Cornish Backgrounds: Writing in the South West

View of the lighthouse from Godrevy

View of the lighthouse from Godrevy

Writing in Cornwall has been a slowly forged process for me. For the first year of my life I lived in Cheshire, but since then I have resided in a small hamlet in the north of Cornwall. It’s situated in the Tamar Valley, providing a rural backdrop on an otherwise fairly wild location teeming with forests, granite formed hills and rivers such as the Inny, the Lynher and obviously the Tamar. I ever since I was young boy, I have been fascinated with the wild that was literally just outside my door. As a fantasy nerd (which I still am), it was easy to envisage and write about goblins in the woods and dwarves up on the tors. This place no doubt helped to form my bizarre imagination.

Even as I began to broaden my own writing, I started finding myself accidently describing the forests, or the vast moorlands and rough coastlines that lay beyond my home. There is something quite magical about the landscape of Cornwall with this variety of settings. Away from the tourist hotspots, there’s a quiet and timeless feeling to this place and it’s easy to feel that we are so far away from the rest of the country. The ancient history of Cornwall helps to fuel that mystical and unknown sense, with the ruins of Iron Age forts and old cairns dotted around the county.

Another fantastic influence are the people themselves. History and culture again helps, as throughout there is a strong feeling of resilience and individuality, from the mining heritage to the various rebellions. This still resonates today with the proud connection to the language and the frequent flying of the black and white flag of St. Piran.

My own personal connection to knowing Cornish people has helped to shape my own writing, as, although they are quite proud, at heart you’ll find that they don’t take themselves too seriously. I’m sure that none would be offended at me saying that there are some pretty quirky characters out there. It’s these individuals who have helped to shape my own style of writing which can be quite surreal and random at times.  

Having known Cornwall for most of my life, I do often get asked if I can find any drawbacks. Naturally I am going to be quite biased in favour of my home, but like everywhere in the world, it does have its disadvantages, especially for those who want to write.

I think it is quite easy to be romantic when writing about Cornwall, as demonstrated in the first half of this article! There is no denying that this a beautiful place with plenty of creative influence, however there are inherent problems which can be quite easily overlooked in the arts, particularly concerning poverty and diversity. This then feeds into another problem in that Cornwall is quite cut off from the rest of the country. With this inherent isolation, it does minimise opportunities for young writers (and young people in general) who need to make ends meet. As young writer myself, I know that realistically I may have to leave for some time in order to find work.

To sum up, I think that when writing in Cornwall you need to make the best of what you have got and forge that into something of your own. Yes, there aren’t as many money-making opportunities here as you might find in London or elsewhere, but there’s no limit for potential creativity. This article has been briefly orientated around the landscape and the people, but there is much more out there for those with a keen eye. Don’t wait around either. Cornwall might be laid back, but you don’t have to be.

Go and create!

by Joe Bagshaw

Falmouth SOWJ