Having been brought up in the Redruth area I was lucky to have visited the incredible Christmas Caves housed in West End Department Stores.
Having a child of my own I was aware of how things had changed and that there was a desperate need for some community engagement at this time of year. When the project began over 10 yrs ago there were no or very few winter seasonal events happening in the town and footfall was low.
Festival of Events
With the support of Krowji, artists Sean Donahoe, Kate Beasley and an empty shop we created a Festival of events that grew and continues to this day. From one single workshop with interested teachers the annual procession was born. At it’s height the project held a comprehensive timetable of practical creative art based workshops with charities and community groups in the local area that included Carefree, Penhaligans Friends, Curnow School , Curnow and Illogan primary School, Lanner primary school, The Murdock day centre, local brownies troops, Redruth school as well as open community workshops. All of the workshops were designed to be inclusive and allow ownership of the festival and to increase footfall into the town. At the centre of the project was the free to enter Christmas Grotto. (The Grotto moved around the town every year always making use of an empty shop.)
In the Grotto you could leave a wish on the wishing tree, watch the model trains and play with the mechanical toys provided by the Mosley Heritage museum. You could look at historical pictures of Father Christmas through the ages, Marvel at the travel maps of the world, charts and the mountains of packages labelled for far flung destinations. I wanted the experience to be as inclusive as possible and encourage everyone to enter. There are many migrant families within our community who have chosen to live, work and make Cornwall home. So it was important to recognise that this can be a difficult time for many with friends and relations else where in the world. It felt important to me for those entering the Grotto to see that the parcels were heading off to countries and communities that they loved. You could play penguin skittles and of course anyone of any age could meet the man himself who was played by a professional local actor, providing seasonal work and a high quality theatrical experience.
One of the highlights of the events was the lantern procession parading through the town from top to tow . Now used as a focal point to switch on the town lights which have taken priority.
I am glad to say that the event still runs today.