2018 Wheal Martyn & Cornwall Music Education Hub

The aim of the project was for children and young people to get a better understanding of how Cornwall kept working during WW1, through an engagement with locals museums and to express that new understanding through creative writing and music. Working with Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum, pupils from Roche, Fowey and St Columb Miner primary schools used the history of the site as catalysts for creative writing, singing and composition. They worked with writer Rebecca Gregson and music leaders Emma Mansfield and Roger Luxton, both on site and in school to create descriptive writing and turn it into song.

Below is a report of the activity written by Gemma Martin of Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum:

On 29th November, crowds filled the Atrium at Wheal Martyn, all gathering to share the wonderful work of 150 school children from the local Clay Country. The Atrium was filled with the sounds of music, singing and poetry,  passionately performed and beautifully crafted. They were songs of War and the clay pits, telling the stories of clay horses becoming War Horses, tales of clay workers deployed to fight in The Great War and the role women took on in the pits in the absence of the men. The evening was a culmination of two months of work with three local schools, Roche School Year 5 class, Fowey Primary School Year 6 and St Columb Minor Academy Year 4 classes.

Each class came to Wheal Martyn on a creative writing research day, exploring the site, the museum artefacts and hearing stories from some of our Clay Country characters from the time of WW1. The Story Republic brought two notable characters to life through vignettes performed around the clay works. They were the stories of William Gould (Gunner Gould) and Hettie Julian. William Gould left the clay works to fight. He served with the 28th Division, 18th Battery Royal Field Artillery, with his horse “Punch”. He was a driver of two horses in a troop of six, which pulled an 18 pounder field gun and limber. Hettie Julian was the daughter of Captain Jack Julian (known as Captain Guts) of Bluebarrow clay works. During WW1 she mainly worked on the monitors but, as her father was in his mid-sixties, if there was a problem at the pit during the night, she would go instead of him to sort it out, using a
lantern to light her way.

Cordelia from St Columb Minor School added “Wheal Martyn gave the children a real life context for their stories. They could imagine what life would be like in the pit and it stemmed their curiosity and imaginations” – what a
fantastic and engaging way for the children to learn about their local history and the impact of WW1.

Following the museum visit, the young people produced their own stories and poems with support and advice from Becca Gregson, a professional writer with The Story Republic. The creative writing produced by the class was then remastered into one class song under the careful guidance and musical skills of Emma Mansfield and Roger Luxton from CMEH (Cornwall Music Education Hub).

Amanda Harris from The Story Republic spoke passionately about the reasons behind the project. “The aim of our WW1 Commemoration Project has been to support literacy and creative writing through the arts. The arts offer such a valuable way in for children to learn and develop, to gain essential skills in creativity, writing and self-confidence. The schools here should be congratulated for investing in their young people and engaging with the arts.”

Following the stunning performance, Gemma Martin (Education Officer at Wheal Martyn) commented “What a splendid job the children have done! They should all be proud of their achievements. We have been treated to such wonderful creative writing; stories that are competent, tender and imaginative in their reflections of The Great War. Standing and performing to an audience is a daunting task, and all the children have done a great job”.

The WW1 Commemoration project was a partnership between Wheal Martyn, KEAP and CMEH. This partnership has built over four years, delivering schools programmes that use the local heritage at Wheal Martyn as a spring board to improve literacy skills in schools through engaging arts project. This project was supported by generous funding from CMEH, Arts Council England and the Cornwall Museums Partnership and local Roche Councillor John Wood (Cornwall Council).