Transcript of a High Street Sound Walk in Redruth

This is a transcript of 'Street of Voices' or 'Stret an Levow', a High Street Sound Walk in Redruth by Sue Hill, Ciaran Clarke, Annamaria Murphy.

Anna: Welcome to Stret an Levow, Street of Voices. Everything you are about to hear has been inspired by stories we’ve been told, lived experience and fragments of history.

Our first story is set in the West End Departmental Stores, formerly the Redruth Drapery. Admire the beautiful, curved windows across the street and the splendid atrium where you are standing…

[Story 1]

Palace of Dreams

Shazz: West End Departmental Stores

[shop bell, background bustle of a crowd of shoppers]

A palace of glamour and dreams, all sweeping staircases and glimmering mirrors. The flounce and frou frou of the hat department - fascinators, fedoras, kettle-brims, berets and tams. Threads of every colour in haberdashery, sharps, bodkins, crewel, beading, felting, quilting and darning needles, tassels, fringes and ric-rac braid.

Trains and bears and building blocks in the toy department

[steam train whistle]

(‘Take a ride on the Mobo Bronco Galloping Horse!’). Purveyors of exotic confectionery in its top floor cafeteria (oh the sweet luxury of a Kunzle cake and a knickerbocker glory). And weekly fashion parades, decking the shop staff out in fashion finery (the New Look had to have its first Cornish swish and rustle here). Mr S, in his glass-fronted office, saw it all, kept it in order.

The highpoint of the year was the Christmas Grotto, a place of pilgrimage from the whole of Cornwall, an experience so enthralling that some folk now recall being transported through it on an actual magic carpet. Ushered through by green-and-red-clad pixies, we gazed at windows bedecked with sparkling foil and fairy lights into other worlds – tinsel-spangled penguins floating on glittering ice floes, their beaks clacking ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’, Rudolf flying through a starry sky, his nose flashing with a spinning red light like a Christmassy member of the emergency services, a UV-lit image of Christmas on Mars, with little green aliens tucking into plum pudding…

And then the encounter with Father Christmas, at once thrilling and terrifying, an enormous whiskery man, with the power to give you your heart’s desire. Or not.

Jackie and her friend Barbara became Saturday girls. They wanted to have the chance to be pixies, to wear those red tights and green tunics, to sing the carols and hand out the tiny toys to wide-eyed children, to perform, to be part of this magical dream. The long hours on corsetry, haberdashery or men’s accessories would be worth it.

Jackie was clever and creative. She had a sensational jumper that she had knitted. It had brightly coloured flowers all over it and a spectacular fringe. It was her best outfit, so modern, she wore it with pride on several Saturdays, delighting the eyes of customers and beautifying every counter she served at.

But then came the sharp rap on the glass from Mr S, and a beckoning finger.

Man’s voice: ‘Would you mind not wearing that again. It doesn’t fit the store’.

Shazz: Humiliation, embarrassment, defeat. Jackie was never selected to be a pixie, although Barbara was. Every year. To this day she believes her jumper to be the cause of her disappointment. (She confesses that she became a little sulky in the weeks after the reprimand, which might have made her less appealing as a pixie).

But Jackie’s talents didn’t go to waste. She danced and sang in dozens of shows, playing a singing nun, a Babe in the Woods and the Slave of the Ring, who appeared in the dazzling blaze of a magnesium flare, at the Regal ‘cross the road, another palace of dreams…

[live interviews]

Jackie: After that, I became a bit of a rebel in there I'm afraid. But I was never picked. That's probably what it was. Never picked for the Father Christmas grotto.

[Story 2]

Jack: Prodigal Son

The great stores in Redruth – West End, Cockings, John Knights – were all owned by members of a faith brotherhood. The Christian Brethren worshipped together but traded in competition with each other. Good men, they ran tight ships and believed that humanity could be improved with the values of Family, Work, Clean Living and Great Shopping.

Imagine a boy, child of the Brethren, growing up in the 60s and 70s. No discos and drink for him, no dancing, no rock, no flirting, no sly cigarettes with the shop girls on the roof terrace of the store. No,

[knock on wood]

it’s the Meeting House for prayer three times on Sundays, and every day for four days over Easter, when the other lads from school would be out on the randan, enjoying the first warmth of spring. No girlfriends for him, some of the Brethren have arranged marriages…

And when he’s not in school or prayer he’s in the shop, learning the family trade.

[sound of crowd]

He blushes easily, this boy. Mrs T, farmer’s wife, coming down the sweeping store staircase towards him, raises her skirt to her chin –

Woman’s voice: ‘Ere, Mr Knight, got any like these ave ee?’

Jack: And at the sight of what he calls her ‘harvest festivals, you know, all safely gathered in’, he blushes furiously.

His future path seems set. But then something breaks in him. There is a storm, [sound of storm] a biblical flood that sweeps through the centre of Redruth wrecking and contaminating everything in its path. The store and its stock are ruined. He cannot face the endless task of repairing and repainting and somehow, aged 17, manages to get sent to London for ‘training’.

[sound of London underground]

He is away for three years. It’s another life he says. When he returns he sets up one of the first boutiques in Cornwall on the top floor of the store, painted vibrant orange and purple, swagged with thick nautical rope, stocked with the most ravishing clothes. They make women feel and look glorious, splendid, beautiful, sexy, modern. It’s a kind of rebellion.

Ever the innovator, in a land used to tucking sheets and blankets in tightly, like swaddling, he introduces the duvet. He has to demonstrate their use to the Townswomen’s Guild,

[sound of background chattering] changing the duvet cover, fluffing and plumping. Even after his experiences in the city, this is an encounter fraught with embarrassment. The mature ladies of the town relish his discomfort, teasing and giggling with merciless double entendres.

He still blushes at the memory. You can take the boy out of the Brethren, but maybe you can’t take the Brethren out of the boy.

[live interviews]

Robin: No, no, no. They were having a whale of a time, actually, because I was so embarrassed of...

Anna: That sounds so brilliant!

Sue: Embarrassed young man.

Robin: Yes. Very, very embarrassed.

Anna: Did you have to demonstrate putting on the....

Robin: Yes. All the ...

Anna: Oh man!

Robin: ...you know, putting the covers on... And the duvets at the time were called Puffin duvets so they came from... Fin- Norway somewhere and they were pure down...

Sue: Down... yeah.

Robin: ...that sort of thing.

Sue: Did they buy them?

Robin: Oh, they started to but they probably... went afterwards they waited a while to see if they'd catch on.

[Story 3]

Dancing Around Redruth

This story is inspired by two women, Beverly and Melissa, mother and daughter, who have taught three generations of girls and boys to dance…

Sue: They say their tribe have been dancing around Redruth for over 50 years – Tabbs Arcade, the old Drill Hall. And the Regal of course. Magnificent in its clean Art Deco lines, calm amongst the copper cupolas, oriel windows, porticos and arches of Fore Street. But inside it was a warren of corridors and twisting staircases. A bizarre and magical place for a child, a world within the world, where you may meet a rat face to face on the stair, but might also be invited to the after-show party, in the bar high up in the gods at the back of the auditorium, knee-high amongst the grown-ups. A place of glamour, magic and fairy dust, but where you had to take an umbrella on the stairs because of the condensation dripping from the ceiling. Brilliant lights, velvet, sequins and satin, where sometimes you had to make your entrance tiptoeing across pallets because the undercroft had flooded.

The thrill and the fear side by side – Beverly says the stage manager was so frightening that, playing a monkey in Sinbad, she hid from him under the Grand Vizier’s cloak. But still she kept dancing. She gained a place at dance college but her family couldn’t afford to send her. So, she learnt to dance courtesy of Miss McGowan in Penzance. She would always dance. She tap-danced the night before each of her babies were born. Her husband would bring the babies down to the dance school to be breastfed. Miss McGowan said ‘Look at those feet. This one’s going to be a dancer’.

Her daughter makes her first appearance here aged three in The Wizard of Oz, teetering on a plank over the 20-foot drop into the orchestra pit below. Miss McGowan was right, this one is special. She flies. Ballet school at 12, examinations, competitions, where her pumps are shredded by 32 pirouettes on point. She is awarded the Royal Academy Solo Seal, aged 17, one of only five dancers in the world to receive it that year. Her future lies at her satin-clad feet.

She is auditioning at Pineapple Studios London with 800 other dancers. She makes it to the last 10. A session of high kicks and then suddenly, unaccountably, she is lying on the floor with her leg twisted at an impossible angle behind her. The Harley Street consultant says ‘You’ll be lucky to walk again, let alone dance’. There is a hole the size of a 10 pence piece in her cartilage. It is agony, bone on bone.

Catastrophe, despair. There is no backup plan, dance was everything. A gruelling two years of recuperation follow. And then a Cornish surgeon offers her hope. He has heard of a new procedure. So far it’s only been used on racehorses…

But it works. She dances, she works alongside her Mum at the school and gets to play every splendid leading role in the repertoire.

[light applause]

She is cast as Sally in Me and My Girl. They have a problem trying to find anyone without a Cornish accent to play the cockney, Bill Snibson. Richard is from Hounslow. ‘He’ll do’ she says. They have their first kiss below the stage here at the Regal and are married the following year. When they are cast as Eliza Dolittle and Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady, she wears the green velvet cloak she wore on her wedding day and the glorious green hat that the mother-of-the-bride wore.

She says philosophically ‘Life works its way to where you’re meant to be’

Melissa: Well, you're definitely on the third generation aren't you?

Beverly: Yeah, yeah. I always used to say to Melissa 'Show them what little Cornish girls can do', because people think 'Cornwall???' you know. And now I say to Ben 'Show them what little Cornish boys can do'. And now I say to them, before an exam... and they all go 'show them what little Cornish boys can do!' [laughter]

[sound of children playing]

Anna: The children rename the town–

Child: WellyDog Square

Rough Park

Meet by the Miner?

We even name the trees – David, Phil and Sally

Anna: But they cut down Phil. The children gave his twig a funeral ceremony in the brewery least.

[Story 4]

The Grow Box

Anna: This is the story of a local hero - young man, student nurse - who came to the rescue of a vital shop in Redruth’s hour of need…

[sound of fridge running]

Jane: What've you done to it Mary?

Woman: Sorry?

Jane: What've you done to it?

Woman: I didn't I just picked it up... Okay... I am now... from four o'clock this afternoon, retired.

Jane: Honestly?

Woman: Yep.

Jane: Ah.

Woman: Finally... Packed it in.

Jane: Seven twenty-five please Mary.

Woman: Thank you.

Lee: Last year, we came to find out that... the greengrocers was going to close. So it was a case of really, well, we can't let that happen. It would have been terrible really. With everything else going on with the pandemic to lose quite a, you know, quite a core, small independent business in the town I think would have been, wouldn't have been good at all.

Man: You can't get any better in life... sorry.

Man: We're just chatting.

Woman: I thought you were queueing

Man: No we’re chatting, we're not allowed to queue

Woman: Well one has to have a chat. Yeah.

Lee: So we um... we negotiated with the previous owners. Who like I said were going to close it and came to an arrangement then basically and we took it on. And that was from the first of August last year, so we’re already about 12 months already into the journey of where we're at with this now. So, yeah, and it's all come on in leaps and bounds, really. We added a delivery service on to the business, which was extremely busy through the pandemic.

Woman: Down Tesco’s, on Wednesday they've not got anything on the shelves.

Jane: I know? And a lot of people bulk buy, you know, buy too much.

Woman: Yes, they panic buy though don't they. Greedy really innit.

Jane: Yeah it is.

Woman: All right so take care.

Jane: Yeah. Thank you. Bye.

Lee: You know, it's been a greengrocers here for, or a fruit market I think I've seen it referred to on a map, for over a hundred years. So there's a lot of history behind the shop here, really. Unfortunately, business change, you know, businesses change, people change. There's a lot of out-of-town shopping centres and things and people don't shop in the town centre like they used to. It's all about convenience and price and things for a lot of people because they're busy and they're trying to stretch their money as far as they can. So, it is difficult for businesses like us to continue to thrive in the environment and in the market now.

Man 1: I’m not here because… I’ve just had my COVID jab.

Sue: I just want to ask you some questions.

Jane: Hello, you alright?

Man 2: After the big time spent with it, it’s just an excuse to get on my bike and come and see you, y’know?

Jane: Oh thank you, you’ve made my day.

Man 1: That type of… Madness.

Jane: 57 pence please.

Man 2: My wife thinks I talk a load of rubbish, but you know different to her, don’t you?

Jane: I know different, yes.

[sound of coins]

Man: How much do you want?

Jane: 57 pence please.

Lee: I was actually out on placement when, when I phoned the... I was in my lunch break, I phoned the, the previous owner. So I was out on placement with the community district nurses up in Camborne. And I said to my wife earlier in the morning, early in the day, or the day before that, I've got to have a phone call, you know a phone conversation with the chap just to see what's going on. So anyway I phoned him, had a chat with him, and then phoned my wife, later on to say that 'Oh, yes, by the way, we now own a fruit and veg shop'. So...um yeah, she was slightly taken aback, but then I think she's used to it with me now I think. [man laughs]

[Redruth Clock Tower bells]

[Story 5]

Anna: Love In Pueblo Magico

This is a contemporary love story collected from two people who have made their home here…

Jack: How do love stories start? This one bloomed over the airwaves. 

[crackly voices over radio]

They were drawn into a video game by a colleague and a daughter, watchers at first. Then players.

America to here. Here to America.

[sound of keyboard typing]

Travelling by radio waves, across the time spans, across the borders.

Until, the colleague and the daughter made them an avatar each.

Maybe it was the avatars who fell in love first?

[sound of dial-up internet connection]

Then they saw each other over a webcam.

Then they met. She flew over to meet him.

He picked her up at the airport.

Then they fell in love again.

She didn’t know about his languages, his many tongues, some of them lost: Spanish, American, Apache, Mayan, to name a few.

Languages he was banned from speaking, languages of the ancestors, words that spoke of wilder things than school desks and cities.

And now he is here, in her place, Redruth, land of the Red River, that also lost its language, town of faith and fire, boom and bust and boom.

Their love grew over their mutual passion for “Fiesta Paste,” The Pasty Festival, Real Del Monte, Mexico.

Real Del Monte, host of the world’s only pasty museum.

The ghosts of the Cornish miners who made their two-year trek to Real Del Monte rise from their Mexican resting places to watch as 60 pasty makers bake. These ghosts listen to the Mariachi bands serenade the longest pasty on earth, they mingle among the crowds who love this fiesta above all others, they dream of home and long for the next one.

[sound of festival, mariachi music and voices]

The town full of aromas they can no longer smell, but only remember.

Real Del Monte, or Pueblo Magico, Magic Town as it is known.

And when the Pueblo Magico delegation comes here, to this town, they bring their embroidery, their tequila, their mariachi.

They sample the fine crimp of Denzil Trevethick’s traditional steak, savour the shortness of Berryman's pastry, the seasoning of a Bray’s & K’s, spiced with chilli for the occasion.

They breathe in the granite air.

They hear the sound of the town band and the deep tones of the choirs.

They do not complain of the mizzle and dampness but inhale the history.

And leave replete.

When he, a man from elsewhere, walks Fore Street, he greets the many friends he has made in this town, but is sometimes asked what he is doing here? And why doesn’t he go home?

“Home? This is my home. This particular place. This Pueblo Magico. This Phoenix rising.”

[Heartbeats and mining noises]

Anna: Coffee instead of beer and bad gin.

The ways of abstinence as a gateway to heaven.

Preaching and Alleluias.

Tea-treat songs and banners.

Child: Saffron buns as big as your face.

Anna: And sweet clidgey from the fair.

[Story 6]

Sue: The Club of the Left Behind

Between Tabb’s Hotel and Redruth Railway station from the mid to late 1800s there was a corridor of women.

Some had rouged their cheeks and lips

All waiting for the midday train from London, for these trains were full of traders, coming to the Mining Exchange, the only place in Britain where stocks and shares of metal mining could be bid, traded, dealt.

[background chatter]

Mercy: Looking nice and pink Lily.

Lily: Used a bit of beet on the cheeks. Some on me lips too. You’re smelling lovely Mercy.

Mercy: Rubbed a bit of Lavender on me neck. Some growin up Fairfield. Train on time?

Lily: Haven’t heard no different. /’eard from him then?

Mercy: No. Nothing. Dunno if ‘ees met his maker or post is delayed. You?

Lily: I heard he had the coughin’ disease. But I don’t know no more un that. He could have married again for all I knaw. How’s the cheelds?

Mercy: Left em at Mrs Bowden’s down Back Lane. Don’t like to, but got no choice.

Lily: I knaw. Some young uns here today. Inn’t that Mrs. Harvey?

Mercy: Sad really. Newlywed, and she’s out here on the corridor. We dun’t need the competition though do us?

Lily: No us dun’t. My little uns saw Mr. Hicks stall down Fore Street last week. He had Tom trots, nicies, clidgey. I had to tell them they all tasted like cabbage poor souls. Couldn’t even get them a rotten apple from Gribbles. I shouldn’t be wishin’ you good luck Mercy, as need the trade as much as you.

Mercy: Good luck to you Lily. I hope you get a gentleman and not too rough and pays you upfront, as some of them dudn’t.

[sound of train arriving]

Maybe if there’s enough to go round we can buy some of Hicks’ clidgey eh?

Lily: Let's hope so Mercy. ‘ere train’s comin.

The women put on a smile and dusty themselves down one more time.

[sound of steam train fades]

[Story 7]

Robin: The Photograph

[crowd singing with accordion]

There is a photograph up in the Redruth Railway station waiting room.

If you stood near it, you may imagine you can hear singing, for it was the tradition of the men leaving to sing, usually in harmony.

They are carrying suitcases or canvas kit bags, and they are “Churched up” as if going to a Sunday Service. They are headed to South Africa for the mines, a place unimaginable for them.

Shazz: You may also hear weeping, mostly quiet. For it is the women left behind who must wait, and news does not travel fast as it does now, and this much they all know from those gone before.

These are the growing club of “The Left Behind Women”. Not an official club, but a club all the same, who may meet on doorsteps, or in the field, or at the market.

The women are also “Churched up”.

But if you look closely, you will see that most women are behind the station barrier, and that only the women with feathers and lace on their bonnets stand on the platform for the final wave.

For it is only they that can afford the penny that you must pay for the platform ticket.

And those women are in a slightly different club.

For the time being anyway. For all the women must wait.

But, for this moment, as well as the sorrow of parting, there is a bubbling of excitement, and hope.

[steam train pulling out of station, train whistle]

[Story 8]

The Ballad of Gracie Briney

Claire singing:

Some say she was mad,

To dress like she did

They said that of Gracie Briney,

She dressed half as a man,

And half as a maid,

With stove hat and britches,

There was no charade,

They said that of Gracie Briney.

She smoked a good pipe

Wore a whip round her neck,

And challenged the miners most able,

She smoked a good pipe

Wore a whip round her neck,

And drank most of them

Under the table.

And drank most of them

Under the table.

When she was a maid,

She bore a new babe,

And the father she never did tell.

For she never was wed

When he took her to bed,

Abandoned and scarred,

She screamed so hard,

They said that of Gracie Briney.

She smoked a good pipe

Wore a whip round her neck,

And challenged the miners most able,

She smoked a good pipe

Wore a whip round her neck,

And drank most of them

Under the table.

And drank most of them

Under the table.

Oh when I was old

It was cherries I sold,

I took ‘em to sell at ‘Druth Market,

I’ve been my own woman,

And walked my own road,

With horses and wagon,

Portreath I have drove,

They said that of me, Gracie Briney.

I smoked a good pipe,

Wore a whip round my neck,

And challenged the miners most able,

I smoked a good pipe,

Wore a whip round my neck,

And challenged the miners most able,

And drank all of them

Under the table.

Sue: Gracie Briney was born in 1773 in Redruth. She became apprenticed driving a horse and cart, transporting tin and copper. We think she dressed partly as a man to protect herself from the advances of men, having been raped as a very young girl. Later in life, she travelled to East Cornwall for the Mazzard or cherry season to bring the fruit to the town's market at the age of 91, after delivering cherries to Redruth from some 50 miles away.

[sound of livestock auction]

[Story 9]

Jack: Emily Knuckey and the Carpet

[rowdy crowd]

Back Lane West. Imagine the aromas.

Contraband alcohol. Mahogany, a drink of Gin and Black Treacle. Kiddlywink broth; whole onion stewed with a bit of bacon and kidney, eggy-hot; a delicious concoction of an egg in warm beer.

[horse and carriage]

Kiddlywinks, illegal drinking dens, sweat, smoke and gutters, chamberpots and ale. Illegal lace, tea and silk purchased in Back Lane West.

[sound of breaking glass]

Customers from Mrs Rodda’s brothel, herself a Left Behind Woman.

A heady mix.

And sounds.

Emily Knuckey, famous for foul language and disorderly behaviour.

She spoke the language of the street, sang sonnets of poverty, argued in arias of swearing.

Emily Knuckey.

[police whistle]

By the time she was twenty-one, she had been arrested twenty-three times, so violent when roused, that policemen bore the scratches of her anger on their faces and the bruises of her rage on their shins.

On one occasion, her fury was so hot that she could not be taken. [sound of struggle]

Her arms flailed like a tree in a storm, her legs kicked like a bitten donkey.

The arresting officers could not still her.

So they wrapped her in a carpet and fastened it with several belts.

She was then taken kicking and screaming to the station at Redruth, loaded onto the train and delivered to the Court in Bodmin still in her carpet straitjacket.

We don’t know of her judgement, but to Emily, this may have been the only time she’d come near to a carpet.

Maybe, once she was in her cell, she laid the carpet out, and walked upon it?

I hope so.

[sound of jail door shutting]

[sound of violin playing Eine Kleine Nacht Music]

[Story 10]

Shazz: The Violinist

Roy Gill’s Grandfather was a miner.

Like many, he went to America and left his granny a widow, one of the Left Behind Women.

His granny’s cousin also was left a widow.

Or so she thought.

The cousin had in-fact read the wedding notice of her own husband in the West Briton. If she had been drinking tea, she would have scalded her lap with it. If she’d been shopping in Fore Street, she would have dropped her basket with the shock of it.

Her husband was a bigamist.

If the cousin had been wearing black, we might imagine she went home and took her widows weeds and wedding ring straight off.

Roy’s granny and his granny’s betrayed cousin moved in together, for two purses are better than one, and a dish of tea shared is better than one drunk alone.

Roy’s granny took in washing.

She also served at bridge parties for the “posh” of West Trewirgie.

Invisible perhaps, except that her daughter, Roy’s mother, played the violin, and her sweet notes entertained the West Trewirgie bridge-playing gentry.

Maybe these tunes helped soothe the broken heart of Roy’s Grandmother?

Maybe, it made her heart swell with pride, as perhaps the daughters of those she served could not play the violin as sweetly as her own daughter? And maybe she may have smiled as the bridge ladies nodded with approval?

For who wouldn’t be proud of such a daughter that could play the violin so?

[sound of fire]

Anna: Redruth, famous for epic fires, many mysterious,

Some not so much

One so fierce that it melted the wax mannequins on the other side of the street

Neil: I was just saying about all the major fires in Redruth over the years. I mean, look at Doughty’s, West End, Saint Rumon’s (which was an ex-Bingo Hall and cinema), during the summer season: Carn Brea and Carn Marth and all the gorse. Another one was the coffee tavern when I was a very, very young child, I can remember that. I can remember, before I joined the brigade, Flowerpot Chapel…

[Story 11]

Sue: Finale – Layers of History

[sound of water running]

All time is present at all times. You just have to know where to look.

Travel back 6,000 years, there was no town here, just a muddy ford. But on the hill above this stream was one of the first fortified settlements in Britain, surrounded by dense forest. The trees are now long gone, to mines and fires and ships. But the stones and ditches are still there…

[sounds of mining]

3,000 years ago the people here scraped tin and copper from the ground and traded it to the Levant. From time to time their ancient workings still surprise us, collapsing and dragging walls, tarmac, the occasional conservatory, into the earth.

[rumbling sound]

Redruth, literally ‘the ford red’, was named for the red ochre staining the river, disturbed by these miners.

On this very place was once a chapel, a place for pilgrims to rest and recuperate, monastic and contemplative, attended by a priest, whose task was to help them cross the ford on their way to St Michael’s Mount. The chapel dedicated to St Rumon, a man so preachy and prayerful that his wife ascribed his absences to him being a werewolf.

The chapel fell, its stones incorporated into other walls, perhaps in Murdoch’s house here. And in the space it left, Murdoch made his revolutionary experiments, extracting gas from coal and lighting his house with it.

[sound of gas being lit]

He’d learnt by watching Scottish women setting fire to the gas seeping from coal to make more light.

Then comes the grand Druid’s Hall, a palace of civic pride, three stories high, assembly rooms, a library and a theatre, built by the Redruth Literary and Scientific Society. The odd, the mavericks, the free traders, the showmen and women, the scientists, the engineers, the artists, the thinkers, the drinkers, all gathered here.

And such wonders…

[sound of light operatic singing]

The Cornish Nightingale sang, Fanny Moody, whose father was a Romany, rumoured to be able to pick up any instrument and play it. Music ran in the family blood.

A demonstration of a phonograph happened here in 1889. Imagine - an act of magic to see someone speak into a trumpet and hear their voice repeated moments later.

[echo of ‘hear their voice repeated moments later’]

[sound of crank turning]

Panoramas toured here, huge painted rolling scenes surrounding the audience with a spoken or musical accompaniment. You could see London, voyage down the Rhine, cross America on the New York to San Francisco Railway, visit New Zealand or witness the Spanish Armada..

[sound of fairground organ music]

And many exotic visitors – tiny people, General Tom Thumb and his wife and two daughters, Miss Christine Millie and Miss Millie Christine, trilingual conjoined twins, accompanied by Commodore Nutt, another very small person. A Baron and a Count, thirty-five inches tall who acted, danced and fenced. Braun’s Beauties, beautiful large ladies (not sure if they were remarkable for tallness or wideness), an Australian Skeleton Girl, waxworks, menageries, magic lantern shows, demonstrations of galvanism…

In 1910 it became a 20th century wonder – Redruth’s first cinema, the Gem.

[sound of projector]

Moving pictures, foreign lands, adventures, romances. And, very cannily, before the main film, clips of local men and women, leaving work at the end of their shift or in the market on Wednesday. Why wouldn’t you pay tuppence to see yourself or your daddy captured and flickering on the screen? Later, there is a bingo hall and then, in true Redruth tradition, a merciful fire.

[sound of children playing]

Now the children play here, choirs sing and, for the Pasty Festival, Snail Racing Championships are held, a product of the curious and resourceful creativity of the kids.

Child: You’d think it would be dull

Sue: They say…

Child: But it’s so exciting! We had to disqualify two last time, they were trying to kill each other.

Sue: In this Pueblo Magico, this Magic Town, there is strangeness, curiosity and beauty around every corner…

Anna: Thank you for joining us on this walk. We hope you have enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed making it.

[End]


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