Celebrate Cornwall’s arts, literature & music festivals

Cornwall, perhaps more than any other county in England, has a deep connection with music and the arts. Deep Celtic roots, rekindled in 20th century arts and music festivals, ensure that folk music, choral music, sea shanties, traditional songs, pop, tribute bands, and everything from opera to hip-hop have a place in Cornwall’s broad culture.

Literature flows from the pens of classical, romantic, historical and crime authors from the days of Daphne du Maurier and Winston Graham to Rosamunde Pilcher and Jesssica Mann. Their works live on in paper form as well as in TV series and epic movies. Think War Horse, Doc Martin, The Shell Seekers and Poldark, just for starters. And let’s not forget comedy in the power of the written word.

The performing arts command an equally strong respect and following in Cornwall. The newly refurbished Hall for Cornwall, Truro’s flagship theatre and events space, leads the way for ticketed performances. There’s also The Lane Theatre, the Burrell Performing Arts Theatre and the CUBE. The remarkable open-air Minack theatre, perched on the cliffs above Porthcurno takes the prize every time for the atmospheric setting and stunning backdrop. However, down at grass roots, it’s the annual music, literature, film and arts festivals that really keep the arts alive in Cornwall.

Each year, almost every town (and even a few villages) host their own Arts Festival or Music Event. What’s surprising is the calibre of national and international performers that attend, not to mention the thousands of visitors who make their way down to the toe of England to indulge their passion for these annual festivals.

So let’s get down to specifics and get the lowdown on some of the longest-running, most famous, and best attended arts and music festivals in Cornwall. Strap yourself in – it’s going to be an epic ride!

A mixed bag of arts festivals in Cornwall

Many writers, poets and artists settle in Cornwall, drawn by the natural light, inspirational scenery and slower pace of life. Their talents are shared and recognised in a host of all-encompassing arts festivals that celebrate the full range of art, music and culture within each local community.

This brand new festival welcomes you to Porthleven to enjoy art in all its guises. With more than 60 events at Porthleven Arts Festival there is something for everyone, with exhibitions, art, workshops, music, poetry, performance taking place at venues across the town. It’s about community, about participation and, most importantly, about celebrating art in all its many and diverse forms.

Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature inspired by Daphne du Maurier

The Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature is a glorious celebration of talent and wit in the spoken and written word. This 8-day festival takes place in mid-May each year, so mark your calendars and head to Fowey to revel in another great event.

A bit about Daphne du Maurier

The festival was inspired by author Daphne du Maurier who spent many years of her life in and around Fowey. She used the location as the setting and inspiration for her classics such as Rebecca and Frenchman’s Creek.

The first Literary Festival in Fowey was held in 1997 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Daphne’s birth. It became a tradition that her birthday, May 13th, would always be part of the festival. Early Fowey Festivals included du Maurier-related walks, exhibitions, talks, plays and music events.

The festival grew steadily until 2007 when it celebrated Daphne du Maurier’s centenary. It included a three-day international conference and concluded with a visit to Ferryside, du Maurier’s Grade 2 listed former home, right on the waterside.

Over the years that followed, the Daphne du Maurier Festival of Arts and Literature (as it was known then) grew under the direction of a small team of people from Restormel Borough Council. The centrepiece of the festival was a beautiful festival village, built on land belonging to Fowey Community College, just beyond Fowey Hall Hotel.

Over time, it evolved into the Fowey Festival of Words and Music which was run as a charity and hosted in various sites around the town. The new name and direction was an attempt to rebrand it and attract a wider audience appeal.

In the past I have been introduced to many new entertainers, laughed heartily at the dry wit and crazy capers of Dave Gorman, attended lectures by local authors and attended some of the best musical concerts ever. Big names in attendance included Justine Picardie, author and editor of Harper’s Bazaar. There were interviews with bestselling authors such as Lynda La Plante and Ruth Rendell – how exciting is that? The Friends and Patrons lunch speaker was the award-winning chef, Michael Caines!

In 2016, it became the Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature, but Daphne du Maurier’s literary legacy is still a driving force of the event.

Art walks and secret gardens!

Since 2016, the festival has focused on walks, exhibitions, talks, literary workshops, drama and music. There’s always a Short Story Competition to encourage new talent with a title plucked form the writings of du Maurier herself. The most popular part of the festival is the Art Walk when local artists open their homes and studios to the public. For gardeners, there’s the Secret Gardens Programme, a similar event when local gardens are opened to festival goers.

☀️ Book a holiday cottage in Fowey and join in the fun at the Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature!

Fitness, flowers and music at the Falmouth Spring Festival

Whatever arts activities you enjoy, the Falmouth Spring Festival probably includes it in their diverse programme. If past festivals are anything to go by, you’ll be entertained with Think Games on the Moor, cider tasting, town history tours, music, flowers, Nordic walking and even the chance to paint the town yellow! Where else packs so much action into a few days?

To celebrate the joys of spring, Falmouth Spring Festival puts on a smorgasbord of activities to showcase the variety of talents in one of Cornwall’s most scenic waterfront towns. From fitness sessions and a Charity Walk to the Maritime Museum Exhibition and Spring Flower exhibits, the festival is sure to have something that you really want to join in, so make sure you keep the last few days in March free.

An introduction to Falmouth

Falmouth is a lovely town to visit at any time of year. Driving down the long hill from the A39, the approach to the town gives wonderful views of the estuary which is always filled with fishing and pleasure boats of all sizes.

Falmouth Spring Festival started in 2011 but the Spring Flower Show dates back to 1910. It was so popular it naturally evolved into an annual event. In the past it grew to 18 days of activities, starting the second Thursday in March. Currently it is a little shorter, since Covid.

The activities are so diverse that they all take place at a different venue, so you’ll be pretty familiar with the town by the end of the week! Preparations start the week before with a volunteer Spring Clean Day, when you can get involved for a good cause. The town is then decorated by design students from the University College in a blaze of yellow, from street bunting to shop windows, and I can tell you it looks a picture!

Things to do at Falmouth Spring Festival

Families will enjoy the Games on the Moor Weekend with swing ball, giant snakes and ladders and other games all free to join in and have a go. One of the newer features was the “Then and Now” Exhibition which showed historic photographs of the Falmouth Spring Flower Show including the first show being opened by Princess Christian (Queen Victoria’s granddaughter) back in 1910. The Flower Show is now part of the broader Falmouth Spring Festival.

If you’re into fitness, there’s usually a Half Marathon in aid of Cornwall Hospice Care. Plan to participate or cheer on the runners. Past scenic routes visited Gyllyngvase, Swanpool and Maenporth beaches, returning via Mawnan Smith, Penryn and finishing along the waterfront. In past years it raised over £16,000 for charity so be prepared to cheer and be generous with your loose change!

Fitness on the Moor is a great opportunity to try a new sports class and past events included a 10-mile Charity Walk to sign up for, so best start getting in shape now!

My favourite event in the past was the Nordic Walking Taster Day over the creeks and fields, finishing at the Pandora Inn for lunch. The modest fee for participating included the hire of walking poles (which incidentally are really good on the steep paths and steps that abound on the South West Coast Path).

Other outdoor events that are part of Falmouth Spring Festival might include exploring Swanpool Nature Reserve with a local guide, discovering local wildlife, or perhaps foraging for food at Argal Reservoir with an expert forager? You even get a recipe handout as part of the experience! Town walks are certainly drier underfoot and these historian-led walks unravel Falmouth’s maritime heritage, famous families, riots, murder and ghosts!

Want some folk music? There’s always plenty of live music as part of the Cider and Folk Fayre with a range of bands to listen to while sipping a pint or two of cider. It takes place on the middle weekend of the Spring Festival with 20 ciders to sample and some great live music to fall down to!

Falmouth Spring Flower Show

If flowers are your passion, then you will certainly want to visit the Falmouth Spring Flower Show on the last weekend of the Spring Fest in late March. This fabulous show takes place in the Princess Pavilion which is packed with the colour and scent from hundreds of wonderful displays of daffodils, flowering shrubs and cacti.

It is a superb opportunity to stroll slowly around the somewhat crowded displays admiring bonsai, orchids and gorgeous flower arrangements. I challenge you to resist the temptation as most visitors come away clutching a bag full of bulbs, plants and seeds to create their own green corner of paradise!

☀️ It’s another great reason to book a holiday cottage in Falmouth and join in the free family fun at the Spring Festival!

Music festivals in Cornwall

New music festivals are popping up all over Cornwall, such as the October Mevagissey Sea Shanty Festival, new in 2021. They cover all types of music from pop and folk to ecclesiastic and classical. Wherever you visit, keep your eyes peeled for local posters and join the fun.

Here are some of the main music festivals and events, but if you live in Cornwall you’ll probably spot plenty more.

Mariners sing at the Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival

The old sea port of Falmouth is steeped in maritime history, so it is the perfect place to hunt down some traditional songs of the sea. The Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival attracts performers from all over the world who gather annually on the historic maritime waterfront on the second weekend in June.

Around 44 shanty groups come to share the history and keep alive the musical and nautical traditions over this three-day festival. They will perform in various venues around Falmouth and past events have delivered over 261 hours of heart-stirring singing!

The purpose of the Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival

The Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival began in 2003 and was organised by the local Falmouth Shout Shanty Singers. It has now grown to be an annual event sponsored by local businesses, hotels and pubs.

If you are planning to attend, you can be sure of an enjoyable day helping to preserve the maritime heritage of Cornwall as well as raising funds for the local lifeboat. If you’re a visitor to the area, there’s no better way of appreciating the unique culture of Cornwall than by attending a cultural festival of the sea, such as this one.

This historic Sea Shanty Festival attracts voices from all over the world. Many of the singers dress in-keeping with the songs they sing. Pirates, sailors, skippers, surgeons and buxom wenches make up some of the “crew” of the local Falmouth Shout Shanty Singers. This local group of entertainers is named the “Falmouth Shout” after the name for a lifeboat call. They take part in many events around the country and often sing on the seafront on Friday evenings in the summer.

Many of the songs you will hear at the nautical-themed Sea Shanty Festival involve a team leader and a response from the rest of the crew. The words and cadence were designed to coincide with a team pull or “heave to”.

The Sea Shanty Festival takes place all over the town of Falmouth in pubs, aboard an old ship in the harbour and on temporary outdoor stages. You may be surprised to hear that many of the sea shanties are sung without musical accompaniment, although guitars, mouth organs and fiddles are occasionally used. Many of the songs are very entertaining, telling a story, so even children will find the music lively and the stories fascinating.

So what’s a shanty?

The word “shanty” probably derived from Chanter which means “to sing” in French. Shouted rather than sung harmoniously, the sailors would sing them as they performed their tasks. Different songs had different rhythms to suit the various tasks such as hauling ropes or raising the anchor by marching around the capstan.

Most sea shanties date back to the 19th century. They provided mental diversion when doing a team chore and provided a means of synchronising the sailors’ efforts. They were also used to sing about their womenfolk back home, their dreams, accounts of famous battles or to express their opinions without it leading to a flogging!

Sea Shanty Festival raises funds for the RNLI

Appropriately, the beneficiary of all funds raised and collected during the festival (over £30,000 to date) is the Falmouth RNLI. They launch around 90 times per year, rescuing countless personnel and boats from dangerous situations around the Fal Estuary and surrounding coastline.

Apart from raising funds, the Sea Shanty Festival shares the love of singing and keeps alive many songs of the sea and Cornish shanties from the days of tall ships and wind power. Now that’s what Cornwall arts festivals are all about!

☀️ Book a seaside holiday cottage in Falmouth in June and join in the merriment at the Sea Shanty Festival!

Cornwall hits a high note with the St Endellion Easter Music Festival

Every Easter a very special event takes place in the 15th century Collegiate Church of St Endellion near Port Isaac. The St Endellion Easter Music Festival brings some of the most talented musicians together from all over the world to take part in an exciting music festival. The event runs for nine days, finishing on the Sunday of the Easter weekend.

What is the St Endellion Easter Music Festival?

The St Endellion Easter Music Festival was started in 1973 by the late Richard Hickox, along with his wife Frances who still remains director of this long-standing celebration of music. The festival is preceded by a whole year of fundraising events to allow this fabulous celebration of mainly classical music to take place.

This festival of musical excellence takes place in the glorious setting of St Endellion Church near the scenic coast of North Cornwall.

Along with the St Endellion Summer Festival, the Easter Festival brings together both amateur and professional musicians and they all pay to participate in this prestigious 9-day event of high quality music-making. The festival includes classics such as Bach passions during Holy Week along with chamber, orchestral and choral concerts. To complement the music, each morning there is a Thought for the Day lecture given by various noted speakers.

Most performances take place in the tiny 15th century Church of St Endellion near Port Isaac. This ancient collegiate church is one of England’s holy places and you will feel the remarkable sense of spiritual community whenever you visit.

Check out the musical performances

The opening event is usually a Come and Sing event. In the past this has included rehearsals followed by a debut concert performance of Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Ave Verum Corpus – sign up to take part. Anyone passionate about ecclesiastical music will find this a moving event.

Lunchtime proms and evening chamber concerts continue each day at various times, highlighting many classical pieces by musical masters such as Handel, Vivaldi, Elgar, Schumann and Britten. The festival has featured Candlelit Concerts in past years with topics such as WW1 themed Goodbye Dolly which is not to be missed.

What better way to celebrate the highlight of the Christian calendar on Easter Sunday than with Easter Eucharist in this historic church? An evening concert is the grand finale of the St Endellion Easter Music Festival, ensuring it ends on a high note!

☀️ Why not book a holiday cottage in Port Isaac and join in the St Endellion Easter Festival?

Tuning up for the St Endellion Summer Music Festival

A glorious summer celebration of classical music takes place each year near Port Isaac. The historic Church of St Endelentia hosts the highly regarded St Endellion Summer Music Festival. Starting on the last Tuesday in July, the Music Festival runs for 11 days with amateur and professional musicians and soloists coming down to Cornwall from all over the country to take part.

Located near Port Isaac on the coast of North Cornwall, this exceptional church community combines beautiful music in a hallowed and special place. This festival provides space and time for quiet contemplation through the gift of music.

The history of St Endellion Summer Music Festival

St Endellion Music Festival is one of the longest running music festivals in Cornwall. It began over 65 years ago as a Summer Festival of Music. After being appointed priest of St Endelentia, Roger Gaunt invited some of his college friends down to help him renovate the derelict rectory. With an interest in music, the friends put on a few impromptu fundraising concerts and it gradually grew to include an orchestra and chorus.

Today this noteworthy Music Festival is the highlight of the year for many semi-professional and professional musicians and soloists. It follows the annual Easter Music Festival at St Endellion.

What about the music?

Some of the performances take place at lunchtime and the quiet atmosphere of the church makes it the perfect venue for these intimate performances. From opera to string quartet and choirs to orchestras there is something to appeal to all tastes.

Tickets are required for most of the events and are available from the Endellion Festival website. Funds raised go towards improving six buildings on site which are intended to provide accommodation, catering facilities, studio and recording facilities, rehearsal space and performance areas for future St Endellion Music Festivals.

It provides an outstanding venue for conferences, retreats and festivals and takes the St Endellion experience one step further to reach an even wider audience in the future.

St Endellion Music Festival is one of the longest running music festivals in Cornwall. It began over 65 years ago as a Summer Festival of Music. Today this noteworthy Music Festival is the highlight of the year for many semi-professional and professional musicians and soloists. Some of the performances take place at lunchtime and the quiet atmosphere of the church makes it the perfect venue for these intimate performances. From opera to string quartet and choirs to orchestras there is something to appeal to all tastes.

Past programmes

To give you an idea of what to expect at this feast of music, here’s what has been enjoyed in past events. Puccini’s La Boheme, featuring Peter Hoare as Rodolfo and Sophie Bevan as Mimi was conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth. He was a regular contributor to the festival and widely considered to be one of the most brilliant young musicians in Britain. He also conducted the Bach B Minor Mass which was performed in St Endellion and in Truro Cathedral during the festival. This worthy piece was chosen to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I in 2014.

The St Endellion Summer Music Festival has also rocked to the sounds of Schubert’s Mass in A Flat and pianist Charles Owen performing Brahms’ First Piano Concerto. The music fest includes a range of chamber music, perhaps a Bach cantata, a piano repertoire or even a performance of Mendelssohn’s Octet, written when he was just a teenager.

The final concert is always a highlight such as Benjamin Britten’s Nocturne with solos by Mark Padmore, Artistic Director of the Festival or Tchaikovsky’s stirring 5th Symphony.

The St Endellion Summer Music Festival is now internationally famous and has a chorus of 75 singers, a symphony orchestra, and some extremely talented guest artists. Most events are ticketed and sell out fast, so make sure you book your seat early and enjoy your visit to Cornwall even more!

☀️Why not book a holiday cottage in pretty Port Isaac and experience the St Endellion Summer Music Festival for yourself!

Cornwall literature festivals

Cornwall seems to attract more than its share of famous authors, poets and writers, from Daphne du Maurier and Winston Graham (of Poldark fame) to Charles Causley and Rosamunde Pilcher. The works of these acclaimed writers and their contemporaries are celebrated at literature festivals all over Cornwall.

Check out some of the best… they are not as dry as they sound!

Launceston’s Charles Causley Festival

The historic town of Launceston (pronounced Lanson or Lawn-ston) is a real treasure to visit, especially when the extensive Charles Causley Festival of Literature and the Arts is on. Known as the “Gateway to Cornwall”, this quiet market town with its landmark motte and castle was once the capital of Cornwall and the site of an early mint for coins. Launceston still retains a small section of the old town walls and the town centre traffic runs through Southgate on a one-way system.

Meet Charles Causley!

Born in Launceston in 1917, Charles Causley is one of Britain’s finest poets. Described as “the best poet laureate the nation never had” his life is celebrated in the town each year at the Charles Causley Festival.

Visit mid-Cornwall on the second weekend in June and join in this excellent literary event. It includes poetry readings, author showcases, drama and live music in a rewarding 5-day event.

If you want to learn more about local resident Charles Causley, there is a permanent exhibition about his life and works at the Lawrence House Museum. The poet lived in the old house known as Cyprus Well in Launceston in the early 20th century. After a life of writing, speaking and lecturing, he died in the town, aged 86, in 2003.

More about Launceston

Located between Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor, Launceston is quintessentially Cornish with narrow granite-paved one-way streets winding around the castle and the market square. The beautifully carved granite exterior of St Mary Magdalene Church was designed in 1511 by Henry Trecarrell and it is quite unique.

The many Georgian houses lining the streets add to the historic atmosphere of this charming place. High on the hill is the silhouette of Launceston Castle, built just after the 11th century Norman Conquest. It was used as the local Assizes or courts and the jail was in the north gatehouse. The impressive ruins are open to the public for tours.

The Charles Causley Festival highlights

The Charles Causley Festival attracts many writers and poets including Kathryn Simmonds, the first Charles Causley Poet in Residence. Festival highlights include informative talks on topics including how to get published. Guest speakers also read excerpts from biographies and insights into the life as a career novelist.

You can share your own words at the Poetry Tent and listen to other local poets or attend some of the film screenings, usually set in Cornwall (and there are plenty to choose from!). Some of the events take place in the grand Launceston Guildhall.

Over the weekend, Causley at the Castle usually gets in on the act with family-friendly performances and activities. One of the most popular events at past festivals is Railway Day when trips on the Launceston Steam Railway combine with poetry readings and talks, all for the usual ticket price.

Hear more acclaimed poetry readings or pop down to the White Horse Inn. If you’re lucky, the Bookshop Band will be playing songs inspired by books. In past years, a Food, Drink and Craft Market has taken over the historic streets of the town providing a great shopping and eating experience for festival-goers.

Other past events include taking a stroll with a local historian around the places associated with Charles Causley, or attending a Poetry Therapy Workshop.

Cornish tunes, Morris dancing, comedy and drama all celebrate Cornwall’s heritage along with local craft demonstrations at this excellent literary festival. I’m sure Charles Causley would have approved of them all!

☀️ Book a holiday cottage near historic Launceston and join in the fun at the Charles Causley Festival!

St Ives Literature Festival is definitely in the “write” place

Book-lovers, authors, poets, writers and readers should plan to visit the St Ives Literature Festival which takes place over eight days in mid-May. Each year this highly successful festival provides creative writing workshops, prose readings, book launches and live music over the duration of the festival.

Of course, St Ives has always had an allure for artists and writers, and many came to visit and never left. Virginia Woolf spent her childhood in St Ives in the 1800s and the Godfrey Lighthouse in St Ives Bay inspired her famous novel The Lighthouse, published in 1927. She would certainly have approved of the drop-in workshops and opportunities for modern-day writers to share their experiences at the festival!

Whether you love writing, reading, or both, the excellent programme of events will help you learn more about literature and may inspire you to become a published author yourself!

Workshops and author readings

I’ve attended many excellent workshops at this literary feast and found the standard exceptionally high. Author evenings also give an insight into books you might not have considered reading until you met the author and heard how the book came to be written.

Many of the speakers have connections with Cornwall and the high caliber and quality of the events lures them back. “Punk” poet Sue Johns performed one of her earliest gigs at the St Ives Literary Festival. Now an internationally acclaimed poet, advisor to Channel 4 and prize winner at the Austin International Poetry Festival, she has been known to attend the festival in past years, reading her new work at ticketed evening events.

The St Ives Literature Festival is spread all over this compact town, in venues mainly around the harbour and old town centre. You may find yourself attending events at St Ives Art Club on Westcott’s Quay, the local library or perhaps in Café Art in Royal Square.

Share your work at the Big Frug!

The Big Frug is one of many open events for poets, song writers and musicians and entrance is free for performers. It includes poetry, storytelling, music and “an evening of surprises” – just bring your own drink! Other festival events give local writers the opportunity to share extracts from their books and provide a variety of entertainment.

The St Ives Literature Festival always includes some light-hearted entertainment with performers such as Pete Berryman and Rob Barratt, a famous comic, poet and singer from nearby Bodmin. A Cornish Evening focuses on the Cornish language, Kernewek, keeping it alive, at least in the arts.

Some of my favourite events, which anyone can just drop into, are the free poetry and music events in Norway Square. It is just a three minute walk east from the Tate, and is where you will also find the St Ives Society of Artists and Norway House, a charming 200-year-old whitewashed fisherman’s cottage.

Poetry is an integral part of the St Ives Literature Festival

Poetry always has a high presence at the St Ives Literature Festival with performances set to music. Look out for open mike sessions for poets who may want to share their offerings with fellow poets. Many other sessions have a nominal entrance fee to hear up-and-coming authors and more established literary names.

With so much diversity, the St Ives Literary Festival is a must for any writers and poets looking to make contact with fellow artists. It’s also a good opportunity to share work with the public and test the market.

☀️Book a holiday cottage in pretty St Ives and join in the events that at part of St Ives LitFest!

Internationally famous for its artistic connections, St Ives hosts a full programme of literary events featuring writers and poets who descend on the town to share their love of words with locals and visitors alike. Eight days of literature in St Ives featuring book launches, poetry readings, workshops and open air events including poetry and prose readings, live music, comedy acts, creative writing workshops.

Penzance Literary Festival is “all booked up”!

Readers, writers and bookworms will want to head to Penzance in July to join in the 4-day Penzance Literary Festival. The event attracts authors and writers from all over the southwest.

How it started…

Penzance Literary Festival started in 2010 and now attracts a good number of locals and visitors to this friendly event. Most of the LitFest presentations take place in the local Acorn Theatre, although the Morrab Library and various other venues around the town will also be used to host specific events.

The festival is organised by volunteers within the local community and anyone with a literary bent will thoroughly enjoy the programme. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to author talks and learnt some valuable tips at workshops in the past. You also get to network and meet many like-minded people – and who knows where that might lead!

The festival organisers go out of their way to include all ages and abilities, from youngsters to retirees. It is great for experienced writers as well as those who may be taking up writing as a new hobby, perhaps to write their life story for posterity or to write the novel they had always felt was inside them.

Thanks to the many hours of hard work put in by the committee volunteers, admission charges are extremely affordable.

What to expect at PZ LitFest

Unlike other Literary Festivals in Cornwall, the Penzance Literary Festival does not rely on big names to draw in the crowds. You will find there are certainly some highly respected and well-known names making a contribution to the Festival, but anyone with an idea to share, a story to tell or an interesting take on life will find their niche at this literary event.

The Literary Festival is a great chance to do far more than just browse and buy good books. It offers round-table discussion groups, lectures, authors in conversation, workshops for writers and a broader range of entertainment too.

While pros and amateurs head off to do some of the activities aimed at writers, spouses and children are able to breathe a sigh of relief and find their own fun. In the past, these have included guided tours around Penzance town which are particularly popular with non-literary partners perhaps attending the festival under duress!

In the evening there are excellent drama presentations, bringing the written word to life in plays, and there is plenty of live music (words in the form of lyrics here!) to keep the festival lighthearted and entertaining for all.

Most of the groups are small and personal so it is very easy to ask a question or contribute to the discussions, so don’t be shy about contributing your own thoughts and experiences. As well as learning through sharing, there is time for lighthearted fun and laughter from this very friendly festival.

Penzance Literary Festival lineup

To give you an idea of the high quality of guest authors and contributors, here’s a rundown of previous attendees:

  • Damian Barr author of ‘Maggie and Me’, (serialized as Radio 4′s Book of the Week)
  • Patrick Gale, who published ‘Notes from an Exhibition’ and ‘A Perfectly Good Man’
  • Salley Vickers, author of ‘The Cleaner of Chartres’ and ‘Miss Garnet’s Angel’
  • Jonathan Smith, known for both the book and screenplay entitled ‘Summer in February’
  • Chris Higgins, author of ‘He’s After Me’ and other stories
  • Well known poets include Ruth O’Callaghan, Angela France and Graham Burchell, along with plenty more talented authors and writers from the Westcountry.

Why not add your name to the list of talented writers!

☀️ Book a holiday cottage in Penzance and join in the entertaining events at the Penzance Literature Festival!

Cornwall film festivals

Cornwall is frequently the setting for films, dramas, historical maritime sets and documentaries. So move over Hollywood and make way for Oggywood, “oggy” being the local moniker for a Cornish pasty.

Although many Cornish arts festivals include movie screenings, the biggest film and movie event of the year is the Cornwall Film Festival. While other film festivals in Cornwall have come and gone, this is the biggie. It is run as a charity very successfully by MorMedia since 2002.

Cornwall Film Festival aka Oggywood!

The Cornwall Film Festival celebrated its PLATINOM anniversary (that’s Cornish for Platinum) in 2021. It first hit the silver screen back in 2002. Originating in Newquay, the festival later moved to the Princess Pavilions, Falmouth where it now hosts local and national film premieres. It also showcases film-related events each year at the annual Cornwall Film Festival in mid-November.

Now a 7-day annual event, the Cornwall Film Festival attracts a surprisingly large number of people. The impressive team is led by Executive Director Louise Fox and includes a Shorts programme as well as highlighting current topics and the Screen Stars of Tomorrow.

The festival successfully brings together the works of students as well as established filmmakers. The majority of the films that are being shown at the festival have not been seen elsewhere. In past years the festival included guest speakers, casting and auditions along with screenings of full-length feature films and 90-second films using the Cornish language with cash prizes for the best. It has since introduced Digital Futures, a programme of creative media projects designed to equip young people, drawing inspiration from the moving image.

So what’s on the agenda at the Cornwall Film Festival?

The Core Programme includes gala evenings, screen archive footage, documentaries, British Breakthrough Filmmakers, short films and other broader topics from around the world. Anyone with an interest in film production should consider the Cornish Film Festival as a ‘must attend’ event. It’s a key festival for networking while having a whale of a time socialising and critiquing.

Once the festival is over, MorMedia continues to showcase creative works throughout the year at other low-key events.

☀️ Why not book a holiday cottage in Falmouth and join in the family entertainment at the Cornwall Film Festival?

Brush up on the arts at the St Ives September Festival

Like all good arts festivals, the St Ives September Festival brings together art, music, film nights, drama, comedy, concerts and dance. It’s like mixing individual colours on an artist’s palette to create a well-rounded offering of cultural entertainment. Read what this fantastic arts festival has to offer, appropriately hosted in St Ives, one of the UK’s top havens for artists and sculptors.

What attracts names such as Barbara Dickson, Seth Lakeman and Elkie Brooks to St Ives? The answer is the St Ives September Festival which offers 15 music and art-filled days in September. The main musical events and performances are held in various locations such as the Guildhall, Tate St Ives and St Ives Theatre. Most pubs and bars “get in on the act” by hosting art-themed free events.

How it all got started…

The idea of a September arts festival in St Ives was cooked up in 1978 in a kitchen on Teetotal Street. The ambitious idea took off and one of the first performers was a very young violist, Nigel Kennedy, who has since wowed audiences all over the world.

Today the festival continues to attract a loyal following from far and wide that look forward to a full schedule of music, literature and the arts each year.

The event organisers put on over 200 events, and where better to enjoy them than in Cornwall’s leading artists’ haven. Most art galleries and potteries have open studios during the September Festival. Many are not normally open to the public, but I always find plenty of places to browse whenever I visit.

Open studios and film nights

Beyond the festival, the Sloop Craft Market is home to many artists working in mixed media from ceramics to oil painting and sculptures. You can also see a variety of works by artists who showcase their work at Porthmeor Studios on Back Road West.

Established in 1890, the St Ives Arts Club plays an important part in the festival, often hosting a programme of films on a theme. The Art Club Members Exhibition at the Arts Club is well worth browsing from during the St Ives September Festival.

Music, comedy and more

The St Ives September Festival covers a broad spectrum of the arts, from fringe comedy to art, music and film. Concerts provide excellent evening entertainment and cover all types of music. If comedy or theatre is more your idea of culture, then tickets will be on sale for a wide choice of top events to complement the free sessions which are open to all. Past entertainment by comedian, poet and singer Rob Barratt had the audience doubled up with his take on important topics such as second homes, distressed furniture and why he won’t be swimming with dolphins.

Workshops, plays, films, stories and even guided walks are included in the festival – a good chance to escape the narrow streets of St Ives which are transformed into a temporary stage for entertainers.

Pubs, halls and clubs put on musical shows and locally themed plays. For artists, there are drop-in art classes led by professional artists where you can learn some new techniques in textiles or life drawing, perhaps. Leach Pottery and the Hepworth Sculpture Gardens often host art talks surrounded by inspirational material. Lunchtime Arts Talks also cover a series of topics about art and artists in St Ives.

Some of the UK’s leading musicians and singers find their way down to St Ives September Festival to provide an eclectic mix of high quality entertainment from buskers to Big Frug evenings. Free musical events are hosted by pubs during the festival. They are a good place to head for in the evening for some great pub food or a drink along with lively festival entertainment.

☀️ Book a holiday cottage in St Ives in September and join in the fun at the lively St Ives September Festival!

Dancing and lantern-making at St Just Lafrowda Festival

The unusually named Lafrowda Festival takes place over two weeks in July. It is hosted in the delightful village of St Just in Penwith and it takes its name from the original Cornish name for the church lands on which the village now stands.

The Lafrowda Arts Festival was started in 1996 and is now a much-anticipated local event. It has slowly evolved from a music festival into a full-blown arts festival and the final Saturday is actually known as Lafrowda Day.

Why visit the Lafrowda Festival?

The aims of the St Just Lafrowda Festival are to celebrate local heritage and showcase some of the theatrical, artistic and musical talents in the area. Most of the outdoor events are held in the Plen an Gwarry, an ancient amphitheatre where mystery plays were once performed. Just follow the colourful bunting!

The exciting programme of events is certainly not dull and predictable. Events as eclectic as willow image-making, pop-up tattoo parlours, handicrafts, quizzes, dancing and a procession all add up to making this a festival where absolutely anything can happen!

Past events include a Moving Picnic on the Monday before the festival. Diners visit one venue for cocktails, another for soup and so on for different courses. Tickets are required, but at £15 for several courses and a cocktail they are pretty good value.

Other events included a Quiz Night and a Lantern Making Workshop. This is in preparation for the Lantern Parade which takes place after dark, lit by glowing lantern images. Another popular event hopefully to be repeated is the Willow Workshop where you can help to construct woven willow images for the procession.

There’s a Film Fest with screenings and a Ceilidh for families to enjoy an evening of old-fashioned dancing with live music and callers.

Lantern Ppocessions at St Just

The Big Day is Lafrowda Day, the grand finale which includes several processions carrying woven willow giants. There are stages for live bands plus street theatre, food, stalls and games for all ages.

As well as the main Community Procession on the final Saturday, one of my family’s favourite moments is the cute Children’s Procession. After dark the festival ends with a beautiful lantern procession of locals carrying illuminated lanterns in many shapes and sizes. Seeing the huge ethereal shapes is truly magical!

Where exactly is St Just in Penwith?

Located on Cape Cornwall, St Just in Penwith is often referred to as the first and last town in England, although the nearby hamlet of Land’s End is actually slightly further south and west.

Often referred to simply as St Just (not to be confused with St Just in Roseland), St Just in Penwith is close to Sennen, just seven miles west of Penzance.

☀️ It’s a great area to rent a holiday cottage in early July and join in the free family entertainment that Lafrowda has to offer.

Visit Cornwall

With such a broad diversity of arts, literary and music festivals, Cornwall offers an unrivalled diversity of events. Check out our associated articles featuring Cornwall’s culture and heritage Festivals, and a mouthwatering look at food and drink festivals in Cornwall. Why wouldn’t you want to visit?

Whenever you choose to stay in a holiday cottage in Cornwall, there’s always something going on!

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Holiday Cottages in Devon & Cornwall is brought to you by the Jetset Boyz