About Clay Walks
'Clay Walks A tapestry of tales, poetry and dance that celebrate Clay Country and its community.
On the 14th & 15th June, Wheal Martyn came alive. Each viewing point, settling tank, woodland path and museum yard was filled with a cast of 200 performers from the St Austell community.
Clay Walks, directed and produced by Suzie West from SpinDrift, was an epic and beautiful showcase of Clay Country’s past present and future. With a cross generation cast of performers from 10 to 72, the story tellers, choirs, professional and undergraduate dancers, youth groups, primaries and college students, created, conversed and performed together at the outdoor museum. Interweaving the poetry of Jack Clemo, folk stories, live Cornish folk music and archived anecdotes with dance theatre and thronging percussive music the show took the audience on a promenade journey that built chapter upon chapter, into a huge all cast performance.
Suzie West explains why they chose Wheal Martyn: “Wheal Martyn, is a stunning site, with an intriguing combination of industrial heritage, nature trails, rusting metal work, turquoise waters and clay pits. It has been a perfect creative playground for all of the collaborating groups and creative teams. The natural theatre and atmosphere of the site has been such a powerful tool for us to work with and has created a palpable back drop for telling the story of Clay community. The hardship, the hard labour, the resilient solidarity, the water wheel powered balance with nature, the warmth of the community and the ever flowing pride you feel to be part of such a wonderous, unique place”
The project began in December 2017, building community interest and creative melting pots , working closely with Wheal Martyn staff and Cornwall College performing arts department.
“After last years successful collaboration with Cornwall College to create ‘The Soul Birds’ we definitely wanted to work with the dancers and drama students again. Their dynamic energy, talent and can -do atttitude is a perfect match for SpinDrift and for site -specific work. I think that developing site specific skills and building experience with community based landscape theatre is a vital skill for Cornish performing arts students. We have such rooted heritage for this style of performance in Cornwall and it is very useful for the students to be exposed to it, as well as building networks with artists, undergraduates and venues for their future work prospects”
Gemma Martin, education manager from Wheal Martyn can see the benefits for such vast public engagement, linking the primaries through to college, professional and community all the way through to the local audience members. “The evenings were a tremendous success and the audience seemed to really enjoy their experience and were wowed by the creativity and talent of the huge crew. Well done for all the hard work and effort that went in to making the performances so successful.”
The process has been just as important as the final production, with each collaborating participant helping to shape the words, images, and sounds. The co- creation of the project was a very important aspect of the journey as it gave the cast a chance to share stories and build a relationship with each other and the landscape. The seven month build up to the production gave time for ideas to be passed through the huge cast like chinese whispers, interweaving between and forming the production slowly but surely. The passing on of stories and the building of a community has been a hugely rewarding part of the project for everyone. The final production, so full of energy, connection and celebration is a true summing up of this epic journey.
The onward momentum of this project and newly found community is something that will propel SpinDrift and the local performing community into next years celebration of St Austell. Watch this space!!
“ Wow, I really loved the evening. What a truly ambitious event. Wheal Martyn and the its surrounding features were beautifully integrated into a lovely, moving piece of dance theatre. I enjoyed a real sense of both history and contemporary community. I joined with hundreds of others both as audience and performers, close by, woven into a beautiful landscape of machines, wheels, woodland, water, story and granite. The clay mine came alive. I felt the music choices were very intriguing, lending themselves to both the small and large group movements and dances. Great use of a wheelbarrow to make the soundsystem mobile! Even better, the presence of a duet of violins. Through spoken word, dance, live music and pounding beats, we were moved ever onwards through a landscape of playful, informative,tender and touching vignettes. Thank-you all.” George Bradley Peer, Shallal Dance Theatre & musician.
“ A real treat” Simon Birch, Senior Lecturer at Falmouth University.
“BRILLIANT SHOW! “ Alison Dures, Head of Drama at Bodmin College
“Amazing show” Alice Walker, 4FS.
“As a former primary teacher and someone still involved in organising events, I cannot tell you how much I admire the way in which Suzie has led and inspired so many people of such diverse age and experience to come together in this extraordinary way. Her vision and creativity in using the landscape so imaginatively and the magnitude of the undertaking is amazing. “ Penny Parsons, Continuum Participant.
“Just wanted to say congratulations for the brilliant and inspiring performance last night at Wheal Martyn. I haven’t seen such an engaged, huge company of dancers like that, ever! I am a dance practitioner on the Passage for Par dance event with Rosemary Lee, so I was delighted to catch it. So much dance in Cornwall. Wow” Janet Turner, Audience member and professional dancer.
“We enjoyed ourselves so much, and it was great to be with so many other groups of people all contributing in so many different ways.And - I must say this - I feel totally liberated. It has been such a change from my usual earnest, rather academic persona. I found the wild woman in me, and love it/her. Brilliant.” Helena Nightingale, Continuum Participant.
“Wheal Martyn is a beautiful place and it was spectacular seeing the site brought to life by the dancers.” Salt and Sky
“ A lovely evening, with beautiful images of the body in the landscape. The climax in the end was gorgeous seeing the diversity of groups and commitment of the performers” Angela Praed, Choreographer and School teacher.
Clay Walks Team
Many thanks to all of the collaborators and the supporters of Clay Walks;
SpinDrift, Cornwall College, Falmouth College, Falmouth University, 4FS Dance, Hall for Cornwall Youth Dance, Continuum, Making Waves Exim Dance, Salt and Sky, Hornet Street Band, Clay Youth Choir, Imerys Womens Choir, All Boys Dance, Mount Charles Primary School, Roche Primary, Treverbyn Academy and the Wheal Martyn team.