University researchers Sarah Chapman and Rowan Musser with local farmers Charles Richards and Jason Lowry on Splattenridden Farm, Lelantdowns Hayle.

Cornish farming heritage project wins the lottery

A new project which traces Cornish farming and heritage from the late 19th century to the present day through photography, video, film and artefacts is being documented by researchers from the University of Exeter’s Cornish Audio Visual Archive (CAVA).

Working closely with farming families and young people around Cornwall, the Family, Farming and Tradition’ project will capture stories and memories of farming families, documenting their lives and traditions. 

The information will be archived and made accessible to the public at the Cornwall Centre, the Royal Institution of Cornwall Collections and CAVA’s website and archive.   In addition it will form part of a county-wide touring exhibition that will feature a video installation of oral history interviews conducted by Rowan Musser of CAVA and contemporary photographs of participating farms taken by photographer Sarah Catherine Chapman. 

Rowan said of the project, ‘Community involvement, enabled by the Heritage Lottery Fund of £24,000, will allow a series of oral history training workshops.  The training will be led by CAVA and we will encourage young volunteers to develop new practical skills, such as, carrying out, recording and summarising an interview and communication skills, encouraging them to conduct oral history interviews with farming families  in their area.’

The Heritage Lottery Fund Young Roots award will also support a partnership with Cornwall Young Farmers, providing new opportunities for members to learn about their heritage and engage in creative activities.

This includes a photography competition, with winning entries to be included in the exhibition, which starts at the Royal Cornwall Museum on the 18th September. These winning photographs and contemporary photographs of participating farms, will sit alongside agricultural photographs from existing archives, providing interesting comparisons between past and present farming in Cornwall. Numerous photographs, stored at Penlee House Gallery and Museum, the Royal Institution of Cornwall and the Cornwall Centre, remain previously unseen and provide a fascinating insight into former farming practices in Cornwall. The exhibition will move to the Eden Project, Penlee House Gallery and Museum, The Exchange and Lesnewth Church.

Dr Garry Tregidga, Director of the Cornish Audio Visual Archive said, 'This is an excellent opportunity for young people to get involved in the study and celebration of Cornish heritage. A series of community-based exhibitions will enable the archive to reach out to wider audiences that tend to be neglected by conventional research projects. Moreover, farming history itself tends to be forgotten in comparison to studies of the iconic industries of mining and fishing so by recording rural traditions through audio-visual interviews and photography we can gain a greater insight into the Cornish story both in the past and present'.

The project will also be represented at the Royal Cornwall Show 2010 where farmers and their families are being encouraged to find out more about the project. ‘Family, Farming and Tradition’ will be located in the Heritage Pavilion.  Sarah Chapman and Rowan Musser are keen to hear and document farming stories and can be contacted at

Heritage Lottery Fund’s Head of Region for the South West, Nerys Watts, is supportive of the project. She said, ‘Agriculture has played a key role in Cornwall’s history from the earliest times right up to the present day.  We are delighted to support a project enabling young people from today’s local farming families to explore the traditions of their past whilst learning new skills, and sharing their heritage with others.’

Date: 7 June 2010

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