From the fringes of our coast to the heart of the high street, pop-up ventures, in many and varied forms, are taking Cornwall by storm.
With summer just around the corner, now’s the time to consider how to make the most out of Cornwall in the sun, a question that’s relevant to both out-and-about weekenders as well as small, local businesses. There is one solution – a concept that, over last few years, has taken the nation by storm: pop-ups!
But what is a pop-up? In basic terms, a pop-up venture is one that can, quite literally, pop up anywhere. In Cornwall, the unique geography means you can find them in the most unusual and astounding locations, from the sands of the north coast to the clifftops of the south and anywhere in between. Interestingly, while pop-ups are by no means a new concept, there’s a common misconception that they’re limited to foodie stalls and bars. On the contrary, being without the same restrictions as high street stores, commercial pop-ups appear wherever the crowds are and naturally, the more that emerge along our coastline, the more intense the competition becomes. In order to succeed, new ventures need to offer something different, something that sets them apart from the crowd and it’s this, I think, that makes them so exciting!
You’ll already have seen some of the converted vans, horse boxes and shipping containers dotted around the coast, but it goes deeper than that: pop-ups are beginning to change the face of the high street itself, particularly where there’s empty shop space in need of filling.
Pop-ups in the community
Just look at Pop Up Penzance (PUPz). I recently caught up with PUPz co-founders, Maria and Rachel who, being incredibly passionate about what they do, explained how they like to take empty shops and create opportunities for others to utilise the space; improving the appearance of the high street by doing away with boarded doors and windows.
“Our aim is to bring footfall into the town centre by creating a variety of happenings and to offer opportunities to others to engage the public on the high street.” Working alongside the local community, they’ve been involved in a number of projects to this effect, including The Pop Up Tate. Launched in collaboration with Tate St Ives and artist Emma Saffy-Wilson, the aim was simple – to put art-making opportunities under the noses of Penzance’s youth by transforming an unused space into a hub of activity and within days, artistic young locals had taken positive ownership of it.
Impressively, PUPz also involves itself in commercial ventures, recognising the importance of being able to ‘dip a toe’ before plunging in headfirst. Mousehole Fish, for instance, having initially ran a four-week pop-up trial is still open, four years later!
As you might expect, the work that Rachel, Maria and co. do must inevitably encounter obstacles. Legal stumbling blocks such as paperwork and unaffordable overheads can put off even the most enthusiastic venture. So, when I spoke with Helen Willett of Coodes Solicitors, Penzance, I was pleased to learn that, by working closely with PUPz and Penzance Business Improvement District, she’d been able to find a solution.
“There was a need for a difference to be established between what defines commercial and community pop-ups.” Helen explained how she drafted a new, comparatively shortened document that both satisfies uneasy landlords and makes things easier for tenants, a huge step for Penzance!
Pop-up theatre is becoming ever more popular and it’s easy to see why. A high-calibre performance is one thing, but add to it the dramatic setting of a woodland or clifftop and it becomes suspended in half-reality, gaining a sense of authenticity that’s impossible to achieve indoors.
I spoke with Annie Ukleja, Managing Director at Miracle Theatre, who told me: “We love the fact that we can turn up in the middle of nowhere and transform a field, garden or clifftop into a wonderful theatre venue. We just pull up in our big pink van, set up the stage, set and sound system and we’re ready to go!”
According to Annie, even the changeable Cornish weather doesn’t put them off, explaining that: “Whatever Mother Nature contributes on the night will inevitably lead to a one off combination, meaning no show is ever the same!”
A great spot for enjoying the thrills and spills of outdoor theatre is Carlyon beach, near St Austell. Enjoying its own devoted hard-stand area, Carlyon sets the bar when it comes to things that pop-up and throughout the summer, visitors can expect a fantastic programme of events which, in the past, have included pop-up performances from Rogue theatre, the popular Skyscape cinema on the beach as well as fantastic foodie banquets – dinner and a show!http://www.faloyster.co.uk
Taking pride of place at Carlyon, last year, was Ostraca, Fal Oyster’s pop-up Oyster Box. Built from a shipping container and fitted with a hydraulic decking and full bi-fold doors, this smartly converted-contraption is used primarily as a go-anywhere oyster bar. Impressively, it can also be used as an open lounge, a beach bar, a pop-up restaurant; even a live music venue, making it a
fine example of what makes pop-ups so unique! For details on where you can find Ostraca this summer, visit www.faloyster.co.uk.
In the name of enjoying the recent, glorious weather, my partner and I went to meet co-founders of Craftworks Street Kitchen, Mick and Danny as they readied their all-new food truck for service.
Having already had huge success with the Craftworks Street Kitchen restaurant in Truro, the pair decided to seize the opportunity to put their winning formula on wheels and, if the brisket beef burritos we tried that afternoon are anything to go by, I’d say they’re definitely onto a winner!
Throughout the summer, you’ll find the Craftworks truck in Wadebridge, just up from the Camel Trail next to Bike Smart. It’ll also be attending certain festivals over the warmer months, so be sure to keep an eye on the Facebook page.
Indeed, festivals are a great way to enjoy the top of the pop-ups, with Cornwall’s festival scene presenting some great opportunities for businesses looking to cater to a crowd seeking new experiences. One such company that’s happy to oblige is Kernow Springs, with its roaming Eco Spa. Company founder, Martin Dean and his family – who love going to festivals – have long-since recognised that revellers, instead of slumming it, are starting to seek a little luxury among the usual festival-frivolities.
The spa, which includes plunge pools, hot tubs, saunas – you name it – is a wonderful break from the usual, grubby day-to-day of festival life. It’s also available for hire for weddings, parties and corporate events and, being a ‘roaming’ spa, the team will happily set up in almost any location, be it on the side of a lake or atop a cliff overlooking the sea. To find out more visit www.kernowsprings.co.uk.
If you’d like to see the Kernow Springs team in action, head to this year’s summer Masked Ball, a fiercely popular date on the national festival calendar and a hub of pop-up activity. Kelvin Batt, the man behind the magic explained: “The Masked Ball has grown a great reputation, not only for throwing the best parties but also for doing things locally. I moved down when I was young and there wasn’t much going on here. Events such as the Masked Ball provide a great boost for the local economy!”
There you have it. Whether it’s a commercial venture that’s just testing the water; one that’s aimed at filling unused shop space and increasing footfall in the high street or one that continues to give back to the locals, year after year, pop-ups have so much to offer the Cornish community. And, with food and music festivals lined up throughout the summer, as well as static pop-ups just waiting to be discovered throughout the county’s most stunning locations, there’s plenty to see for anyone getting out and about. Remember, if you just keep an open mind and aren’t afraid to try something new, you’ll be amazed at what you might find.