In February 2023 we were thrilled to announce a Shared Prosperity Funding boost for Redruth’s spectacular celebration of Cornish heritage, Hellfire Kernow, read more about the investment here.
Hellfire Kernow will take place annually on the first Bank Holiday Monday, in May.
Where you live determines which Hellfire Kryw you’re part of, and which team you might like to support on the day. The divisions are based on the medieval keverangow (‘hundreds’) of Cornwall and centred on Redruth.
Angels, Demons, Saints or Tormentors? Which Kryw are you?!
With the traditions of Cornwall’s ancient playing places ‘plen-an-gwari’ behind it, this ‘brand-new ancient celebration’ includes a spectacular procession through the town, a reimagined and re-enacted story of the life of Saint Euny, Redruth’s patron, and a revival of an ancient Cornish sport with the ‘Hellfire Hurl’, a dramatic tournament played by pupils from Redruth School.
The project has received funding from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Cornwall Council has been chosen by Government as a Lead Authority for the fund and is responsible for monitoring the progress of projects funded through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.The funding was allocated from the Good Growth’s Cultural Events and Talent Programme.
Described by some as ‘spectacularly bonkers’, Hellfire Kernow 2023 saw the event grow and joined together the familiar and the unfamiliar – combining art, heritage, community and sport. The event brought together those from the north, south, east and west of Redruth, and beyond, in four distinct Kryws (‘crews’) of Angels, Demons, Tormentors and Saints.
Having triumphed last year in the Hellfire Hurl, the Saints proudly carried the Silver Ball trophy through the town to the Rugby Club where the four teams played until a battle of good and evil resulted in a win for the Tormentors who celebrated in true Tormentor fashion – with their choreographed Cornish Garm Vresel ‘battle cry’ performed to all.
Hellfire Kernow 2023 was an invitation to all members of the community, to join-in in ways that suited them – with a series of free, drop-in workshops in the run-up to the event for both adults and children to get creative, making costumes and props to use on the day, band rehearsals for musicians to join-in with and community workshops for Redruth’s young people to learn the Cornish language chant and choreography of each Kryw battle cry.
Read our Hellfire Kernow 2023 Evaluation Report it’s a cracker! Bryntin (‘brilliant’) pictures, some pur dha (‘very good’) quotes, plus plenty of ideas and enthusiasm for 2024!
We set the spark in May 2022 with a series of Hellfire Kernow events, funded by Arts Council England and Redruth Unlimited – a cultural adventure for Redruth, funded by Historic England with FEAST commissioning cultural projects on behalf of the Redruth High Street Heritage Action Zone with the help of a local cultural consortium.
Working with staff and students at Redruth school and with members of Redruth Rugby Club we ‘reconstructed’ the ancient sport of Hurling to Goal, based on surviving accounts and evidence of the sport, through a series of experimental workshops. Accounts of the popular Cornish sport ‘Hurling to goal’ by Richard Carew in 1602 suggested that it was played with a heavy, metal ‘silver ball’ and is likely the earliest known example from anywhere in the world where the ball must be passed backwards.
Read more about what we got up to on our news page.
After exploring imagery and ideas from medieval manuscripts, four distinct Redruth ‘Hellfire Crews’ were created: i) ‘Demons’, ii) ‘Angels’, iii) ‘Saints’ and iv) ‘Tormentors’. Each Crew created colourful costumes, props and processional imagery for themselves and became the cheerleader fan club for their hurling team. Each crew adopted a Crew Base in the run up to the event to prepare their costumes and garm vresel / battle cry. Thanks to the Redruth venues kindly providing bases for our Crews – Redruth Rugby Club, The Buttermarket, Redruth Community Centre and The Art Room.
The inaugural ‘Redruth Hurling Championships’ were held at Redruth Rugby Club, with the costumed, colourful Crews each supporting their team with chants and garm vresel / battle cry encouragements. Afterwards, the glorious champions were paraded along the ‘Plain an Gwarry Trail’, visiting each of their Crew ‘spiritual homes’ along the way – The Buttermarket, St Rumon’s Chapel and Kresen Kernow before returning to ‘Hellfire Corner’ at Redruth Rugby Club. The parade finished with a fire sculpture finale, inspired by fragments from medieval scripts.
“This was such a brilliant event that used Cornish legends and language to involve the whole community in a fun and thrilling, rugby-like game with…….historical origins. Allocating everyone who attended to a team or tribe, depending on which part of the town they lived in, was so clever and allowed us to feel loyalty to each other even though we hadn’t met before the game.”
-Spectator, Hellfire Kernow 2022
“Redruth has a wealth of knowledge, history and culture. I think as Cornish folk it’s impossible for us to not feel the significance of a gathering of this kind. I feel proud and blessed.”
-Spectator, Hellfire Kernow 2023