Golowan Festival in Penzance Celebrates Coming of Age
The Golowan Festival celebrates its 21st anniversary in 2011 with a week of literary, artistic and music events, culminating in a weekend of parades, street entertainment and general misrule on the ancient causeways of Penzance – that’s Golowan Festival. Falling around the mid-summer Feast of Saint John (Gol Jowan in Cornish) from 18th to 26th June, there’s very little that’s sacred about this annual festival. Known simply as ‘Golowan’ to locals, it’s the chance to party, catch up with old friends and enjoy the cream of Cornish culture.
“Cornwall has a rich tradition of festivals and events and the early summer extravaganza of Golowan has grown into one of Cornwall’s most anticipated ‘Must See’ events”. commented Malcolm Bell, Head of Tourism at VisitCornwall, the Cornwall Development Company tourism service “Golowan Maritime Festival broadens the appeal of the event with traditional boats gathered in the scenic harbour of Penzance, before a race and parade of sail.”
Cornwall Council also recognises the economic and social benefits that Golowan brings to West Cornwall and the wider community. In turn the Council supports Golowan with an annual grant and through the Cornwall Festivals Network scheme which strengthens the many voluntary run arts festivals in the county.
A casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that Golowan is rooted in the mists of time. In fact, the Festival in its current form dates back to the early 1990s when a group of actors from Kneehigh Theatre got together with Penwith Peninsula Project, Penzance Town Council and the local Alverton Primary School to revive an ancient festival thought to have been lost in the 19th century. Now in its 21st year, Golowan is stronger than ever, with a mission to broaden its appeal to attract the cool twenty-somethings, as well as its core older and family audience.
This year, traditional elements such as Penglaz the Hobby Horse, the Torch-lit procession, the Mock Mayor elections, Quay Fair and the massive Mazey Day processions sit alongside a more laid-back festival vibe. Around sixty events, spread across a dozen venues over nine days, mean that Penzance becomes one big festival site for the week. People can pick and mix where to go as the mood takes them, whether it’s classical music in St Mary’s Church, folk in the Admiral Benbow, lively and irreverent debate in Sound Nightclub or simply hanging out the sea front watching Kite Surfing or enjoying the Maritime Festival.
More than ever, Golowan Festival 2011 is a showcase for West Cornwall’s home-grown talent. In theatre, Kneehigh Theatre’s Bec Applebee performs her acclaimed one-woman play ‘Oh Mary’ at Sound. Craig Johnston’s wacky puppetry, ‘Universarama’ is at The Exchange and stalwarts of the open air theatre experience, Miracle Theatre Company, perform their new play ‘The Death of Sherlock Holmes’ in Penlee Park. Young musicians take to the stage in The Music Zone and Penzance Youth Wind Band play St Mary’s Church. Quirky cultural events abound including a ‘Cornish Cook Off’ in the Farmer’s Market.
Participation and inclusion are the key messages for Golowan Festival 2011. This year’s theme is ‘Pirates and the Deep Blue Sea’ and pirate-costume, boat and banner-making workshops mean that anyone can turn up and make something amazing for Golowan. Weeks before, school children and community groups start work constructing the colourful painted wood and paper structures that are carried through the town in the Mazey Day processions.