Golden Tree Productions oversaw Cornwall’s contribution to the ‘TOSTA: Cultural Cargo’ project, which was part of Donostia/San Sebastian’s designation as European Capital of Culture in 2016.
Our aim was to create an artistic collaboration between seven of Europe’s small-language nations (Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Fryslan, Basque Country and Galicia), all situated on the Atlantic coastline with strong maritime traditions. The project had three goals: to celebrate linguistic diversity, to promote cultural exchanges between these communities and to spread ‘peace through culture’.
We started the process with a series of international partner meetings, along with organisations from each of the other small-language nations. Funded by Cornwall Council and Donostia/San Sebastian 2016, Golden Tree Productions devised a programme of activities over a period of ten months culminating in a Cornish language ‘Pop-Up Festival Village’ at the Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival in June 2016.
At the core of the TOSTA: Cultural Cargo project was an artist exchange programme, aiming to promote the creativity and diversity of smaller-language cultures across Europe whilst stimulating intercultural dialogue. We recruited Cornish artist Zenna Tagney, who spent five weeks with Sabhal Mor Ostaig on the Isle of Skye in Scotland and produced a beautiful piece of art based on a local myth about the underwater ‘Crobh Mara’ (sea-cows).
Here in Cornwall, we hosted Frysian artist Aukje Schaafsma for five weeks, providing her with studio space, mentoring and access to Cornish language lessons. After spending time with a wide variety of local musicians, singers and artists, she produced a thoughtful and entertaining piece of work, engaging five Cornish singers in the creation of a short film and burying them up to the neck in sand on Perranporth beach!
Zenna’s work, Aukje’s film and each of the pieces produced by the artists from other cultures then toured to all seven countries and became part of the exhibition in the Pop-up Festival Village.
Golden Tree Productions organised and delivered six workshops in three primary schools around Falmouth, raising awareness of the existence of European minority languages and the Cornish language. They explored the value of linguistic diversity and learned phrases in Cornish using Will Coleman’s Tales from Porth educational storybook series. The children also learned ‘Kelmys on dh’Ostrali’, a Cornish language sea shanty, which was then sung in the Pop-up Village and as part of the ‘Human Mosaic’ installation on Falmouth High Street.
Golden Tree Productions also put out a call to recruit a Cornish musician for the ‘Diversity Orchestra’, consisting of musicians from each of the participating minority regions. Cornish singer, musician and performer Bec Applebee was selected to travel with the orchestra to seven different festivals in each small-language nation. The band went on to record a CD and tour major world music festivals including Celtic Connections Festival 2019 in Glasgow.
All of these projects culminated in the ‘Treveglos Trommsav Gool’ (Pop-Up Festival Village) on Prince of Wales Pier as part of the 2016 Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival. Over three days, Golden Tree curated and managed a programme of Cornish music, art and language, incorporating contributions from each of the seven minority cultures.
We converted a shipping container into a stage for bands and acts to perform, with a focus on Cornish language, traditional music and maritime themes. There were three main evening gigs, with a performance from the international Tosta Band. Artwork from the seven residencies were exhibited in a large futuristic blow-up cottage, and visitors were invited to fold a paper boat and leave messages in Cornish which travelled in a shipping container to each of the other five international festivals.
There were a total of 4.6k audience members over the course of the Pop-Up Festival Village in Cornwall, with a further 19.4k people engaged across festivals in each of the other participating countries.
This plethora of cultural activity was a practical demonstration of the Cornish language as living and accessible, particularly with younger people. The language received high profile exposure in each of the seven participating countries, and Cornish was included as an equal member in a trans-national community of minority languages.