For some, the sea in Mounts Bay calls to them. This pull to be in or under the sea has been felt by many and was something we wanted to explore for the ‘Perspectives of Mounts Bay- In, On and Under the Sea’ podcast.
We were thrilled to hear from intrepid diver James Wheeler, who after being thrown into Newlyn Harbour as a small child and told to swim, found a deep love and fascination for what lay beneath the surface in Mounts Bay. Through snorkelling and then diving, James found a different world under the water, diving as far as 40 feet as a teenager in the 1960’s, wearing only a wool jumper in an attempt to keep warm! Becoming an early member of the Penzance Sub Aqua Club, James got more and more adventurous and we were on the edge of our seats as we listened to his intrepid and risky tales of diving off wrecks and reefs in Mounts Bay.
By Battery Rocks we found the remarkable Sam, who found himself at the end of the line in Penzance with no home, but has found healing, community and belonging here, through year-round swimming. We also spent time withthe talented Emily Nixon, who makes stunning jewellery inspired by what she finds on the coastline here. More and more people are finding healing and inspiration from immersing themselves in cold water, and listening, we certainly felt more compelled to swim all year round.
In Porthleven, we sat listening to the Cornish choughs and watching a calm ocean with Tom Chambers, who recalls his childhood memories growing up here and his father teaching him to fish. We peek at his father’s precious notebook, containing information on the fishing marks that informed where they put their lobster pots. Still heavily prized and guarded by his 92 year old father, who still makes a traditional withy pot each year, it was fascinating to hear the names of marks and hear about older ways of fishing.
Of course, the sea also has many dangers, with some going to sea and not coming back. The fabulous Dr.Jo Esra talked about these dangers by sharing tales from her husband who fished here and stories of piracy in the bay. A Maritime Historian with a love of Mounts Bay, Jo’s enthusiasm for local history was truly infectious.
We also heard from the lovely Lynne, who found her community on the water, gig rowing from Newlyn. Lynne talks passionately about the history, joys and challenges of gig rowing and we loved her description of the “amazing machine of women” she rows with. One of these women is the brilliant Anna Maria Murphy, who was kind enough to share one of her poems with us, capturing the team’s experiences of being out on the water.
Ciaran, who did the sound design for these podcasts, was lucky enough to be invited on the women’s gig boat, recording some wonderful sounds of the rhythmic clunk of oars. It was a pleasure to work with Ciaran on these podcasts, and we love how he has woven ambient sounds from around the bay into the stories.
The podcasts were also accompanied by music from Jypsonian, an accordion and fiddle duo who explore their shared cultural background through music and folklore. Meeting Garry and Grace in some abandoned mine works, we managed to record a series of local songs, including the Fisherman’s Reel, which we have woven into this podcast.
A massive thank you to everyone who has shared with us for this podcast. It’s been a privilege to hear your stories. If you enjoyed hearing James Wheeler’s diving experiences then you’ll be pleased to hear he has produced his own series of podcasts called Aquanaut, chronicling his adventures diving off the Cornish coast in the 1960’s and later as a semi professional salvage diver. You can also follow Sam Main’s journey on his facebook and Instagram account. We’ll hearing more from Tom on fishing marks, Dr Jo Esra on Maritime History and Stephen on the Mount in later podcasts.
The full series of podcasts will be made available through the Newlyn Art Gallery website as well as other podcasting platforms.
The podcasts are part of the project led by artist Emma Smith, commissioned by Cornwall Council. The artwork is part of the EXPERIENCE project which promotes experiential tourism and sustainable economic growth during October to March. The project is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Interreg France (Channel) England Programme under the Natural and Cultural Heritage funding category.