Celebrating the town’s colourful artistic and musical heritage, and with more than 300 events taking place over fifteen days, the St Ives September festival is not to be missed. The headline acts at The Guildhall have all been confirmed, with tickets available online and at designated outlets. With sell-out shows every year, 2015 promises to be no exception, so if you’re hoping to see a particular performance, don’t be too last minute or you may end up disappointed.Festival patrons Steve Knightley and Phil Beer will be opening the festival with their BBC Radio 2 Folk Award-winning band Show of Hands (Best Duo, Best Original Song and Best Live Act) on Saturday September 12th. A group that always delivers, you can also catch Steve’s ‘All at Sea’ solo show at The Mariner’s Gallery, Sunday 13th, while double bassist and vocalist Miranda Sykes, will be teaming up with virtuoso mandolin player Rex Preston back at The Guildhall again, Monday 14th.
Kate Rusby, Dervish, John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest, Chris Jagger & The Kronies, Legend – The Bob Marley Show, The Beat, Joanne Shaw Taylor and more. Whatever your musical persuasion, you’ll find an un-missable night out to suit. Not forgetting the series of fringe gigs put on by the St Ives Jazz Club at The Western Hotel, events at The St Ives Theatre, or the numerous local pubs who programme their own live entertainment, featuring the very best of home grown Cornish talent.
Don’t be limited by what’s officially listed though, as part of this festival’s appeal is what you stumble upon unexpectedly. An impromptu performance in a cafe, or an amazing busker down Fore Street, maybe a sunset session on Porthmeor beach, where the sound of the waves is as good a backing track as you could ever wish for.
And it’s not all about music. St Ives has never strayed far from its Beatnik roots, with art and literature being equally important when it comes to the town’s character and ethos. Walks, talks, workshops, film, comedy, theatre, storytelling, poetry, book launches, exhibitions – you’ll find anything and everything your artistic heart desires.
You could spend a whole day alone just wandering round the myriad of independent galleries, where you may well be tempted to take something lovely home with you. Or perhaps a good few hours immersed in The Tate St Ives, or soaking up the atmosphere in the delightful Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, or if you’re into pots, visiting the world renowned Leach Pottery and Studio. Local artists open their studio doors at this time too, providing a unique opportunity to chat to them at work, and see how they go about doing what they do.
The St Ives School of Painting is well worth a visit as well, where you’re welcome to sign up to one of their special festival art courses, or just turn up at their regular drop-in life classes on a Wednesday evening or Saturday daytime – no experience necessary, just a willingness to give it a go and have fun with it. The same goes for any of the workshops being run during the festival, be they creative writing, photography, textiles or whatever. A chance to hone existing skills or maybe try something new, there’s nothing like rolling your sleeves up and getting stuck in.
And if you’re in the vicinity, pop along to Norway Square for Bob Devereux’s free lunchtime music and poetry sessions. There at the start in 1978, and a primary festival mover and shaker, Bob’s still serenading tourists, locals and seagulls alike, and is a genuine St Ives’ treasure. Artist, poet, librettist and raconteur extraordinaire, he continues to contribute so much to the cultural life of the town, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Watch out for his legendary Big Frug cabaret night at St Ives Arts Club, where friends and invited guests take to the tiny stage to entertain you into the wee small hours. A wealth of talent all crammed into an evening, it’s one of the fortnight’s highlights, and a reminder of the can-do attitude that exits here.
The festival itself is entirely run by volunteers and goodwill, with local businesses, individuals and the council, all chipping in to make it happen. Recognising what a vital part it plays in community life, there’s a real sense that the locals are very proud of where they live. And they’re more than happy to share it with visitors.
Irrespective of what you’re in to, you can’t help but get caught up in the buzz and excitement generated during this time. Everyone gets involved and the whole place comes alive. You don’t have to attend the ticketed events either to have a good time, as there is so much more to this festival than the main music programme, while St Ives itself has plenty to offer, especially when festival fever takes hold.
Amazing restaurants and cafes for starters, catering for all tastes and pockets, or how about a DIY beach picnic made up of fine fresh local Cornish produce, as the September sun still has some heat in it. Or if you’ve never learned to surf before, this could be the ideal opportunity as the summer crowds will have gone, while the sea temperature remains surprisingly warm. Boat trips, coastal path walks, horse riding, indulgent spa treatments, boutique shopping, there’s plenty to see and do, but in September you get the added bonus of a cornucopia of cultural activities too.
Alternatively, just get lost in the back streets, mooch around the harbour, grab a coffee and read the paper, strike up a conversation with a stranger, try a Cornish lager, and savour those breathtaking views. www.stivesseptemberfestival.co.uk
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