Clay Walks and Wheal Martyn set the tempo for dance in Museums

Wheal Martyn sprang, sang, danced and drummed with creativity and energy on 14 and 15 June with the spectacular performance of Clay Walks.

It was an astounding success, and much like the message the community performers aimed to put across, it was made successful because of the many hands and feet that played a part in its creation.  Nearly 200 participants danced, acted, sang and made music, with young people from Roche, Treverbyn, Mount Charles and Newquay Treviglas Schools; Cornwall College and Falmouth University students and dancers from numerous community dance groups in the County.

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 the cast who worked collaboratively under the expertise of Suzie West, Director of SpinDrift Dance.

Suzie West commented that

“The natural theatre and atmosphere of the site was a powerful tool for us to work with and has created a palpable backdrop for telling the story of China Clay community. For me, process has been just as important as the final production, with each of the cast helping to shape the words, images and sounds.

The co-creation of the project is a very important aspect of the journey and it gave an opportunity to share stories and build a relationship with each other and the landscape. The passing on of stories and the building of a community has been a hugely rewarding part of the project. The final production, so full of energy, connection and celebration is a true summing up of this epic journey. I am so proud of what we achieved!” 

Gemma Martin, Education Officer for Wheal Martyn was really impressed:

“The evenings were a tremendous success and the audience really enjoy their immersive experience.  We were all 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 special – the energy and can-do attitude of the crew has been amazing.” 

Audience member, George Bradley Peer, added

“Wow, I really loved the evening. What a truly ambitious event. Wheal Martyn and 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, woven into a beautiful landscape of machines, wheels, woodland, water, story and granite. The clay mine came alive. 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.”

The ambitious project was months in the making. Suzie and the creative crew from SpinDrift have worked tirelessly, developing concepts with community groups and choreographing a spectacular promenade performance. The resulting show lead the audience on a journey into history, heritage, creativity and the arts.  Wheal Martyn have set a high bar, demonstrating how innovative and inspiring Museums can be when in partnership with the Arts.

Photos credited to Gemma Smith Photography


Wheal Martyn, Saint Austell, UK

Gemma Martin

Gemma Martin is Education Officer at Wheal Martyn.  Gemma works with schools and community groups through a varied programme of activities that engage visitors with the heritage of the clay works and local area.  Gemma was previously a Science teacher and happily returned to Cornwall with her family.

Creative Kernow, based at Krowji, is the umbrella organisation for the following nine projects. Together we support the production, promotion and distribution of work by creative practitioners in Cornwall because we believe in creativity's transformative power and want more people to benefit from it.
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