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Newquay’s Fantastic St Piran Festival 2019

Newquay Spring Festival – post event catch-up 🙂

After a period of five years of slow development, Newquay was proud to unveil its now – very successful – Spring Festival that brings together the community in a celebration of culture and heritage.  Boasting, now, one of the most comprehensive programmes of festive fun to help celebrate the Cornish Saint’s Day, Newquay pulled out all the stops to confirm its identity at the very heart of the ‘lands to the West of the Tamar’!

Lunchtime on St Piran’s Day was marked by the Rowing Club Singers – supported by a few choristers from Oll an Gwella singing outside the Central Hotel and offering the passing visitors and locals alike a flavour of the day to come.  The ‘Troyll Klub Reyva’ (Rowing Club Ceilidh) was enjoyed by many on St Piran’s Day Evening, offering a good mix of singing and dancing, a talk about Cornish communities and identity and the Trelawny Shout!  Huge thanks were extended to all involved, especially Diane Thain who had so generously prepared plates and plates of good traditional Cornish food!   Another great evening was enjoyed by all those present!

Despite the changeable weather greeting the start of March, Newquay has enjoyed a superb few days of celebrations and fun as this year’s elements of the Newquay St Piran’s Festival has been enjoyed by hundreds of people throughout the town and surrounding communities.

The highlight for many was the parade and children’s Ceilidh on Tuesday afternoon.  With rain threatening the festivities, organisers made the brave decision to go ahead and a really lively group of youngsters with their families formed up behind civic dignatories and our lone Cornish piper and drummer (Merv and Allison Davey) to parade through the main part of Newquay.  Leaving the Victoria Hotel at 4.00pm, the parade was led by Town Crier, David Bradshaw, supporting Newquay’s Mayor and Mayoress, Andy & Barbara Hannan.  Newquay ‘girl’ Elizabeth Carne, in her role as Grand Bard was also present and was joined by kilted supporters from the local community, including a number of St Piran’s flag waving members from Newquay Rowing Club and Newquay Old Cornwall Society.  Several County and Town Councillors were also present and these led by far the largest St Piran’s Day Parade ever seen in Newquay.

On behalf of the organising committee, Rob Spowart said “Wow – Thank you, Newquay for coming out in your hundreds to support those who have worked to bring this Festival together.  There are those who believe that Newquay lacks pride in Cornish culture and traditions, but the parade and contributions from schools, their youngsters and their families in our community shows just how strong our cultural links and pride really are.”  Rob went on to thank all those who have supported the Festival and the local businesses.  “The community of Newquay has gone out of its way to embrace the spirit of St Piran and we are most grateful to all those volunteers and businesses who have made the Newquay ‘St Piran experience’ as diverse and as much fun as it has been”.

On arrival at the Cribbar, youngsters from the different schools represented were able to show off the Cornish Songs and the Cornish dancing which they had learnt in workshop sessions over recent weeks.  Oll an Gwella supported the singing and Newquay U3A Cornish dance group supported the dance as talented youngsters present from The Bishops School, Newquay Junior Academy, St Columb Minor Academy and St Columb Major Academy performed.  Each school received huge applause for their appearance and performance, but especially the smaller-than-usual group of children from St Columb Major Academy who still travelled in to support the St Piran’s Day event despite the clash with St Columb Major’s Shrove Tuesday Hurling.

Newquay Golf Club also proved a popular venue on St Piran’s Day as they organised a “St Piran’s Day Competition” and 83 competitors battled for the honours in windy conditions with, on occasion, more than just the threat of rain.  The competition was initiated last year by popular local golfer, councillor and columnist Mr Paul Summers.

Newquay’s comprehensive St Piran’s Programme of events had started the previous weekend with displays by local heritage groups and OCS members in Cubert and in Newquay, which included talks by Len Sheppard (Chairman Newquay OCS).  On the Saturday before St Piran’s Day a very successful “Shout” involving Alan Thain, Fiddle me Timbers, Newquay Rowing Club Singers, Oll an Gwella and Stamp and Go was held at The Cribbar and thanks were given to Jim Christophers and Ben Perkins for their support of a very successful evening.  Reverends Chris McQuillen Wright and Jane Kneebone organised a bilingual Church Service at St Columb Minor, with the Rowing Club Singers; performances by Oll an Gwella at the Trenance Cottages with a dialect talk by Chris Blount; and a truly fabulous concert with Macquarrie & Toms and Davey & Dyer supported by Oll an Gwella.  All those attending spoke of a truly fabulous concert, with three groups of musicians, all of whom were unsurprisingly good enough to be selected to represent Cornwall at the prestigious annual pan-celtic festival at Lorient, which attracts 700,000 to 800,000 visitors over the 10 days of the event.

Last Friday afternoon, Newquay Library opened its doors to welcome 67 members of our local community in from the cold.  With tea and cakes on the menu, the library staff welcomed the local community through its doors as they dropped in to check out the facilities offered by the library and its ‘one-stop-shop’ together with the displays laid on in partnership with Newquay Old Cornwall Society and the Heritage Museum which captured the interests of a number of the visitors.  I heard the phrase ‘lucky to have it’ on a number of lips as they described the treasure that is now the library facility in Newquay!  With so many libraries facing closure throughout Cornwall and the rest of the UK, we really are fortunate to be able to enjoy the facilities on offer right in the centre of town!. Well done all at Newquay library for opening up the facilities in this way as part of St Piran’s week!

Oll an Gwella were invited out to entertain at the Traveller’s Rest at Trevarrian on Friday evening and all attending confirmed that they enjoyed a fabulous evening of song and smiles at The Traveller’s Rest.  “Absolutely Brilliant” was the feedback from one lady who claimed that she had attended especially while holidaying locally “We came along to see what the evening was all about and had such a good time that we want to book to come back next year if you are laying on something similar!?”  Oll an Gwella attended but, by way of a change, sang a number of their shanties which went down well with the visitors and locals present.  In their second set, they were joined by some other local choristers to increase the repertoire as the combined group explored some new songs and material.  A lovely evening was enjoyed by choristers and audience and the whole place was rocking with the songs on offer!

Saturday 10th March saw the last event in this highly successful week of Festivities to mark St Piran’s Day and the celebrations that surround it.  This time there was a food focus and the Griffin Inn hosted an excellent event to celebrate local produce and the ability of talented local chef Mr Phil Oakes,  With an emphasis firmly on Cornish produce and Cornish recipes, he demonstrated ways to prepare Cornish Pasties, Stary-gazey pie, Tattie cake and Figgy ‘obbin and tried to show, help and explain to the room full of interested members of the local community present all the technical skills behind ‘crimping’, persuading his (Herring) fish to gaze skyward and using up left-overs to produce Figgy ‘obbin.  Many thanks and well done to all at The Griffin Inn.

Phil Oakes superb demonstrations were interspersed with a final input from ‘Oll an Gwella’ who finished their busy St Piran’s Programme with two outstanding sets of music while the demonstrations were prepared and cleared.  They left their ‘Pasty Song’ to last as the judges determined the winner from the excellent set of pasties that were produced as part of the competition.  After careful judging by our distinguished panel of judges, Ann Masters was crowned with the prize for best pasty.   Town Crier David Bradshaw – in his inimitable style – challenged the choristers of Oll an Gwella to a public ‘pasty-making’ competition at next year’s ‘Local Cornish Food and Produce Day” which is already being planned at the Griffin Inn for St Piran’s Festival in 2020.

Huge grateful thanks were extended to Phil Oakes and his informative co-presenter Andy Cole for their efforts, to The staff at The Griffin Inn, to those who had brought stands into the event, to the combined Lions for their organisation of the raffle and to Oll an Gwella, the choristers of which were last seen heading for a darkened room to recover from all the demands of Newquay’s St Piran’s week 2019. 

Congratulations to all those organisations involved in Newquay St Piran’s Festival 2019 and grateful thanks were extended to all those members of the community who supported the event and enjoyed the festivities!  Newquay truly demonstrated it’s ability to show off its Cornish credentials in a very impressive way!

Thanks again to all involved in organising the week and thankyou to our sponsors, Newquay Council, Newquay BID, Newquay Lions, Alan and Diane Thain, and our January “Shout for a St Piran’s Boy”.

Oll an Gwella (All the best!).