Archive for the ‘non-fiction’ Category

New Releases Round-Up 16/9/13

Posted: September 16, 2013 by Lee in fiction, new releases, non-fiction

Several authors have been in touch with Cornish Literature to inform us of their new books, in addition to those covered in the last ‘Round-Up’.

B.D. Hawkey was born in Cornwall and can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century. Her first published work, the short poem Taken, was in Bright Voices: South West England, Channel Islands Edition by United Press Ltd in 2003. Her debut novel Old Sins, Long Shadows is available in paperback and kindle formats: at the time of writing it’s available as a free Kindle download. Speaking to Cornish Literature, Hawkey said:

“It is a Cornish Victorian romance set against the backdrop of the magnificent Bosvenna Estate, with eccentric rural characters and the sweeping hills of the dramatic Bodmin Moor. Janey Carhart’s story is a tale of obsession, jealousy and love.”

R. Rushforth Morley, meanwhile, described his new book to us as “a comic historical novel that attempts to deal with issues of Cornish identity”, it concerns events in a remote 19th century Cornish fishing village that are interwoven with tales of the Celtic saints, narrated by the lonely Parson Mudge. The Gift of Honey is published by Indigo Dreams in paperback and an extract can be read at the link above. Morley, too, is a published poet and helps run the Poetry on the Lake festival in Orta, on the Italian Lakes. The author received an Arts Council Grant to assist the completion of The Gift of Honey.

Like Morley, Sydney Higgins has experience of living and working in Northern Italy. Born in St. Ives he has been a lecturer at the University of Camerino since 1992. His book Theatre in the Round: The Staging of Cornish Medieval Drama is due to be published on 15th December. The importance of Cornish Mediaeval plays are well known to students of Cornish Studies and to Celtic linguists but Higgins argues that they are also important to understanding the development of theatre more generally in Britain.

As usual, anyone interested in reviewing any of these books for Cornish Literature should get in touch with us so that we may be able to provide you with a review copy.


Redruth writer Abi Wyatt has news of a second Murder of Krows Anthology, co-edited by Abi and Duncan Yeates, which is due to be launched in the autumn at The Melting Pot in Redruth. Along with special artwork, poems include offerings by Dr Alan Kent and Les Merton, and other poets in Cornwall. It will be a limited print run ! Copies are sure to be snapped up so get in touch with Abi, perhaps via Poetry24 or by Red River Poets facebook page.poetry24

Co-edited by Abi, in addition, is the international, news-inspired poetry web site Poetry24, and Abi is keen to encourage submissions from poets based in Cornwall. If you are a poet in Cornwall and would like to contribute, scoot over to Poetry24 and have a look . . . If you don’t yet feel up to contributing (yet), why not scoot over to Poetry24 and have a look anyway at today’s muse on the news.

Of Abi’s own work, her poem ‘The Long Falling Down‘ is included in a recent anthology of poems ‘Journey to Crone‘. This is one of the five star reviews:

Excellent and moving poetry. The Poems are original, insightful, well crafted, and distinctly female. The voices resonate long after the reading is complete.

Ashley and Eileen Ludgate organised a mini-folk music festival at the Bath Inn, Penzance, where Abi performed more of her poems, including the haunting and soon-to-be-anthologised ‘Dozy Mary‘. It’s good that music and poetry are mixing at events in Cornwall.

Staying in Penzance, a new writer’s group called Writer’s Cafe is set to meet every other Tuesday, at 2pm, in the Lost and Found cafe, Chapel Street, Penzance. The 9th July 2013 is the next meeting, that’s this Tuesday coming !! And from the 17th to the 21st July is this year’s Penzance Literary Festival, with dozens of excellent events – have a look at the website and browse through the schedule – too much good stuff to list here (and much of that is Cornish in composition and/or content – the usual suspects and some interesting others (including music) . . .).
Passio Cristi page from Scawen
One of the talks at Pz lit fest is presented by the Penzance Conservation Community Interest Company – in May they took delivery of William Scawen‘s original manuscript of his Antiquities Cornu-Brittanic 1688, and also his Observations on a Cornish Manuscript entitled Passio Christi i.e. the poem Pascon Agan Arluth. Cornwall Record Office also contracted Pz Conservation CIC to restore William Borlase’s 1750 Memorandums of the Cornish Tongue original manuscript. (These historically significant Cornish manuscripts might be held in the proposed Redruth archive centre, which was recently awarded a £386 thousand heritage lottery grant towards the price tag of around £15 million. It would be nice if these manuscripts above were fully digitised for public viewing before too long. Mar plek.)
Williams Llawnt
In 1865 Rev Robert Williams of Llawnt Ugha (Lawns Ughella / Upper Lawn) in Wales published Lexicon Cornu-Britannicum, which was perhaps the first modern Cornish dictionary. Now, Cornish cultural writer Derek R Williams has authored Williams: The Llawnt – a biography of the Welsh minister and linguist, published by the excellent Y Lolfa.
Looking to Cornwall’s east, another publication brought to our attention is Theatreworks, a collection of plays by Charles Causley, edited by Alan Kent and published by Francis Boutle. Included among 11 librettos and other dramatic works are The Doctor and the Devils (inspired by the work of Dylan Thomas), The Ballad of Aucassin and Nicolette, first performed at the Exeter festival in 1978, and The Tinderbox,which Charles Causley wrote for Kneehigh Theatre in 1990. Alan himself drekly will have published his new books Towards a Cornish Philosophy and a book for children, Surf Dogs.

Sadly for its workers as well as for the future of book production within Cornwall, MPG Books of Bodmin has gone into administration in the last month with the loss of more than 50 jobs.

Written, and with photographs collected, by motor engineering aficiando Ernie Warmington of Redruth, Cornish Road Transport Through Time, published by Amberley Publishing (Amberley in Sussex being the resting place of ASD Smith/Caradar, by the way) traces its subject from Murdock’s engine, and horse drawn vehicles of various kinds to internal combustion motor vehicles used, and produced in Cornwall.
Road transport Cornwall

Cornish stage writer and theatrical director inter alia, Tony Jasper, has had a distinguished career based in London but touring the UK and further afield with his Jasperian Theatre Company. Now based back in Ludgvan, he is, when not still touring, frequently found in Cornish chapels and, recently, Gwennap pit, leading services or community hymn singing. For yes, you’ve guessed it from the title, this book is all about hymns – with a somewhat Cornish bias.

Many people find the marriage of poetry and harmony, in addition to its nature as form of worship, to be an art form of sophistication which bears in-depth analysis. No faith is required to appreciate the interlocking skill with which verses (usually rhyming) are either inspired or jockeyed into form, nor to admire the skill with which some tunes have been assembled into harmonies fitting the metre and sense of the words. Indeed the final bolting-together of poetry and harmony into a product (as we’ll see, they can easily be unbolted and swapped for some other combination . . .) is a choice whose pros and cons are explored in Next We Shall Sing.

Any musically literate person with a couple of hymn books to hand can follow the author’s arguments. There is no musical notation, although readers’ unfamiliarity with tunes alluded to can easily be remedied by a delve into said hymnals. An analysis by music consultant David Rumsey can be found here of the 1933 Methodist Hymn Book (half a century older than its, arguably inferior, replacement – Hymns & Psalms), which features large in the autobiographical part of Tony’s book – this analysis covers many of the hymns mentioned in Next We Shall Sing, and includes examination of their musical harmonies and metre. The compendious 1988 Companion to Hymns and Psalms is, as Tony writes, also full of pertinent facts and history which wouldn’t fit into his book.

Chapter 2, in particular, details Tony Jasper’s youth and its musical element in Cornish chapels and churches (and schools) around Penzance in the ’40s-’60s – I’ll concentrate mostly on that chapter in this review. Subsequent chapters take a view of religious music in the UK, including hymns for children, Afro-Caribbean contributions and late 20th C praise music, with a digression into the US scene. (I’m musically not illiterate but don’t feel myself qualified to comment in detail on these chapters, beyond remarking on a sense of them.) This important fact should not be overlooked: the chapels of Cornwall have been so successfully self-effacing, self-erasing and now relatively invisible, and yet were a hugely influential oral and word-based cultural influence on a vast number of Cornish people’s minds – the 24 pages of this chapter 2, well-informed and balanced as it is, are an insightful and rare scan.

Tony’s eclectic ecclesiastical upbringing, (which reminds of A L Rowse as in his Cornish Childhood) by his own will, afforded him a breadth of experience of in various denominations (Anglican -> Congregationalist -> Methodist, with visits and sojourns in an illuminating variety of the other vibrant chapels and churches existing at that time). Readers used only to contemporary choral mores may find his observations of time and place surprising in comparison; for example, opposition to choruses and repeated lines, were significant factors in hymnody at that time, simultaneous with, perhaps, a much more committed and accomplished musical culture. Which tune to use: Kingsfold or Vox Dilecti ? And Cwm Rhondda – so that was not the setting originally used by the Welsh for William Williams’ Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah ?? Fascinating stuff, casually and briefly passed on. There is, ahem, reference made to ‘ranting tunes’ – presumably partisans of these tunes would not so call them, but such disparagement, couched as it is in affectionately dry humour, is eminently forgivable :-). The influence of the BBC religious broadcasts of the 50s, in a sign of things to come, on a hitherto source of influence – the chapel hymn board – is recorded. I would, of course, have been glad of such a chapter twice or thrice as great in local content; but clearly in the remaining chapters Tony had more ground to cover. At a later point in time, a recapitulation and expansion of this chapter in some form, for readers interested in hymn-singing specifically in Cornwall, would be good.

The text will stimulate and provoke disagreement !” warns the preface. Having read this caveat, I expected a polemic testament for or against kinds of music, and in that I was pleasantly disappointed. In fact, the book’s view is both measured and catholic in taste – the ongoing dialectic throughout (put crudely, “old vs. new”), being umpired and commentated on fairly and in very well-informed and up-to-date manner (with only a sidelong, anonymous reference to the Nine O’Clock Service). Readers of the book won’t find themselves bogged down by intrusively laboured opinions – the final words are an eloquent appeal for understanding and mutual cooperation on music in the Church. Where I was provoked into disagreement was in this very chapter 2, viz “Diadem is a tune that slowly works itself up into a frenzy, to hit an almost orgasmic flourish at the end as the ‘Crown Him’s came into play, and the bass reverberates from sweating men“. Now this tune Diadem is, as he points out, not Cornish in origin, but it became such an icon of tribal and spiritual values that I scramble to defend it from any implication of profanity. Used for “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name“, it has the same sort of robust and confident runs (particularly in the bass) with staccato counterpoint in the chorus as in the much-loved carol tune Seraphic Minstrels. Tis not to everyone’s liking (particularly for treble parts – even as a tenor I somewhat envy the basses’ fortunate duty in this tune, but it’s too magnificent a work to grudge over :-)) – nevertheless tis valid and of value. I’ll briefly quote from The Long Winter Ends, a novel written by Cornish emigré Newton G. Thomas in Chicago, published in 1941 and telling the immigration of Cornish mining families to the Keweenaw’s mines in Upper Peninsula, Michigan – in the first few pages, we have this, sung by miners from the 18th level of the bal – ascending de profundis for the last time – passing their comrades on the levels above – upon the night of the closure of their mine near Kit Hill:

Suddenly, breaking the silence of the waiting plats came the familiar sound from below, not one but many bound into a harmonious whole. It smote the silence with magic and filled the place it had occupied – a pianissimo as faint as an echo on a distant hill. Slowly it grew into a moderato, increasing in power until in a bursting crescendo made perfect by the approaching cage, it matured to its fullest strength as the singers dashed by each listening, waiting drift. As perfectly it faded away – from crescendo to moderato, to pianissimo, until, as echoes die, it died – died as it was born.

“Diadem,” said a listener when silence had returned. “A brave tune.”

And with that I respectfully rest my case on Diadem‘s behalf. With that also I hope that my earlier point, about the crucial nature of chapel song in the lives of ordinary Cornish people, is taken – details such as these ventured by Tony are invaluable should anyone try to recreate the milieu of, say, the Jack Clemo novels, because details like these conditioned much of the texture of people’s behaviour and values. As I say though, for an emotive subject (since quarrels over sacred music are disturbingly common) the book treads a wide and middle way, helped by a good-natured and light touch in criticism. My only gripe, and not a grave one, with the bulk of the book: there are too many quotes for my liking from musicologists such as Erik Routley; I’d rather have had space lent to more practical observations and conclusions from Tony himself. Overall: both reverent and relevant, a sincere and informed study into offering both straightforward church/chapel music and the numinous by human voice – ‘tis mystery all – is this book.

All this means that you grow up with choirs and quartets who sing of life’s hardness, of death’s nearness, and that means you hear Lead Kindly Light or visualise local boats and crews, as the words of Eternal Father Strong To Save drive their way home to your consciousness . . . How was he to know that when we sang Eternal Father Strong To Save he would be part of a crew swallowed like by Jonah’s whale, but in this case never to find dry land, for the Eternal Father never answered that day in the way that was desired.

Next We Shall Sing is published by Highland Books Ltd, Godalming, 2008.

“What he couldn’t say outright was that Nature was getting the better of them, that it felt like a battle, that they were squirming under the gaze of the TV camera’s microscope.”

From November 2009 to January 2011, Lucy Wells’ home on Hayle Towans overlooked the development work for the wave hub – a relatively massive experimental project (something like £30 million from SW, EU and UK) coordinated by SWRDA. Each chapter of the book covers a month of her observations on this work.

The contrast of industrial and elemental factors – embodied in the transient struggles of contractors to implement their masters’ schemes for energy production in truce with nature – is so apt a theme for the history of Hayle as to make this chronicle’s premise recursive. Consider: the mouth of the Hayle estuary is a superb spot where a colourful lacuna of Cornish heavy industry’s bones is slowly veiled by a skein of nature’s fabric – and then swept clear again by both mankind and the inhuman powers of tide and time – a place where the environment is sometimes more dynamic even than the titanic forces of industrial revolution. An apt place, then, to land the cable from the world’s first wave hub – on the former site of Hayle’s historic power station. Lucy Wells’ viewpoint looks both inland to this ‘tethering’ of the experimental wave hub’s cable, and in the other direction, to St Ives bay and the unbidden, primal chaos beyond.

The spirit of the book is pagan, elliptically tho’ not insistently so, and certainly in the sense of the word’s original derivation: rustic, practical, more bound to the non-human than human aspects of the world.

There are no drawings or maps – as in many top-down projects, I guess the designers were none too keen on sharing their know-how. Nor is there detail of the financial manoeuvres implied by the project’s stuttering progress – no doubt this was on a need-to-know basis too. The author does well in teasing some nuts-and-bolts information at least (too little to satisfy engineering readers) from workers. Highlighted in the book is the cosmopolitan variety of contractors who arrive from all parts to do most of the work (drillers from Lancashire, sparkies from London, cable makers from Cleveland, shipping from Finland), and the variety of attitudes and skills they bring. My favourites were the surveyors from Chester who were unsure as to whether they were on the right beach. It’s not a case study of engineering by an insider, but of engineers by an outsider – SWRDA would probably be the only party able to account an over-arching history of the wave hub’s installation campaign and, since the project’s apparently ‘rocky road’ might disincline them to do so, this book’s at least a good insight.

The main thrust of the book is not in technical details, it’s on the effect of the place on the people (rather than the other way round). It contains around 165 pages, with a dozen or so black & white photos to lend extra atmosphere. Cheeky humour provides light to thoughtful shade: the author’s swimming and Tai Chi forms on the beach and dunes clearly give her a lot of time to ponder insights into the nature of Nature, and what we and it do to each other. Realistic reporting of interactions with contractors, visitors and residents (one of the persons mentioned, the relocated gentleman has, I think, died since publication) fills out a human side, often warmly sympathetic – the author’s reporting is cooperative, not judgmental. Gonzo journalism this is not, but it is a sort of investigative slice of industrial life. Ironically it reminds me a little of George Henwood’s Cornwall’s Mines and Miners (1855) – a classic descriptive work for prospective investors. If this book is encouraging us to invest, though, it’s not in the way that we used to.

The wave hub itself (which in the book’s narrative is seen only from afar) is embedded about 10 miles N of St Ives. Up to 4 connected wave-powered devices could safely transmit up to 4-5 megaWatts each, should they generate that much, via the hub, and thence ashore via the subsea HV cable @11kiloVolts, which the onshore transformer substation (pictured on the cover) can step-up (from 11 to 33 kiloVolts) to grid distribution voltage. In total, the current setup of hub, cable and onshore transformer thus provides for up to about 20 megaWatts of power to be generated and fed into the Cornish grid, which, with a nominal and fairly generous average household consumption of about 5 kiloWatts,  means that the system could supply about four thousand such homes. The system can be upgraded to more than double that capacity (i.e. 50MW instead of the present 20MW max, if the hub transmission voltage were also increased to 33kV from present 11kV). Of course, the wave hub system’s purpose is experimental, and I wish we could guzzon and start moulding or welding some things together to plug into it. One firm, Ocean Energy of Cobh, has placed in Galway bay a prototype of the experimental device they’ve agreed to connect to the wave hub soon, the first so far.

The book was self-published / produced by Coherent Visions, London 2011 – if you have trouble obtaining it, Bigglestone’s hardware store at Penpol Terrace (near Foundry Square) in Hayle is a sure bet for a copy, or you can

Mappa Kammbronn

Posted: June 4, 2012 by Peter J in feature, non-fiction, technology/industry
Tags: , ,

The new Camborne town trail map has been completed, and is soon to be made available. Speakers of Cornish pitched in to help enrich the map’s content.

Bearing in mind Camborne’s role, along with its illustrious industrial heritage, as one of the centres of Cornish language revival (such as, for some time, in Mount Pleasant House, a course led by bardic language tutor E.G. Retallack-Hooper), the map’s text includes plenty of useful Kernewek vocabulary, Rosetta stone-style, and is beautifully illustrated. It also includes references to Bewnans Meriasek, the medieval miracle play in Kernewek about the life of the saint associated with Camborne (also known as Meriadoc, after whom the local primary school is named), along with locations in Brittany (and whose name was, perhaps, recycled for Meriadoc Brandybuck by Tolkien’s LotR ;-)).

News of other Kernewek literature efforts will be found in the Cornish language partnership Maga’s news web page.

Red River Poets – the trio of Abigail Wyatt, Craig Taylor-Broad and Duncan Yeates, will be performing on Sunday June 3rd, 11:30 am, at the totem circle, which is smack-bang in the middle of Heartlands (here’s where it is), surrounded by art galleries, cafes, play areas and bold-as-brass history. You’ve read them here on Cornish Lit this week. I’ve heard them. It will, I promise you, be good. 🙂

While you’re at Heartlands, you can of course browse the Heartlands World Heritage Site’s impressive historic-industrial displays and interpretations, for both passers-by and those happy sufferers from what Alan Kent calls “30 inch cylinder syndrome” . . .

East Pool – very near Heartlands

. . . the fortunate victims of which might also be interested to know . . .

. . . Veteran writer, photographer and archivist of Cornwall’s long and fascinating history of railwayana (from at least Trevithick, onwards), John Vaughan will be signing copies of his latest, and final, book thereon, Cornish Railways, at the Cornwall Centre/Kresenn Kernow in Redruth on Tuesday 19th June 2-4pm. An exhibition, ‘Discovering Diesels‘, of part of his personal archive, all of which he previously donated to the Cornish Studies Library, will run from Saturday 16th June (Murdoch day) to Saturday 30th June.

Author and established social commentator Jessica Mann is holding a talk at Waterstones in Truro on Thursday 7th June, on her new book about ’50s Britain. The day after that (which would seem to be Friday 8th June), Truro library sees events in the Fal River Festival’s poetry day, including morning (for children) and afternoon (grown-ups’) poetry workshops led by Patricia Finney.

Orion (the same publisher, owned by French media empire Hachette, as that releasing The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick on June 24th) has contracted to publish The Obituary Writer by Lauren St John. Lauren’s prior work includes Blue Peter-recommended children’s novel Deadman’s Cove, which partly used St Ives as a setting  (her other children’s fiction has mostly been in African settings). Not dissimilar to the theme of The Cornish House, The Obituary Writer features Cornwall as refuge from personal troubles – the refugee in question being a survivor of a railway disaster. (This might actually be somewhat appropriate, as I think no ticketed railway passenger has died as a result of a railway accident in Cornwall – will check –  John Vaughan would know).

The Charles Causley literary festival at Launceston/lanson/Lanstefan is on June 1-6. There is a Charles Causley essay competition for 6th form 16-19 year olds – the closing date’s Monday 24th September.

BTW, Gorseth/Gorsedh Kernow‘s writing competitions’ closing date for entries 2012 was in April – twas remiss of me to miss that, hopefully someone or something will prod or compensate for my leaky memory when the next such event’s due :-). The winners of junior and adult classes for music, prose and poetry will be announced in August.

From younger to older folks, Cornwall Council’s Age and Ambition project for 2012 will soon be starting in various locations, initiating creative writing and arts for the over-50s. We hope to have more info on this as the project develops (cheers to T Johns for the tip).

And from Polson bridge, zooming westward, right along the A30 through Kernow: Gabrielle Hawks and Frankie Webb have written, illustrated and produced Between the Ocean and the Sky, a book for children, at the Turn of the Tide studio in St Just, where they’ll be signing and reading ubm next week.

I gather there’s some sort of royal fandango going on next week, well-earned time off for most of us, after some sort of farce last week with torches and Cornish writing being painted over and flags being snatched and stuff like that which left me likewise nonplussed; well, tis all beyond me. However, depending on which way your cookie crumbles, if at all, you might like to peruse this recipe book foreworded by HRH the Duchess of Cornwall for her native village, or this scream of consciousness from activist and journalist Charlie Veitch in Camelford. Enjoy 😉 .

Any other news of poetry, prose, or events literary – please drop it in a  comment on Cornish Lit, here, there or anywhere and we’ll see that it’s posted. Have a good long weekend :-).

PS – don’t forget yow ! Red River Poets at Heartlands, Sunday 11:30

RRP next feature at The Farmers Arms, Penzance on 20th June, for the BeSpoken Word event.