, Brannel School and Kernow Young Carers – young people who have a caring role. The project was delivered in partnership with KEAP Kernow Education Arts Partnership and CMEH Cornwall Music Education Hub.
The overarching aim of Wheal Martyn’s Pit Paper Porcelain programme was to support literacy and creative writing through the arts. The partnership aimed to inspire both teachers and children; to bring new ways of working with words; to bring professional writers and musicians into schools and to give the children a reason to write and an audience for their work.
Early in the autumn, the schools and groups visited Wheal Martyn and experienced the beauty of the unique setting. With workshops led by the Education Officer, Gemma Martin, and a professional writer, Becca Gregson, the young people explored the woods, peered into the magnificent Pit View and absorbed the atmospheric Victorian clay works. Carefully crafted activities encouraged the young people to develop skills and techniques in creative writing, leading their reader on a fabulous journey into the nooks and crannies of Wheal Martyn.
Through follow up workshops with CMEH musicians Emma Mansfield, Matt Douglas and Rob Moule, the groups used their pieces of creative writing to collaboratively craft a song inspired by their experiences at Wheal Martyn.
The performance raised the roof at Wheal Martyn with a superb evening of spoken word and song. Amanda Harris, Director of KEAP, commented “It was a delightful event and an absolute triumph! The quality of the writing, the composition and performance was just terrific as well as the reaction from parents and teachers, who were delighted. It was really apparent how much the children had taken ownership of their work and felt proud and confident to share.”
Gemma Martin, Education Officer, added ‘it has been a fantastic experience for the young people here tonight. They have grown hugely in confidence through the project, crafting their own fabulous stories into a dazzling performance piece, and knocking the socks off the audience with the sung performance. It just shows how inspiring the local heritage of the Clay Country and Wheal Martyn can be!’
The Wheal Martyn project was funded through Arts Council England and the Cornwall Museums Partnership; Cornwall Community Foundation’s Duchy Benevolent Fund and the kind support of Cornwall Music Education Hub, Action for Children and Kernow Education Arts Partnership.

Gemma Martin, Education Officer, Wheal Martyn Museum

Photo credits: James Stuart

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 – www.wheal-martyn.com

Change Makers Study Visit: Culture & Museums in Finland and Estonia

My change makers study visits to Finland and Estonia to learn more about communities, museums, diversity and identity in small countries.

Supported by Arts Council England and Cornwall Council, the Change Makers projects is a collaboration between Dr Tehmina Goskar, Cornwall Museums Partnership and the Royal Cornwall Museum.

Watch Tehmina’s full vlog here: https://storify.com/tehm/culture-and-museums-in-finland-and-estonia