Cornwall LivingIssue #62
The stars are out
Over 300 music and arts events planned at St Ives September Festival.
George Melly, Donovan, Barbara Dickson, Elkie Brooks, Billy Bragg and Fairport Convention are among the famous names to have graced the St Ives September Festival since it began in 1978. But, as well as attracting the stars, the 15-day festival provides a valuable late-season tourist boost for the town.
“In 1995 we discovered the St Ives September Festival because we wanted to see (singer-songwriter) John Otway and we’ve been coming ever since.”
While many seaside towns are sliding quietly into autumn, more than 300 music and arts events ensure St Ives remains vibrant deep into September. The volunteer-run festival opens on 9th September with the first of two Saturdays packed with street entertainment. From folk music to films, poetry to pottery, theatre, open art studios, walks, talks and a pit-fired ceramic demonstration alongside the surfers on Porthmeor Beach, St Ives Festival delivers a broad spectrum of events.
Guildhall attractions include four BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners: John McCusker, Show of Hands, Looe-based Sam Kelly of The Changing Room and Cara Dillon. And The Ronnie Scott’s All-Stars, from the famous London jazz club, return for two more Western Hotel nights, with a Soho Songbook and 100 years of Ella Fitzgerald.
Steve Knightley of Festival patrons Show of Hands, who have packed out the Royal Albert Hall, considers St Ives a “must-play event”, adding: “We can’t wait to be back.”Ireland’s Cara Dillon, who appeared in 2012, recalled: “A fantastic show. After the concert the whole band and I ended up in an improvised cabaret sketching session in a painting club until 2am!”
That sums up a festival where the unexpected can be round the next corner, in the next gallery or pub – much of it free.
Norway Square has become a festival tradition, with poet Bob Devereux hosting lunchtime sessions since 1981. One Square regular, poet and singer Ray Turner, was so smitten that he and his wife moved to Cornwall. Ray explained: “In 1995 we discovered the St Ives September Festival because we wanted to see (singer-songwriter) John Otway and we’ve been coming ever since.
Finally we moved from London to Penzance in 2009 because we wanted to be closer to the festival.”
It has that sort of enduring effect on people!
"In 1995 we discovered the St Ives September Festival because we wanted to see (singer-songwriter) John Otway and we’ve been coming ever since."