Wildworks projects have happened all over the world and yet we’re never happier than when we’re making work at home in Cornwall. I’m happier than ever, because this year we’re making work in my hometown of St Austell. For those of you less familiar, St Austell grew as a market town on the south coast of Cornwall, with fishing and clay mining as traditional industry- and lovingly referred to as St Awful by some. Like so many places in Cornwall this is a town of the ’haves and have nots’.
St Austell bay has a series of beaches and Carlyon Bay- home to ‘I am Kevin’ this summer- is made up of three beaches; Crinnis (the most well-known and name most commonly used for the location), Polgaver and Shorthorn. Carlyon Bay was also home to The Coliseum, a large music and event venue that hosted all the greats and for a long time was the only real large venue in the south west for a very long time.
I feel like I have grown up at Carlyon Bay and now bringing a Wildworks show there is the next part of my relationship with it. I’m not here seeking memories of others to understand it, to get under its skin. I am a holder of memories.
As a child Carlyon Bay was an exciting day out. It had a massive bouncy castle, a mini golf course and a small railway that ran along the back of the beach to the other two beaches (one of them was a nudist beach so it was an exciting rail journey for many reasons). It also had an outdoor swimming pool that in my teenage years was the place of sunny weekend and summer holiday hangouts. The Coliseum also ran a weekly roller disco on a Sunday afternoon and where I was first allowed without the all-seeing supervision of my parents. I attended my first live gig at the coliseum (James), celebrated my sister’s wedding at the Ocean Suite (after the Carlyon Bay Hotel) and worked my first festival bar (Eclipse Festival 1999). It also housed the only nightclub which is remembered by a different name depending on your age! For me and my friends, it was under 18s Quasars before changing its name to Gossips; the nightclub no one admitted they were heading to at the weekend but where everyone inevitably ended up when the pub called last orders.
I am far from alone in my nostalgia. There is a group on Facebook dedicated to sharing memories and for decades Carlyon Bay and the Coliseum shaped childhoods, rites of passages and hosted music legend after music legend. If you want a musical and visual trip to the Carlyon Bay of the past, then you can’t do much better than this Alison Moyet music video…
Now we are bringing another form of life to the place; creating new memories that will blow about the beach long after we have gone.
Carlyon Bay for me represents a childhood and youth of happy memories, of fun, of activity; yet these days my rosy nostalgia is also tinged with some sadness. My close friend, that lived just up the road from the beach, the one I spent many of those halcyon days with; the friend I roller-skated with, saw my first gig with, lay by the pool with, tragically decided to end her life in 2021. My friend was lost in the darkness. Without giving away too much of a spoiler, ‘I am Kevin’ resonates so much for me when I think of her and her journey to escape the prophecy of her birth. After her death there were the expected outpourings of love from those of us who knew and loved her but there were also many, many messages from people who barely knew her, strangers really, and yet whose day she had improved by always smiling at them or a quick chat on her local beach or in the shop. She was an artist and talented photographer and the light for so many. She would love this show.