Wednesday, 6 November 2013
Sunday, 21 July 2013
Thursday, 20 June 2013
A ship named the Scillonian has been sailing out of Penzance harbour since 1926, but how many Penzance inhabitants have actually stepped on board?
Judging by those we’ve asked, the answer is: not many, and we include ourselves in this guilty group. We are happy to watch it slip gracefully out of the bay every morning and enjoy the sight of the iconic white ship as it returns from St Mary’s in the evening – but that’s as far as it goes. It is a common phenomenon that natives of an area are the very ones who ignore its greatest assets; like the Londoners who’ve never visited the capital’s galleries and museums.
For as little as £35 we could be sailing to enchanting subtropical islands. People travel to our town from all over the country to do it, so what’s stopping us?
We wanted to learn more about the Scillonian experience, to find out why taking the trip should be an indispensable part of Penzance life. We’d also heard that the ship had recently undergone a complete refit, so we were keen to understand how the service had been upgraded. Our curiosity led us to the offices of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group and a meeting with Commercial Manager Nick Sanders and Marketing Manger Jackie Hayman, who also let us jump on board (albeit temporarily) before a morning sailing.
Much has been written about the beautiful archipelago with its temperate Oceanic climate, just 40 miles from our shores, so we won’t reiterate that point, but we were interested to learn that there are unique attractions on the island route itself. Wildlife guide and surveyor Paul Semmens runs the Isles of Scilly Travel Wildlife Blog, and has accrued an incredible catalogue of marine animal sightings. It’ll be no surprise to most of us to hear that grey seals, common dolphins and basking sharks are regularly spotted, but did you imagine that Cornish waters were home to bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, harbour porpoises, minke whales, fin whales, leatherback turtles and sunfish? Didn’t think so. The voyage also offers a unique view of our coastline as it sails past Newlyn, Mousehole, the Minack Theatre and Wolf Rock Lighthouse.
And today the Scillonian experience is more enjoyable than it’s ever been. The present ship, the Scillonian III, sailed her maiden voyage on 19 May 1977 and has made over 7,000 return trips. She is due to be replaced in five years or so, but in the meantime the refit has done wonders for her onboard facilities. Nick explains that the internal parts of the ship were stripped right back to the metal and refurbished, including a brand new food franchise and smart, modern bathrooms. Of course, there will always be the inherent hurdle of finding your sea legs if the water’s choppy, but from a passenger’s point of view the whole environment is relatively luxurious.
But the service isn’t just about happy holidays, the Scillonian and it’s partner freight vessel, the Gry Maritha provide a real lifeline to the islands. Almost everything that goes in or comes out must be taken by one of these two ships, whether it’s livestock, over 100 rowings boats for the annual World Pilot Gig Championships or even the daily rubbish collection.
The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group also runs the air link to the islands, with aircraft flying from the new £1 million terminal at Land’s End, as well as from Exeter and Newquay. All this locally-focused investment is good news, and the Group is one of the area’s biggest employers, bringing 50 new jobs to the region. Employees are mainly local and tend to stay with the company for years, and, as if to prove the point, we were introduced to captain, Pete Crawford, who has skippered the Scillonian for three decades. Joking about his long service, we asked if he knew the way by now, Pete replied, ‘I just follow a long, invisible piece of string’.
Meeting the people who run it, seeing the ship and its crew hard at work, and watching the eager tourists marching aboard, we understand better what an important part the Scillonian plays in our society. And, having expunged all our excuses, it won’t be long before we too are island bound.
Sunday, 9 June 2013
Friday, 10 May 2013
Saturday, 6 April 2013
Penzance Post presents Silly Boys: a young and potent performance company kicking up the creative dust in West Cornwall.
However, we’ve spied one spark of hope locally in the form of Silly Boys who are Newlyn boy Callum Mitchell, 26, Seamas Carey, 19, and Alex Heane, also just 19. So you see, when we say ‘young’, we mean it, but the trio’s talent, vision and professionalism belies their tender years.
All three are the offspring of local artistic families – for example, Seamas’ father is one of the founders of Kneehigh – and, as such, they have been brought up within the crucible of Cornwall’s creative scene. And now, as they reach the age where they are able to make things happen for themselves, they see the real need for more homemade entertainment. They regard the general lack of local activity as an opportunity, rather than disheartening. And their shows are being snapped up, proving that local venues are hungry for new talent.
The setting up of Silly Boys in 2012 was a very natural process, and came to pass after the boys had been out in the world gaining invaluable experience; Callum working with Show and Tell in Edinburgh and Seamas touring Europe with Bash Street. And now, it seems, they are on a frenzied campaign to fill the county’s cultural void; as well as producing their own shows, they are also bringing other quality acts to our regional theatres. The boys have their fingers in many pies and their ideas for new projects are only limited by the speed at which they can realise them.
As we talk to them, the creative chemistry between the three is tangible. While Callum will mull and then expound at length on a topic, the other two sit respectfully, until Seamas erupts with a funny anecdote that gets all three throwing around thoughts, jokes and stories, drifting off-point in a natural, outward spiralling of imagination. You can easily see how their creative process is fed by this joyful interactivity, and how their artistic journey won’t ever stick to the map.
This purposeful aversion to uniformity means they are reluctant to pigeonhole their collective style, and they cite influences as contrasting as Buster Keaton and Woody Allen, and from Balkan gypsy jazz to rap. But if we are to be stubborn and seek a connecting theme, it is the unplanned, unhinged style of comedy accompanied by songs and music that characterises their work. From this we can draw lazy comparisons with the likes of The Flight of the Conchords and The Mighty Boosh, but unlike these established acts, the Silly Boys aren’t interested in defining set characters or boundaries for themselves, at least not yet.
Their philosophy is to create an edge through spontaneity; by never over-rehearsing they force improvisation, which is often the source of their best humour. And, partly through necessity, partly through choice, they tend to opt for the low budget option, where the charity shop becomes their props cupboard and friends and family become their crew. But what the finished product lacks in polish, the boys make up for in fresh ideas and energy, which they bring to each show by the bag load.
Lets’s look at their output to date. Firstly, we see Callum and Seamas take on their stand-up persona as Underdog, where spoken word and songs mingle in charmingly quirky and improvised comic ramblings, most recently seen at the The Lost and Found Cafe in Chapel Street. Then we see Seamas and Alex in The Silent Film Club, providing live music for classic silent movies in sell-out performances at The Poly in Falmouth. And this month all three take their children's puppet show, The Tallest Horse on Earth, on the road.
Puppetry is a skill none of the boys claimed to possess, but that’s just indicative of their fearlessness. Performing for children is also something they’ve never done before, but it appeared to be a type of theatre that was under-supplied. However, the boys are keen to explain that the show will also appeal to grown-ups with a penchant for the quirky.
The Tallest Horse on Earth starts its tour of small theatres and village halls on 15th April at Exeter’s Bike Shed, comes to The Centre, Newlyn on 20th April and hits St. Just WI Hall on 17th May. Book your tickets on the CRBO Box Office.
Their connections in the industry have also led them to act as the production company for the local shows of other artists. Recently, a capacity crowd at The Acorn Theatre welcomed Molly Naylor in her enchanting monologue performance of My Robot Heart. And on April 27th, Penzance will be treated to the comic musings of Rob Auton when he brings his Edinburgh Fringe 2012 hit The Yellow Show to The Ritz, supported by Underdog. Buy tickets (only £5) from The Lost and Found Cafe.
As you can see, it’s hard work being a Silly Boy; while their theatre can be outlandish and unpredictable, it’s matched by the seriousness of their ambition and dedication. And all their effort means that we get to enjoy high quality homegrown theatre productions on our doorstep. So if anyone bemoans the dearth of local live entertainment, just point them to anything that has the name Silly Boys attached to it.
Images & film © Nik Strangelove
Monday, 25 March 2013
Newlyn without a fish chef is like Dublin without a publican. It just ain’t right.
It has been that way for overly long, but now, thankfully, Ben Tunnicliffe is at The Tolcarne Inn.
Ben is a lifelong chef, an unswerving specialist. He studied at Bournemouth college in the late 80s, which he believes was then, and still is, one of the best places to learn to be a chef. As part of his course, he worked with Grand Chef Michel Trama is his lauded 2 Michelin star restaurant in south west France. This early exposure to the kitchen of such a heavyweight chef gave Ben a serious grounding in the classics and an appreciation of the very highest levels of culinary skill and dedication to craft.
The siren call of Cornwall came when friend Grant Nethercott, chef owner of Alba in St Ives alerted Ben to an opportunity at Jean Shrimpton’s Abbey Hotel in Penzance. Jean and her husband Michael wanted to put the former Zero Club space to use and create a restaurant that would compliment the charming boutique accommodation that the Abbey offers Penzance’s well-heeled visitors. Ben and his wife met with the hoteliers and a plan formed. Working together to renovate the space, they opened as the Abbey restaurant in 2001, with Ben buying the lease in 2005 and working there until selling up in 2008. They set the Abbey up with a simple ethos inspired by his Catholic upbringing – to do unto others as you would have done to yourself. To translate that into cooking, he makes food that he wants to eat.
The Tolcarne Inn came up for sale at the right time for Ben; it was exactly what he wanted. A pub rather than a restaurant and, more, a pub in Newlyn – the ultimate source for his fine fish dishes. By this time, he was tiring of the ceremony that so often accompanies fine dining. He had never set out to be a Michelin starred chef, and wanted to do something more wholesome.
Being in Newlyn has led to an outright devotion to fish on his menus. In Ben’s previous kitchens, the ratio of fish to meat was roughly 50:50. At the Tolcarne, it is 90:10 in favour of fish. He sees fish as an ever changing bounty, dependent on weather and which boats are working. A good relationship with Stevenson ensures that Ben knows what has been landed and when, and he buys based on the reality of the catch rather than a preconceived idea of what he wants to work with.
Ben has very kindly shared a recipe with us. Do try this at home…
Salad of Ray with roasted pepper, sun-dried tomatoes and saffron scented dressing
1 stick celery
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
A splash of white wine
2 pints water
A good pinch of salt
For the saffron dressing
2 oz sun-dried tomatoes, diced
1 red pepper grilled, skinned and cut into dice same size as the tomatoes
1/2 medium hot chilli finely diced
2 cloves garlic finely crushed
1/4 pint extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp freshly chopped basil
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
Sweat the garlic in some of the extra virgin olive oil to cook out its harshness.
Mix everything together with the saffron and its water.
Season with salt and pepper and more sugar to taste.
To serve, flake the skate over rocket and watercress and spoon the dressing over.
Saturday, 9 March 2013
Tuesday, 5 March 2013
As we step through the portals of our period shop premises, we heedlessly tread upon the memorials of once prospering local businesses. These resplendent thresholds tell of a long-passed boom time when well-to-do owners with aspirations of grandeur would gladly pay to have the entrance to their properties paved with mosaics like the villa floors of Roman lords.
And thanks to their fired finish the beauty of these tiled trademarks is hardwearing; aside from the odd missing piece, kicked out like loose teeth, their pixel-like detail and colour remain as clear and proud as the day they were laid.
Images © Nik Strangelove
Images © Nik Strangelove