By Barbara Santi, Director/Producer
awen productions CIC
The St. Ives Fishermen's Lodges project has come about from my own personal interest and intrigue about the St. Ives Fishermen's Lodges. When I moved to Cornwall in the winter of 1996, I stayed in Carbis Bay. I wandered about the then quiet, winter St. Ives cobbled streets where I discovered these unassuming shelters. As a filmmaker I became instantly fascinated by them. What were they for? Who were they for? What were all those photographs on the walls about?
Eventually, after spending many times peering through their windows, an elderly man invited me in to the Rose Lodge. We spent many hours chatting about the world and he shared with me his passion for boats as the wood burner kept us warm. I knew that one day I would make some work about the lodges...
Twenty odd years later, I approached Janet Axten, the then Heritage Manager of St. Ives Archives, with a proposal - to partner with them on an innovative project to re-discover the lodges and pull together research and creative interpretations about these much treasured emblems of 'old' St. Ives.
One of the exciting aspects of the funding secured for the project, enabled us to digitise a box of reel to reel tapes that had been donated to St. Ives Archive by Dr. Roger Slack, a respected doctor in St. Ives during the 1960s/70s. These recordings of local people give us a rare insight into a St. Ives which is no longer present. With thanks to the dedicated work of Janet Axten and her team of volunteers, the recordings have been meticulously transcribed and edited selections of the recordings are available to listen to throughout this website - it is a real treat to listen to the stories, accents and dialect.
No-one could have anticipated the impact of Covid-19 and inevitably our project was also affected. Our events and community involvement had to be reconsidered but we were lucky that we had orchestrated some contemporary interviews and delivered an event at St. Ives Library before the first lockdown in March 2020. When we realised that community outreach in the physical sense was not going to be possible, a creative website was visioned. This website is a journey through the history and stories of the lodges and its people, a culmination of the work produced by the many contributors, volunteers, researchers and artists who have researched, listened to oral histories, transcribed and interpreted what the lodges were, what they are today and what they will be in the future. We hope you will enjoy what we have discovered.
This year long project has been fundraised and delivered through my company awen productions CIC.
The Importance of Oral Histories
by Janet Axten
Oral history is such an important resource. St Ives Archive is privileged to have a fine collection of recordings in a variety of formats, assembled over a wide range of years. As time goes by, and we lose those who contributed, they become even more precious.
The thirty or so reel to reel tapes, mostly recorded in the 1960s, and generously given to the Archive by Dr. Roger Slack more than fifteen years ago, have sat in a large box and stored, out of the way. There was never any way of being able to listen to them. This early technology has become increasingly fragile, and it was clear that even playing them once on a borrowed tape player might have damaged them irrevocably.
And so, with the support of the Heritage Fund, and as part of the Fishermen’s Lodges project, it has been possible not only to digitize them, but to transcribe all the interviews and research the lives of those who told their stories.
Transcription has not been an easy task. Most of the interviewees were very elderly and spoke in a strong St Ives dialect. Remembering the past, sometimes well into the last decades of the nineteenth century, memories were often confused, and fascinating stories would come tumbling out, one after the other.
The original stimulus for undertaking these interviews was that Dr. Slack wanted to talk to people who were related to, or who had known the primitive artist, Alfred Wallis. Who better than to interview some of his patients? Wallis had died only about twenty years before the recordings were made. Much myth surrounded his life and work, thanks to the fascinating biography written by Sven Berlin in 1949 Alfred Wallis: Primitive, and Roger felt that Wallis himself should be better understood.
The recordings were digitized by cornishmemory.com, set up by Azook. Based at Redruth, Cornish Memory is ‘an online audio-visual archive of Cornish history, culture and life. It was created to help museums, heritage organisations and private collectors improve access to the film, audio and photographic heritage that they hold’.
The digital recordings returned by Azook to the project team turned out to consist of at least thirty-six separate interviews, many of them at least forty-five minutes long. Transcription work by a small team of volunteers working at home, during lock-down, took over six months to complete. But the final outcome is an extraordinary and precious record of life in St Ives between the 1880s and 1960s.
Meet The Team
Barbara Santi is an award winning documentary filmmaker with over twenty years experience and is co-director and co-founder of awen productions CIC.
At the heart of Barbara’s work is to raise under-represented peoples voices through film. She’s made documentaries for Channel 4 and Carlton and shown films on Reel Stories, FourDocs, Current TV, The Community Channel, galleries, museums, conferences, film festivals and has toured extensively promoting film in rural settings.
Barbara’s work focuses on film and digital technology for positive social change. She’s made creative documentaries on subjects as diverse as rural issues, archive film, local heritage/history, human rights, youth culture, disability, farming, globalisation and the environment.
Barbara work is interdisciplinary, developing creative documentary projects with partners. Her interest in collaborative film, creative storytelling, archive and ideas around place, identity and culture has culminated into a practice-based PhD at Exeter University where a feature documentary is being completed.
Janet Axten is a researcher, writer and lecturer; for many years she has speclialised in the history of the St Ives area and the artists who have lived and worked in the community.
Following her association with the St Ives Tate Action Group (STAG) which raised substantial funds towards the building of Tate St Ives in 1993, she wrote the book Gasworks to Gallery: The Story of Tate St Ives.
In 1996 she co-founded the St Ives Archive, a charitable organisation staffed by volunteers, that collects information about all aspects of St Ives and its history; for twenty-four years she was its Heritage Manager. She has been on the Committee of the St Ives September Festival and is currently on the committee of the Friends of St Ives Library (FOSIL) and the St Ives Community Charter Group.
Gaining an MA in Cornish Studies with the University of Exeter in 2004, she is currently researching the role of women in the textile industry in West Cornwall, from the thirteenth century to the present day.
In 2008 Janet was made a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedh with the bardic name of Porthia y’m Kolonn-vy (St Ives in my Heart).
We'd like to thank the following people:
Tony Farrell, Brian Stevens, Nicola Eicher, Moira Eddy, Janet Harris, Rhiannon Williams, John McWilliams, Phil Saward, Melanie Frankell, Ann Kelley, Irene Tanner, Alban Roinard, St. Ives Archive, the funders who have made this project possible and all the men from the lodges.