17 September 2021

Two new exhibitions of local photography and poetry take centre stage at Wheal Martyn Clay Works this autumn.

Opening on 17 September in our new gallery, ‘Agan Kernow: Make it Better’ combines the work of two local community photography projects. Cornwall Adult Education’s ‘Locally Led Learning’ and Make it Better CIC’s ‘Discover Smartphone Photography’ projects both explore how photography can promote better health and wellbeing.

‘Agan Kernow’, which is Cornish for ‘Our Cornwall’, is a collection of documentary photography from students of ‘Locally Led Learning’. The photographs were taken during group outings walking around St Austell and clay country. The project allowed learners to get out in the fresh air, build their confidence and skill set and see familiar surroundings with a new perspective.

‘Discover Smartphone Photography’ led by Ruth Purdy of Make it Better CIC introduced participants to the fun and creativity of photography using only a smartphone. Weekly photography challenges gave participants a chance to express themselves and explore their creativity saying something new about themselves and their community. 


Sian Powell, Exhibition and Engagement Officer at Wheal Martyn, said: “Both projects highlight that meeting together, being creative and enjoying the local landscape can aid in mental and physical health and wellbeing.”

Meanwhile, Echoes of the Past is a new outdoor exhibition featuring historic photographs from Wheal Martyn’s archive, combined with poetry written by the museum’s Trainee Curator, Alexander Thomas, to help evoke a sense of understanding of the Cornish china clay industry – how it was, how it operated, and what has become of it in the centuries since its founding.

Each image and poem has been carefully selected and placed to give a sense of Wheal Martyn’s past and present and with the aim of inspiring visitors to write and send in their own poetry around Clay Country.

Alexander explained: “I wrote the poetry off and on over the summer and it will be displayed on individual exhibition boards alongside each different image or set of images. Each piece was inspired by spending time out and about on site, at times simply sitting by each different landmark, such as the water wheels and pit view, and just immersing myself in the sight of them, their motion and the atmosphere around them.”

Access to the exhibitions is free, as part of the normal museum admission fee.