Pit, Porcelain, Paper

Wheal Martyn has been working in partnership with the Story Republic, managed by Kernow Education Arts Partnership (KEAP), to provide pupils and students from a number of schools from the clay parishes with a creative experience inspired by our dramatic landscape and the themes embedded within the poetry of renowned local poet Jack Clemo, recognised as the defining poet of the Clay Country.

The project, titled ‘Pit, Paper, Porcelain’, is a pilot arts based project supported by Arts Council England through its investment in museums in Cornwall, as part of their Major Partner Museum programme being delivered by Cornwall Museums Partnership. This project signals the start of Wheal Martyn’s ambitions to work increasingly with schools in the area to explore the story of the China Clay landscape and the impact the industry has had on local communities, through creative expression.

Over 120 children from Brannel, Nanpean, Poltair and St Dennis schools have taken part in creative workshops with professional writers and artists to create high quality artwork and poetry inspired by the clay industry and landscape.

Artist John Keys has been working with young people at Poltair School to create unique pieces of 3D artwork from recycled hard back books. The artwork has been inspired by local poetry and the industrial landscape and these delicate, handmade sculptures will be on display alongside the poetry at Wheal Martyn. The installation opens on Saturday 19 March. Alongside this, an exhibition, ‘Tragedy and Triumph’, celebrating the life and work of Jack Clemo in the centenary year of his birth, is on display until June and is free to view.

The innovative schools project started in early January with an event for teaching staff to understand the scope of the work. Pupils and students then visited for a whole day touring the site and gaining an understanding of the nature of life for the Victorian clay worker. For many taking part it was their first visit to the museum which preserves and makes accessible the rich heritage of their communities. Inclement weather only served to create a more atmospheric experience, giving a feeling of the hardship but also the community comradeship which would have existed amongst the Victorian clay workers. Writers and artists supported pupils and students to develop their ideas and craft some excellent pieces of work.

KEAP’s Amanda Harris commented, ‘We’ve been bold over by the imagination and creativity that the children have demonstrated throughout this project. The standard and originality of the poems and artwork has been outstanding. It has been a pleasure to read it all and put it on display for the whole community to enjoy. The project has brought the local landscape and its history to life through the fresh, all-seeing eyes of the area’s youngsters making it a very special exhibition, not to be missed.’

The first pop-up Story Republic installation, ‘Pit, Paper, Porcelain’, developed with KEAP, will be on display at Wheal Martyn from Saturday 19 March until Sunday 10 April, after which the exhibition of poetry and artwork will move into a shop in St. Austell town centre from Tuesday 12 to Saturday 23 April. On March 21 Wheal Martyn will be welcoming family and friends from local communities to a creative celebration where there will be poetry and art to be found across the museum, indoors and out. Children and young people will be performing their poems in the landscape that inspired them as well as sharing the exhibition with visitors.

Jan Horrell, ‘We are very much looking forward to continuing the creative collaboration with KEAP during the year ahead and will be inviting pupils and students from schools to participate in developing themes from the life of the China Clay communities.’