The work of the Hall For Cornwall extends beyond what you see on the stage
Heritage is in the bones of Hall For Cornwall. Situated within one of Truro’s most important civic buildings, City Hall, the theatre has many stories to tell. Memories whisper along the Opeway and its many, varied uses course through the granite, terrazzo and oak which shape its current incarnation as a proud and newly transformed theatre for Cornwall.
From jail cells, to cinemas, fashion shows to skating rinks, the hall has hosted most of Cornwall on its stage or within its walls. The team at Hall for Cornwall aims to make this rich history engaging, immersive and interactive for all ages.
From 2018 to 2021, the theatre was closed for a comprehensive redevelopment, with a three-year heritage project running alongside it. Thanks to a support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Revealing City Hall peeled back the layers of history and crafted stories, commissions and creative performances to share across Cornwall’s communities.
In tandem, the theatre’s new digital heritage collection has drawn together ephemera, photography and memories from City Hall, as donated from members of the public and researched at archives including Kresen Kernow and the Royal Cornwall Museum. The 800+ item collection includes posters, prints, maps and costumes, and serves as an overview of the building’s history and the role it has played at the heart of Truro.
This history will be showcased on Saturday, March 5 – St Piran’s Day – as a celebration of Hall for Cornwall’s heritage work. The theatre’s youth groups will perform on the stage using the collection as their inspiration, while virtual reality (VR) tours, films, projections and drop-in workshops will be on offer on the day.
“We can’t wait to showcase this work,” says collections and interpretation lead Lucy Innes Williams. “March 5 is the perfect time to shout from the rooftops about all these amazing stories and creative commissions.”
As you wander through the theatre, keep your eyes peeled. Three large panels hug the entrance into the Cornwall Playhouse Auditorium, displaying the titles of 200 past performances. This is the work of work by renowned typographer and printmaker Alan Kitching, owner of the Wrington Press, wood block printing type which was used to create theatrical posters from the 1940s to ‘60s.
Look out, too, for 10 brass and bronze-effect roundels on the ground floor. These form part of the Storypoints trail, devised by artist Kerry Lemon. Kerry conducted a residency in Truro, working in consultation with City of Lights, Salt Projects, Truro Art Club and Truro Youth Panel to choose moments in the building’s history to be illustrated. Each point is linked via a QR code to its respective story, crafted by postgraduate placement writer Suzanne Inman.
Elsewhere, sound artist Justin Wiggan has worked with the Hall’s volunteers to record their memories as part of his Life Echo sonic journey, while composer Graham Fitkin is creating a new app, Geography, spanning the theatre and the city of Truro via pieces of music that will stitch together as the listener makes their way to a show. In addition, students from Falmouth University’s BA (Hons) Illustration course have been invited to illustrating performances as part of their Reportage studies.
A series of monthly contemporary makers’ workshops will celebrate the materials used in the building. Look down in the Playhouse Bar, and you will see terrazzo flooring left over from the building’s past as a cinema. This has inspired terrazzo planter making workshops with Badger & Birch, and a ceramic tile-making workshop with Starglazers.
The Get Creative team aims to give Cornwall’s young people the voice and confidence to participate in the performing arts, from drama to dance and even musical theatre, with workshops in primary and secondary schools, ultimately bringing stories, animations and productions to life in and out of the theatre. “Community is at the heart of everything we are striving for,” says deputy creative director Helen Tiplady. “We’re delighted to share our work both on and off our stage, with our Summer Stage Programme being announced later in the spring. We can’t wait to welcome you in.”