Details of the venues around Falmouth and Cornwall that hosted events for The Falmouth Convention.
University College Falmouth
University College Falmouth offers courses in Art, Design, Media and Performance for around 3,000 students at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Its history stretches back to the opening of Falmouth School of Art in 1902 at its Arwenack Avenue site (now home to the MA Fine Art: Contemporary Practice and MA Curatorial Practice courses).
The University College has three campuses: Woodlane in Falmouth; Tremough in Penryn; and Dartington, near Totnes in Devon.
The Woodlane campus is set in sub-tropical gardens in central Falmouth and houses a library, lecture theatre, café/bar, studio spaces and design suites. The Tremough campus is now the multi-million-pound hub campus of the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC), shared with the University of Exeter. Following the merger with Dartington College of Arts in 2008, University College Falmouth is building a new performance centre on the Tremough campus to open in October 2010.
Tate St Ives
Since the late 1800s, West Cornwall has been a destination for artists from all over the world. With the arrival of Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo in 1939, St Ives became internationally known as a centre of modern art. A new generation of artists followed including Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Patrick Heron, Terry Frost and St Ives-born painter Peter Lanyon.
Tate St Ives, designed by architects David Shalev and Eldred Evans, opened in 1993 to celebrate the modernist legacy of the town’s international artist colony. The dynamic spirit of the artists who lived and worked in the town throughout the twentieth century is reflected in a broad programme of historic and contemporary displays that embrace the best of international modern and contemporary art, presenting temporary exhibitions, special commissions and works from the Tate Collection.
Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange
Newlyn Art Gallery first opened in 1895. It was designed by James Hicks and funded by John Passmore Edwards to provide a venue for the presentation of work by a nationally acclaimed group of artists known as The Newlyn School, who were practising in the village at that time. Since then the gallery has maintained its commitment to presenting nationally and internationally acclaimed work to audiences in west Cornwall.
In 2007, the gallery reopened following a £4m scheme, designed by architects MUMA, to extend the Newlyn site and develop a new art space in a former telephone exchange in Penzance.
The Exchange has the largest single contemporary exhibition space within 180 miles, retaining much of the industrial scale and feel of the original building and Newlyn Art Gallery has been refurbished and extended to make the most of its classic Victorian character and shoreline setting.
The Poly has been a public exhibition space for the arts and sciences in Falmouth for 175 years.
When the Cornwall Polytechnic Society was established in 1833, its stated aims were to ‘stimulate ingenuity’, ‘promote industrious habits’ and ‘elicit inventive powers’ in the arts and sciences. Its exhibition hall, the Poly, has been home to the Society’s creativity and innovation ever since.
The Society was founded when two daughters of the Fox family, a prominent family of Cornish Quakers and businessmen, noticed that workers at the family foundry at Perranarworthal had good ideas for improving products and processes, but no forum in which to discuss and develop them. So, the Cornwall Polytechnic Society was conceived and the word ‘polytechnic’ first entered use in Britain. (‘Polytechnic’ meaning ‘of many arts or sciences.’)
By 1835, the Society had received royal patronage from William IV and the newly titled Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society required a dedicated home to house its annual exhibitions. The Society was soon so popular that virtually every Cornish town had its own chapter, but the Society needed an exhibition space at its Falmouth hub. The Society identified Church Street as the perfect location, demolished an existing residential building and erected the Polytechnic Exhibition Hall in its place.
Throughout the nineteenth century the Poly was a venue for talks on new mining techniques, natural philosophy and general developments in the arts and sciences. Fittingly, for such an intensely practical age, the Poly also hosted practical science. In 1865 a demonstration involving some of Alfred Nobel’s explosives proved the theory of unintended consequences and caused serious damage to the building.
The late nineteenth century brought other dramatic changes. Until this point, a strong Quaker influence had prevented the Poly from being used for theatrical performances. (As Byron had observed of Falmouth, ‘the Claret is good and Quakers plentiful.’) However, in 1889 the Society removed its earlier restriction, built a stage and permitted ‘dramatic plays’.
Change and development continued into the twentieth century. A film licence was obtained in 1910, and in 1969 a floor was inserted to create a gallery space above the cinema.
In the twenty first century the Poly once more faces innovation and change. Although financial issues have recently caused the temporary closure of the building, the Polytechnic Society continues and hopes soon to resume cinema screenings. Meanwhile the Society continues to work closely with University College Falmouth and is also providing a unique historic space for some of the diverse activities of the Falmouth Convention, which may itself be seen as an example of the kind of cross-disciplinary exploration that the Cornwall Polytechnic Society was established to promote.