did the Arts Centre come about?
In the early 19th Century a Quaker family called Fox were in shipping
and had a foundry in Perranarworthal. Two daughters and the son
of the family got interested in the working conditions.
Many of the workers were illiterate but had all sorts of ideas.
The siblings decided to found a society to promote the arts and
sciences. In 1833 they formed the Cornwall Polytechnic Society -
the very first use of the word Polytechnic in this country.
was established in Falmouth in 1835
Two years later
they applied for Royal patronage - they became the Royal Cornwall
Polytechnic Society in 1835.
They decided to acquire their own building for an annual exhibition
of the arts and sciences. They pulled down a dwelling in the heart
of Falmouth and built an exhibition hall. Their first exhibition
was in 1835 - there was no ceiling on the hall!
It wasn’t long
before every town in Cornwall had a chapter of the RCPS. These exhibitions
related particularly to Cornwall but had much broader scope.
Every year the annual report included learned papers on arts, sciences,
manufacturing , living conditions of miners, fisherman - a lot of
them are kept here in the library where records go back to 1833.
How did the
theatre and the cinema start?
to think they would like to put on plays in the 19th Century. The
Quakers always turned them down but at end of 19th Century the rules
of the society were changed to allow the presentation of dramatic
The hall was extended to include a stage. At the start of the 20th
Century a licence was applied for to show films and it was granted
in 1910. In 1969 a floor was put halfway up the hall to create a
gallery space above and we now have a 200 seat cinema/theatre space.
How do you
choose what is performed?
Most people feel we’re a beautiful little arts centre which
provides a community resource.
Carver, Falmouth Arts Centre administrator
The three people
in the office (general manager Shaun Kavanagh, administrator Michael
Carver and programme manager Kate Rogers) choose performances which
we want to show. On the cinema side we can show La Strada, Some
Like it Hot for instance - if you have to show all the blockbusters
you will end up showing some duds.
We sit around
and look at material from agents and groups and decide on a programme
which is eclectic, professional, attractive and affordable. Anyone
who comes can be certain that they’re not going to get something
We rent out
space on the understanding that the people will put on first class
professional work. We don’t have tribute bands - there is a place
for that but we don’t believe it’s at the Falmouth Arts Centre.
classes have their annual events here, adult education, talks, films,
drama and three art galleries are in constant use - two street level
ones are occupied from beginning of January to the end of October
without a break.
of mid-stream work from Falmouth College of Arts
have there been over the past decade?
Ten years ago
the centre was barely ticking along - we needed a full-time administrator.
Previously it had been done two mornings a week.
We have seen far greater involvement in the community, higher visibility
in Falmouth and a wider variety of programming. Ten years ago we
got around 18,000 through door per annum, this year we should reach
vision for the future?
On the assumption
that a town the size of Falmouth will always need an arts centre,
we’ll always be here to provide it. Over the years the function
has changed slowly from being a learned society, which would not
be viable now, to an all-purpose arts centre.
Most people feel we’re a beautiful little arts centre which provides
a community resource. We don’t have the capacity of the Hall for
Cornwall, but then we have the advantage of being small and much
In the next
ten years we’ll have to keep up-to-date with techniques of film
making and film showing. New equipment will be required - it will
be digital of some sort. We are becoming more involved with other
venues - the 400 seat Princess Pavillion for instance, where we
have booked six events including Geno Washington.
Penryn are expanding - the new Maritime Museum, the new university,
Falmouth College of Arts is expanding and will have more input into
to Administrator Michael Carver.
Tel: 01326 212300