Perthi Kov

PERTHI KOV (REMEMBER) – ‘UNTIL THE DAY BREAK’

Perthi  Kov is an unincorporated, non-profit making community group that has been set up to research, devise, write, rehearse and present story walks, harvesting stories of lives lived and framing their meaning for contemporary eyes.  The group consists of the local community, professional artists interested in community engagement, choir leaders, historians, Church members and professionals working with other community groups and schools.

‘Until the Day Break’ - were story walks held in the two graveyards at the Miner’s Church St Euny, Redruth, bringing selected ‘residents’ to life to tell their stories on four evenings in May 2017.  The walks featured performance, storytelling, song and visual installations.  Several story-gathering events were held where people were able to share memories of relatives buried there and we were able to share stories, gathered through our historical research.  Stories gathered in audio and written form were responsibly archived. Stories were also recorded in collaboration with BBC Radio Cornwall for broadcast.

The story walks and digital archive told stories of people involved in many different aspects of Cornish mining life – Peter Renfree, who ran the Penhallick Fuseworks, Jane Harvey, wife of John Harvey, mine engineer, two of whose children were born in Cobre, Cuba, Captain Charles F Bishop who managed Wheal Grenville, Catherine Tonkin, wife of the Mayor of Geelong, South Australia, James Gill and Mary Angove, a young couple who left Redruth to find fortune in Colorado  – celebrating Cornish ingenuity, entrepreneurship and resilience. The project was particularly interested in revealing and celebrating the life stories of women, whose contribution to the great mining adventure is so often overlooked. 

The young mothers from WILD Young Parents Project created a magical memory box installations to decorate the lych gate and churchyard, celebrating the lives of women there that they feel a connection with. As well as the performances, local artists/creators created contemporary souvenir artworks for this project which celebrate our mining heritage and the mining landscape around St Euny Church. 

St Euny is the Miner’s Church, situated as it is on the eastern section of the Great Flat Lode. It sits at the northern end of Church Coombe, just below the workings at Wheal Basset and the stamps and smelter buildings at Seleggan. The Cornish Mining World Heritage Site Office had previously resourced excellent interpretation boards in the lych gate and graveyard.  

St Euny’s graves map the rich and varied history of Cornish life – stories of migration, fabulous wealth and intense poverty, infant mortality, mine accidents, trepanning doctors, cholera epidemics, long marriages (and very short ones).  The people the project researched have strong connections to the mining diaspora in Cuba, Colorado and Australia, testament to the huge impact Cornish mining skills and technology had globally. Peter Renfree’s story describes one of the ancillary industries – fuse and explosives manufacture and its attendant risks. 

We expect to work with a wide range of ages and backgrounds, making contact with groups through WILD Young Parents Project, the Red River and Ingleheart choirs, Scary Little Girls, the Church, Pool School, Redruth Town Council and Youth Council, connecting them to the extraordinary history of their community.  

The programme of community events invited people to help create a lasting legacy for future generations. A series of tea parties were held in Redruth in order to talk to local people in the community to collect their stories of the lives of family and friends buried at St Euny.  The church congregation were also engaged at services and church festivals. 

Audiences for the story walks experienced a vivid window on the lives of their predecessors, enabling a deeper understanding and respect for their challenges and achievements.

EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES

The project team had involvement with WILD Young Parents Project who work with special needs young mums/mums to be age 20 and under and their children. These young people had a visual presence by their work making and displaying memory boxes.  

The Redruth Youth Council will be involved in various activities on the project – performance, research, music, stage management, evaluation etc. They will also be our key ambassadors in enrolling other young people into the project.

Drama students from Pool Academy and Redruth School will form an integral part of our project and this will become a part of their curriculum activities from the beginning of the New Year 2017.

Perthi Kov team members and volunteers have received training from Azook in collecting oral history records, in order to make them fully accessible and useful for future generations.

About 1200 people benefited directly from the project through participating in it or witnessing the performances.  In the region of 9,000 people benefited through the improvement of access to the graveyard and through the availability of new material in local archives, through broadcast of the stories by the BBC and through publication online and on social media.  

Visit http://www.perthikov.org.uk/until-the-daybreak/ for more.

Further Exploration

Cornish Caretakers

Perthi Kov

Rags to Riches

UNESCO Lates at the London Science Museum