A year long residency in West Penwith:

Re-Connecting: layers of people and place; feet to ground (of practice); practice within sites of wider context



The invading beauty of this place…

The beauty of this place is astounding and the depths of history here unlimited. As an artist based in a setting like this it is both its strength and also its potential disaster…

I am now actually based in the project space at Bosigran. It has happened! The wonder of this place and the separation of home and work, having somewhere to pack up my sarnies and go to each day has put me in such a different space for working I would not have believed it could make such a difference. I am out of mobile reception and out of wifi. And at the moment it couldn't be better.

So in terms of getting into a space where I can make, the peace, the separation – I didn't know how much I needed it. But the counter-side is the pull to romanticise the place, the work. Even when there is a strong politicised undercurrent to ideas, somehow the beauty just keeps trying to invade the aesthetic. And that may well be my biggest challenge.


Things are going well. We have our first 'official' artist meeting tomorrow at Bosigran, the studio renovations are now nearing completion & Bosigran Arts has had positive noises from funders!

Going to spend today organising my research, visually mapping out what I've covered and what still needs to be done.

I am really interested in playing around with the idea of Bosigran Farm being a National Trust property (although not in the classic sense of stately home that we normally associate with the NT). Bosigran Farm also marks the start of the UNESCO Mining World Heritage Site – such a heavy designation.

A common local sentiment is of living in a museum… Access to housing unless you already hold a long-term tenancy, for those that work here is only ever a dream. It is a far cry from the time when a farm such as Bosigran would have been a farming hamlet with all the occupants being involved with the tenements or working at Wheal Rose mine. The 1841 census shows 12 families lived at Bosigran with a further 2 at the mine, with in excess of 52 people in total (the details of a few entries are illegible). Several 'cottages' are no longer in existance and there are remains of two others at Mill Farm. But still quite how they all fitted in I really can hardly begin to imagine with many families having five or six children…

It begs the question "what are we preserving and who are we preserving it for?"


This project feels vast! So I thought it would be useful to jot down some of the emerging themes, strands of enquiry:

* layers of history, cycles of change, inter-relationships – the socio-cultural landscape and the ecological heath, mapping

* Bos = dwelling place. The idea of place as dwelling place as distinct from house or building; the cornish language word 'bos' says so much more… housing issues

* story, traditions, myth, the archaeological landscape (Galva, standing stones, giants, coffin paths, ancient chapels, holy wells and cloutie, beehive…)

* the very sudden break with the past over the last few decades in terms of relationship with land, the socio-cultural impact

* landscape/farming as 'heritage'

* property, ownership, custodianship… museums


Off to the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro again today – went last week but there was so much stuff to go through, I need at least another day.

I found the most amazing documents from the early 1600's – original leases for Bosigran farm to tenant farmers, all hand written in English (Cornish although still the vernacular in the High Country of West Penwith, would not have been used for legal documents…) on what I think is vellum (must check out with the librarian today). They are folded up into irregular bundles and tied up with ribbon, one still has the original seal. You have to wear gloves to handle them. I felt really affected by them, not sure why… if I'd handled a piece of 16th century furniture I am sure it would not have had the same effect. I think it must be around the ritual of unfolding, of opening up a piece of someone's history; it felt so privileged. There is something here I need to explore visually and also something around collections and archives. I want to find a way to display the documents at the farm in September but there will be big issues over security to overcome first. It feels like they really should be seen, and preferably back in their original context.


The London trip was really positive – The Bosigran Project received lots of support and encouragement at the conference which has boosted us all and bodes well for future developments… Meanwhile we are pushing on with funding applications for this year and developing the new organisation Bosigran Arts with support from The National Trust and Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange. An exciting programme is developing and a really good artist team in place to work with – Rebecca Weeks, Ian Whitford and Andy Whall.