Archive for the ‘editorial’ Category

Port Eliot Festival 2014Tickets have already gone on sale for the 2014 Port Eliot Festival, available on a first-come, first-served basis, numbers are limited. Now in its 10th year, the Port Eliot Festival has begun to attract some major literary figures and has become something of a feature on the British (Londoner?) festival circuit. It would be nice to see a little more Cornish focus from the festival organised by the man who once lead Cornish interests in parliament though (also unsuccessfully urging Cornwall for Parliament in the war of the five peoples and amicably leaving it to the Royalists thereafter).

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In my first post here, in a wide-ranging editorial, I wrote that “Cornwall became famous for its art in the nineteenth and, especially, twentieth centuries largely through the effect of incoming (mainly English) artists.  Over time, there were Cornish artists among their number too, such as Walter Langley (John Opie is probably the most famous Cornish painter, but predates this period and worked largely outside of Cornwall as a portraitist).”

Well, not all of those portraits were entirely unconnected with Cornwall. A new(?) Opie painting was recently discovered and, concerning a Cornish subject, will be exhibited at Falmouth Art Gallery for two years from April 2014, thereby allowing the public free access to it. David Carter has written a short book concerning the discovery and restoration of this important Cornish portrait by Opie. The sitter, about whom little was known, came from Falmouth and led a very interesting life, spanning the 18th and 19th centuries. The blurb for the book describes it thus:

An enigmatic gaze from a young girl in a neglected portrait, obscured by a veil of yellowed varnish, reached out to a dealer in Cornish art when it was spotted in a Midlands saleroom. The artist was John Opie, the 18th century self-taught "Cornish Wonder", who was famously described by Sir Joshua Reynolds as being "like Caravaggio and Velazquez in one". This monograph describes the exciting discovery and careful restoration of a portrait which can now rightfully claim it’s place as a Cornish masterpiece. It reaches into the murky depths of history to shed light on the remarkable life of the sitter, Lydia Gwennap, and takes us from her humble roots in Cornwall to the fashionable environs of London during an age of important social and cultural reform. Lydia was a true daughter of Falmouth, and finally, some 240 years after her birth, her story can be told. . .

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Finally, it’s been a while since we’ve run with the image below, or repeated our plea but it does bear repeating.

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Amazingly, little more than eighteen months into our existence, Cornish Literature now gets visited daily by people from across the world. We’re lucky to have several people who write freely for the website but they are all busy with other work and cannot give up any more of their precious time than they already do. It has always been the intention of Cornish Literature that it should be community driven – fostering a community of people to promote and debate the written word in Cornwall. This can be done in the comments under each article but we also always welcome new writers of news, feature and review pieces.

If you would like to write for us then please do get in touch via the instructions on the ‘About’ page. In particular, if there is a book that you would like to review for Cornish Literature then please let us know; we’re quite often offered copies of books for review, including the Carter book mentioned above, that we sadly have to decline owing to the constraints of lives and other work.

Alive and Kicking

Posted: October 21, 2012 by Lee in editorial, news

It’s been a long, long, summer (stretching well into the autumn, as a glance outside tells me).  I have returned from the wilderness to that sure sign of the twenty-first century, a mountain of digital as well as physical work to accomplish.  I’m only too aware that, despite the valiant efforts of Pete, Cornish Literature has ailed somewhat in my absence.  I’m determined that its suffering should not be fatal, however, and will soon begin to add a fresh batch of Cornish literature reviews and other news here again: as usual, interested contributors are strongly encouraged to contact me – only an enthusiastic group of people can ever hope to make this website a self-sustaining and dynamic community; over-reliance on one or two individuals will always result in any amateur enterprise failing.

On the subject of news, a quick piece for you now: in my absence, Alan Kent’s Trelawny Trilogy has been released for the Kindle.  Many readers may know only too well that second hand copies of the original paperbacks had reached ludicrous prices so it’s to be hoped that this move may make them more widely available again (if you have an eReader other than a Kindle there are ways to convert the files; just search online).  Cornish Literature reviews of the first two books in the trilogy can be found here:

Proper Job, Charlie Curnow!

Electric Pastyland

The books can be purchased through Amazon by clicking on the images below:

Request for topic suggestions

Posted: June 20, 2012 by Peter J in editorial, news, poetry
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I’m looking forward to handing over the helm of Cornish Lit blog soon after Lee gets back online, end of June hopefully, for one thing because it’ll be splendid and, frankly, braer excitin’ yow to see what fresh ideas other contributors will bring.

Even if you’re not thinking of getting an invite to contribute, have a think about, or better still pop a comment in, about what you’d like to see on Cornish Lit blog.

For example, things which have occurred to me (mostly practical things to help contemporary writers in Cornwall), that I’d 4 1 like to see some articles on, include:-

  • how to proof-read dialect (and whether and how to write / render it)
  • how to proof-read (& spell check) Kernewek and accommodating orthographies – what and how do other languages without spell-checkers manage – the challenge and benefits of developing automated grammar and spell-checking for minority languages (e.g. Welsh)
  • past and likely present publishers of books featuring Cornwall or written in Cornwall – histories and features of these publishers – also self-publishing method comparisons and case studies (with reference to Cornwall where possible)

. . . these leave still fresh and untrodden the fields of poetry, “classics”, mashups with other media, composition techniques, . . .

What else would you like to see on Cornish Lit blog ?

Please pop your ideas on a postcard  . . . or better still post ’em in the comments or make ready to use them when you’re a contributor ! 🙂


Off topic, but V important – tonight starting from 7:30 at the Farmers Arms, Causeway, Penzance is the latest Be Spoken Word event, featuring poetry performance – free entry, lots of of poems, also stories, jokes & other spoken word ! Hopefully we’ll be able to feature a report (all event debriefs are welcome, as comments or other contacts) but even I’ll be kinda incommunicado for a few days, so unless Lee or Dawn can pitch in 🙂 that’ll probly be in the weekend roundup. Enjoy !

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I am lucky enough to have a job that I enjoy.  It does mean, however, that I spend several months of the year away from a reliable internet connection.  That presents an obvious problem for an activity such as running an online literary ‘blog.

In the short time that Cornish Literature has been in existence we have already begun to attract readers from throughout Cornwall and, indeed, across the rest of the world.  Looking at the site statistics we have regular visitors from what (I assume) is the Cornish diaspora in Australia and the USA.  We have also begun to foster an online community, something which remains a key aim of Cornish Literature, with a couple of regular posters in the comments sections.  I’m very grateful for their input and participation which help to make me see things in a different way and to provide the discussions which make the enterprise worthwhile and enjoyable.

Even without my work commitments, it would probably always have been my intention to try and develop the community by having several regular writers and contributors other than myself.  Like the comments sections, having different opinions and perspectives can only be a strength in developing a dynamic and intelligent online community.  With those commitments though, the need for regular contributors beyond myself is made more urgent.

If you would like to write for Cornish Literature then please get in touch.

Following my question about literacy levels in Cornwall yesterday, the news today is coincidentally about stalling literacy levels nationally.  Officially, the national average remains at 99% adult literacy in the United Kingdom.

Trying to get a firm grip on how these figures are calculated (or even what level of reading and writing is referred to) is extremely difficult.  I do remember hearing a decade ago of an extraordinarily low literacy rate in Cornwall, however, and after a bit of hunting online I found a government report which puts the adult literacy rate in Cornwall at 87%.

Whether or not those two figures are directly comparable I don’t know, but if so it’s an enormous gap (and one of some enormity).

Thankyou for your forbearance into this diversion – discussions of literacy are not, of course, directly relevant to discussions of literature and I shan’t pursue the matter any further (but feel free to add your comments below).

BBC News – Ofsted: Literacy progress has stalled, chief inspector says.

Some Thoughts on Cornish Literature

Posted: March 6, 2012 by Lee in editorial

It is a truism that Cornish literature is thin on the ground.  Quite why this is and has been so is a bit of a mystery.  Other creative arts flourish in Cornwall – Cornish musicians figure prominently in several different genres today and for large parts of the twentieth century.  Richard James (Aphex Twin), Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac) and Roger Taylor (Queen) all helped to shape the way that popular music progressed over the second half of the Twentieth century while a strong grass roots movement today continues to support a diverse and innovative scene which features bands such as Dalla and Hanterhirr.  In recent years, the Cornish Film Festival has drawn much praise for the quality of its submissions whilst building on a tradition which has seen John Nettles, Thandie Newton, Kristin Scott-Thomas and Nick Darke enjoy varied critical acclaim and success.

Even a comparison with the visual arts is not entirely instructive.  Cornwall became famous for its art in the nineteenth and, especially, twentieth centuries largely through the effect of incoming (mainly English) artists.  Over time, there were Cornish artists among their number too, such as Walter Langley (John Opie is probably the most famous Cornish painter, but predates this period and worked largely outside of Cornwall as a portraitist).

Cornish poets and (particularly) novelists do not fit either of these patterns but instead combine a little of the two.  Many of Cornwall’s most successful writers are successful independent of Cornwall (in that most people are unaware of their place of birth) and their work does not depend upon any discernibly unique effect of ‘Cornishness’, often living elsewhere.  These include William Golding (author of Lord of the Flies), D.M. Thomas (author of The White Hotel) and Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (author of Dead Man’s Rock).  Conversely, most of the writers most closely associated with Cornwall, such as Daphne du Maurier and Winston Graham are immigrants, similar to the visual artists referenced above.  Of those Cornish-born writers who have had any critical success, Rosamund Pilcher can be said to have used Cornwall as an occasional back-drop for essentially English romance novels, whilst W.J. Burley achieved his eventual success due to the TV adaptations based on his Wycliffe character.  These latter came closest to conveying an authentically Cornish voice to literature in the late Twentieth century with a writing style and voice that is, moreover, sadly neglected and overlooked by many.

Perhaps then, the most informative comparison might be with Cornish society at large – the brightest and best often leave whilst those that are left are often condescended to by those incomers whom it suits to emphasise and reinforce bucolic stereotypes.

So where does this leave Cornish literature today?  In recent years, major literary festivals have been developed in Cornwall at Fowey, Falmouth and Port Eliot.  Although it is to be hoped that they may galvanise the scene in the way that the film festival has done, they continue to be dominated, at present, by authors from outside of Cornwall.  It is to be hoped that some local writers are inspired by these events – some, perhaps, are.

Alan Kent, seemingly indefatigable in his cultural and academic endeavours, has now written three novels set in present day Cornwall whilst Nick Harkaway (the son of another Cornish immigrant author – John le Carré) has received a great deal of critical acclaim for his first two novels, which are set elsewhere.

This ‘blog then, seeks to review novels by all three of those types identified above – the Cornish-born, the Cornish-immigrant and, especially, that rarest of breeds the Cornish-born-resident who writes about Cornwall.