2015/16 Temporary Exhibition – Jack Clemo; Tragedy and Triumph

The official opening of the ‘Jack Clemo; Tragedy and Triumph’ exhibition was celebrated at an event at Wheal Martyn on Thursday 3 December 2015 attended by the Mayor of St. Austell, volunteers, supporters and special guest Fran Brown (Jack’s foster sister) and her husband Ray.

The exhibition was a celebration of the life of Jack Clemo, who despite becoming blind and deaf wrote poetry inspired by the iconic industrial landscape of the area which is considered to be of national importance.

The exhibition remained open for six months and sought to highlight his remarkable achievements in the face of adversity. Fran generously donated a portrait of Jack and many books, all of which were featured in the exhibition.

“This exhibition is a milestone for Wheal Martyn and the first step towards developing a more comprehensive programme of temporary exhibitions at the museum. Over the next three years we are staging exhibitions with the support of Arts Council England through its Major Partner Museum investment into museums across Cornwall. The display infrastructure created as part of the Clemo project, which reflects the Clay Country landscape, will be re-used and developed further in the creation of the exhibitions in 2016 and 2017, enabling the investment to leave a legacy in the form of an improved temporary exhibition space.” Colin Vallance, the museum’s Director.

In addition to funding from the Arts Council, the Jack Clemo exhibition was also generously funded by the Tanner Trust.

The development of this exhibition was a great team effort; ‘Scribble and Nonsense’ designed and produced the exhibition, Kim van Rensburg project managed the work, Exeter University Library loaned of Jack’s typewriter and Luke Thompson, an Associate Lecturer from Falmouth University, author and Clemo expert, provided essential input into the content and story.

The story of Jack Clemo entered the limelight in June 2013 when a major conference, with Warwick University, entitled ‘Kindling the Scarp’ was held at Wheal Martyn. Later that year Trethosa Chapel, which contained a Jack Clemo Memorial Room, sadly closed and the contents acquired by Wheal Martyn, including the extraordinary model of Jack’s Cottage, his writing bureau and bookcase which have recently been restored following a fundraising appeal on Radio Cornwall and are the star items in this exhibition. Since 2013 links have been made with members of the former congregation of the Chapel at Trethosa, who still meet regularly to remember Jack, and these memories are very valuable to the museum.

“One of the aims of this exhibition is to aid the museum in its central ambition to increasingly become a community hub for the people of St Austell and the Clay Country by providing a welcoming, safe and inclusive space. Our audience development plans focus on providing more for local people, people with disabilities, young people and families to enjoy and gain from experiences the museum can offer. With this in mind we hope that the story of Jack Clemo, given his local roots and significant challenges, will really inspire and engage aspects of our target audience.” Jo Moore, Curator at Wheal Martyn.

jack clemo exhibition, wheal martynd

The exhibition will run until early June 2016 and, over the next six months, will be used as a focus for a range of events to attract people to the museum and to inspire them to create their own work.