We had been driving past St Dennis for years, not paying it attention, just another village in Clay Country. But this was a place on the brink of dramatic change, the clay industries had all but disappeared and regeneration plans were being rolled out. The most extraordinary thing about this work is how, in the brief space of a few weeks, the village reveals itself, through its people, as a place of extraordinary talent, pride and resilience.
HONOURING THE PAST
The first stage of the work, Honouring the Past, showed that St Dennis is a place with a strong memory of itself. There are many private photography archives, lovingly kept by community members who are also able to animate the images with wonderful stories. These photographs revealed an incredibly active and self-sufficient community and the thing they had in common was a sense of people working together, and having fun together. WildWorks artists spent two weeks gathering material that was then turned into the most beautiful memory boxes. These were shared at a number of tea parties held by WildWorks.
HEART OF CLAY
Making the film ‘Heart of Clay’ we found a strong thread linking the past to the present. It was very heartening to see the pride of place that endures in the young people of St Dennis. The children of St Dennis were central to the process, inviting their families into school and making wonderful objects about their sense of belonging to the area.
The final part of the project ‘Imagining Futures’ tapped into the resourceful spirit that we found in the Clay Country, and provided a forum for people to express their dreams, fears and aspirations. We took over the St Dennis Working Men’s Institute and created a village within the village. We made portable allotments, a museum of the past, a library of the future…not forgetting the reconstruction of the old St Dennis Plaza Cinema. We held an all-day party and the people of St Dennis came and talked to us and, more importantly, to each other, about their dreams, their fears, and their love of the place.
“The specially prepared room in the Institute looked extraordinary and brimmed with the attention to detail, wit and beauty that told people that they and their community were valuable and their ideas counted for something.”
Rose Barnecut – Co-Director, Creative Unit, Cornwall County Council