Its award-winning beaches and restaurants may attract surfers, holidaymakers and gourmands, but St Ives has long been a magnet for musicians, writers and artists. Pre-dating such things as ‘Best Seaside Town’ accolades and decent transport links, balladeers and beatniks, potters and painters, visionaries and dreamers flocked to this former fishing village, many of them staying and making it their home.
Considered by many to be the cultural capital of Cornwall, September sees St Ives hosting one of the longest running, and most established music and arts festivals, in the UK. Promising a bigger, bolder, better programme than ever before, this year’s aims to suit all tastes and pockets. Music, theatre, dance, exhibitions, art classes, photography, film, comedy, storytelling, poetry, talks, walks and workshops… you name it they’ve got it. And with any luck plenty of sunshine too.
Festival chairman Alan Shepherd was parachuted in last year to help out, and has remained firmly on the ground and in the SISF zone ever since. Like painting the Forth Bridge it’s a never-ending twelve month job, but in the final few days before curtain-up there’s a kind of momentum and inevitability that it is all going to happen.
“When you start seeing the flags around the town and sense the buzz of excitement, it’s such a fantastic feeling,” says Alan. “There are still lots of details to sort out, and admin, but the hardest work’s already been done.”
Having inherited 2013’s festival, Alan’s been keen to put his stamp on this one, and believes they’ve achieved the most comprehensive line-up so far. Maintaining the tradition of bringing down internationally acclaimed headliners, the emphasis this year has been on programming some excellent home-grown Cornish music and performances as well.
“Visitors don’t ordinarily get to see many Cornish bands,” points out Alan. “They’re playing to new audiences, so it’s great exposure for our local talent.”
Creative, musical, arty folk living here really value the festival too, as it provides a rare opportunity to see such high calibre practitioners, in their respective fields, on their doorstep. A win-win for everyone – including local business owners, who all do a roaring trade despite the fact that the holiday season has officially ended.
With over 300 events to choose from, the hardest bit will be deciding which ones to go to. If you’ve not booked already, you’re too late for Port Isaac’s sensational shanty singers Fisherman’s Friends, and all the tickets for Steve Knightley’s gig at the St Ives Theatre have been snapped up too. One half of Show of Hands (winners of Best Duo and Best Original Song at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2012) Steve is a phenomenal singer-songwriter in his own right, as anyone who has heard his anthemic ballad Cousin Jack about Cornish miners will know. Steve is also the SISF festival patron, with this particular gig sponsored by us here at Aspects Holidays.
So whether epic space-rock legends Hawkwind are your thing, or lyrical Brit-poppers The South (the next chapter of The Beautiful South) are your must-see gig, or maybe the whirlwind of sounds that is indie chamber psychedelic folkies the Moulettes sweeps you along in their wake, do check out the festival website for all the latest news and information.
Alan’s keen to see the return of Keltrix, all girl rockers from Cambridge who describe themselves as a three-piece ‘she beast’ and were a real hit last year. Catch them at The Western Hotel Saturday 20th. While West Cornwall trio Tyn Daga are presenting a World Music and Dance Night at The Guildhall Tuesday 16th, with delicious cuisine available from Ruby June’s Indian Kitchen and the Ginger Mexican.
Alan’s also delighted that Truro and Penwith College students, together with St Ives School, are staging their own showcase at St Ives Theatre Thursday 25th, as it, “…gets the young people involved, which is crucial as they really are the future.”
And for my money, you can’t miss Bob Devereux’s iconic free lunchtime music and poetry sessions in Norway Square. One of the original founders and principle movers and shakers of the festival 36 years ago, the fact that he’s still serenading tourists, locals and seagulls now is tantamount to Bob’s remarkable energy and enthusiasm, and the festival’s importance to the townspeople themselves.
Other highlights are the Ceramic Pit Firing on Porthmeor beach, Open Studios and gallery events throughout the town, St Ives Arts Club’s eclectic programme of talks, films and shows, the chance to pick up a brush on one of the St Ives School of Painting art workshops, mooching around the back streets and stumbling across buskers and random performances, ice creams and pasties by the harbour…not forgetting the breathtaking coastal views and sunsets.
All credit to the organisers and the fantastic team of volunteers who make it happen, as it’s a world class festival which also plays a pivotal role in community life.
View our cottages in St Ives >
Just remember to quote “September festival” at the time of booking!