St Ives has been an epicentre of art and culture in Cornwall for hundreds of years with the likes of Barabara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson amongst the town’s esteemed alumni.
Continuing the harbourside town’s rich tradition of all things creative, the St Ives September Festival is held every year and extends the holiday feeling into September.
Held over two weeks for the ultimate out-of-season party, the St Ives September Festival will be bringing an array of culture to residents and visitors alike between the 9th and 23rd of September. The festival itself is dotted around the pretty seaside town in no less than 30 different venues, not to mention the street performances and walking tours that take place around town.
From art to music, live theatre to poetry, there’s something for everyone at Cornwall’s biggest cultural festival. Let’s see what’s coming up in the St Ives September Festival 2023…
Whether your tastes lie in music or theatre, poetry or street performances, you’ll find something down the cobbled streets of St Ives to get your foot tapping or your head nodding in poetic appreciation during the St Ives September Festival.
On the musical lineup, you’ll find the likes of The Three Degrees, alongside an epic mix of rhythm and blues and folk music scattered across the two-week schedule. Each day has its own roster of cracking live music, with a variety of venues playing host to the artists including the Guildhall, St Ia Church and even some of the town’s many art galleries.
Alongside the musical interludes across the festival, you’ll be able to catch some riveting performances on the theatre side of the cultural smorgasbord.
A series of talks will allow you to delve deeper into the topics that interest you, from the history to literature.
At Norway Square, a cornerstone of the festival since its beginnings, you’ll find a daily dish of open-air poets and musicians between 12.30 and 2pm. Performers come from all over the country to share their stories and experiences with the avid audience. Rain never stops Bob Devereux’s popular event either, with the cover of nearby art galleries offering the perfect backup backdrop.
In 2022, we were delighted to sponsor the street entertainment programme, partly because we love watching it from our St Ives office (check out the view from our webcam) but mostly because we think it’s a fantastic way to celebrate the festival. As you wander around the streets of St Ives (presumably with an ice cream in hand) you’ll meet an array of musicians, dancers, and even the nautical entertainment of Barnabas, a 19th century fishing lugger that takes the festivities to the water, sailing from Newlyn to St Ives as she would have done 140 years ago.
With the Tate St Ives becoming part of the scenery above Porthmeor beach and a truly impressive collection of art galleries scattered throughout the town, it will be of little surprise that art is a big part of the St Ives September Festival. A series of exhibitions will be held around the town, from Porthmeor Studios where you’ll find the popular Spot the Artist annual charity sale, to Penwith Gallery, which will be exploring both modern day and 20th century Cornish artists.
Go one step further into the creative process with the many open studios around St Ives, which provide the chance to talk to the artists themselves. You’ll get a fantastic glimpse into their creative processes while enjoying a sneak peek into what they’re working on now.
With over 30 artists opening their studios to the public, you’ll be spoilt for choice for some artistic snooping. Check out the works of writer turned painter Ann Kelley, or the beautiful handmade Spanish classical guitars by Chris Smith - which you’re encouraged to go and try out!
It wouldn’t be a celebration of culture and creativity if you weren’t encouraged to get stuck in! Throughout the two weeks, there’s a whole host of workshops where you can try your hand at the likes of drawing, painting, pottery, and even trapezing!
St Ives School of Painting will be putting on a range of workshops that give everyone a chance to pick up a pencil, brush, or piece of charcoal, whether this is your first foray into the world of art or you’re a seasoned pro looking for some inspiration, from life drawing and minimalist landscape creative exercises to help discover (or rediscover) your creative voice.
There are plenty of workshops to get the little ones interested in art as well. Over at the Leach studios, the whole family can get messy with some family-friendly workshops. Kids can also have a swing at the aerial arts with the Sky High Trapeze workshops - don’t worry, adults can have a go too in the session after.
Want to delve into the culture and history surrounding St Ives while getting your daily steps in? The St Ives Town Walk is a fascinating look at how the town has developed and changed over the years while stopping at some of the town’s most interesting historical sites. You’ll learn about St Ives’ history of fishing and mining, as well as how tourism and the arts have shaped the townscape.
Taking things a little further afield, there are plenty of walks that will take you out into the rugged cliffscape that surround St Ives as you discover the fascinating archaeology of west Penwith, from stone circles to megalithic tombs.
Giving you a closer look at some of the area’s historic creators, a guided walk and tour of Virginia Woolf’s Talland House Garden is a captivating look at the author’s summer home, where she wrote the likes of To The Lighthouse, Jacob’s Room, and The Waves.
A walk with artist Melissa Hampson-Smith will provide you with the chance to walk, sketch and enjoy the stunning scenery around St Ives (all materials included). This fun and uber creative stroll really takes on the essence of the festival as a place to explore both the physical and abstract spirit of St Ives.
We definitely recommend heading out and embarking on your own walks in and around St Ives as there are some seriously awe-inspiring routes you can explore, any of which are sure to cause a flurry of creative inspiration. As you wander around St Ives, be sure to stop off at the many tempting pubs and bars, as the atmosphere you’ll find here during the festival is unparalleled and well-worth experiencing - not to mention inspiring walks can be thirsty work!
Ready to get stuck into the creative festivities of the St Ives September Festival? Check out our beautiful collection of holiday cottages in St Ives for the perfect place to base yourself during your stay. Check out our guide on the many great things to do in St Ives to really make the most of your unforgettable trip to this spectacular area of Cornwall.