Mylor sessions marquee

Great music...down on the farm

A question comes up from time to time from acquaintances and townie relatives living up-country, that never ceases to amuse me, "What do you do with yourself living down there in Cornwall?" What do they think I do? Forage in the hedgerows, gathering teasel leaves to mash into a brew to use as eyewash? Go wrecking along the shoreline for driftwood? Sing shanties in the pub, clutching a pint of 'Doombar'?

The slanted urban mindset translates the question as, "What do country bumpkins do to get a life?". I'm sorry to disappoint, but I 'do' pretty much the same as everyone else but on a smaller scale, without traffic jams and in a much prettier place. Eating out is easy as our restaurants are equal to some of the best anywhere as creative chefs know that fresh local meat, fish and diary products are basic to wonderful food - fish almost jump off the line onto our plates; it isn't caught, layered on ice, sent on a journey to market and travel around a while before being cooked. As far as music and the arts are concerned, live performances are eclectic and diverse; from the summer Golowan festival in Penzance, where crazy acts fill the streets with Mazey Day processions to the more cultural annual events that celebrate creativity at the Fowey Festival of Words and Music and the St. Ives Festival, both of which have an established international reputation.

Theatre on the rocks

Where Cornwall scores is that some of the venues are unparalleled in originality. Can there be anywhere more magical than the Minack Theatre on a summer's evening? Located on the western side of a valley that opens into the stunning beach at Porthcurno, a sweep of soft white sand and aquamarine sea are held in the curve of cliffs arcing around the semi-circle of the bay. The theatre is carved out of rock, with the granite seating stacked vertically from the stage and uninhibited by a proscenium arch in the style of an ampitheatre. The actors words are broadcast to the elements and as the productions progress, the evening sky deepens from cerulean to lavender, coral and indigo as the sun sets. The performers occupy front stage to the backdrop of the real drama that is conditional on the idiosyncrasies of the seascape. Rarely are performances cancelled due to a gale, lightening and fog and sometimes dolphins play and Newlyn bound trawlers are followed home by a squabble of seagulls.


In contrast to Minack, which is sculpted from granite rock, the iconic biomes of the Eden Project emerge like giant bubbles germinating from the chalky-white floor of a clay pit. The attraction has become the flagship to Cornish enterprise and vision and for several years Eden has promoted Summer Sessions on the Mediterranean biome stage and amongst the line-up for 2013 are the Kaiser Chiefs and Sigur Ros, Nile Rodgers and Jessie J.

On a smaller scale, some enterprising individuals are making things happen with international stars hitting the right notes in the creekside village of Mylor. Sounds unlikely I know, but a group of people. all of whom contribute in their own ways, are promoting the Mylor Sessions, a series of events showcasing household names in arts, comedy and music. Few parish halls, anywhere, can advertise headline acts such as world-renowned classical guitarist John Williams, 80's diva Toyah Wilcox, Los Pacaminos and comedian Jack Dee, but that's exactly what is happening!

The Sessions scheduled over Midsummer marked a weekend event of music down on a farm at Restronguet Barton. We drove in the rain - well, it is Cornwall in summer - around the lanes, the hedgerows dense with cow parsley, foxgloves and valerian, following the arrows stuck on trees and were directed by women in wellies to park on farmyard hard-standing as parking in a field was off limits because of the mud. Across the cornfields, above the waters of the creek, the 'big top' - an absurdly incongruous, red and blue dome resembling half a swing-ball, was tethered in the middle of a field. The ticket booth was 'manned' by a volunteer hanging onto the sides of a canvas garden pergola to prevent it from blowing down the river.

Larry Carlton Larry Carlton

But don't laugh! The groove of the musicians' sound check made the hairs tingle on the back of your neck. We had booked to see the Larry Carlton Quartet, one of John's guitar heroes. I've no idea about the background and influence behind the people who promote the Mylor Sessions - I wish I did, but to hire a musician of that quality to play in a tent, is astonishing and really special. He may not be a household name but to guitar players he is one of the most respected musicians on the planet and was in huge demand as a session musician, playing with Joni Mitchell and Michael Jackson.

There aren't the O2 type of stadia and arena to attract big stars, but we aren't deprived of music. We live in a county that loves to sing and perform from village choirs to jazz and folk clubs in village halls and small, intimate venues. And from time to time, if a 'big name' wants to drop by they will be greatly appreciated; I'm still bemused that we saw the top American jazz guitarist Larry Coryell in a chapel in Constantine - he was gigging not praying! Personally, there was something really special about sitting on a hay bale, eating fish and chips and listening to the man responsible for the immaculate intro to Steely Dan's, 'Josie' .

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