Kindling the Scarp June 2013
Kindling the Scarp was a conference about Jack Clemo, the Cornish poet and novelist. The conference gathered all the stars of Clemo studies in a single conference room at Wheal Martyn, and again at the closing Chapel where Jack Clemo worshipped at Trethosa in the heart of the clay country. The two-day event focused solely on Prydyth an Pry, the ‘Poet of the Clay’, through many media. To begin with there was the conference, with biographical and academic papers being presented by some wonderfully diverse people. Chicago-born but Cornwall-based writer and academic Patricia Moyer opened the event, being both a great reader and good friend of the Clemos from the late-seventies until Clemo’s death. Donald Rawe shared some of his memories of Jack and his mother Eveline, and read one of Clemo’s uncollected Cornish dialect tales to great effect. Alan Kent presented an excellent paper on the mythopoeism of Clemo readers and the direction studies will have to take now. Looking into the theological aspects of Clemo’s work were the Russian Orthodox Archpriest Benedict Ramsden, talking about Clemos ‘erotic mysticism’, Andrew Symons, Warwick University’s Emma Mason, the Illinois-based Heather Martin, and writer, theologian and filmmaker Iwan Russell-Jones, an Associate Professor at Regent College, Vancouver. Garry Tregidga, Ivor Bowditch and John Hillman gave some cultural, political and industrial background to the clay region, and there were further papers from Michael Spinks, Rosemary Sandford, Kym Martindale and Cornwall academic John Hurst.
Aside from these papers, there was an exhibition within the museum at Wheal Martyn, with original manuscripts of some of Clemo’s most famous works, letters, diaries, his writing desk and typewriter, and photographs, with artwork by Lionel Miskin, Heather Spears, Tony Martin, Kyla Sidwell, and a sculpture by Patricia Jenkins.
Bafta and Emmy award-winning director Norman Stone visited on the Friday evening to introduce, discuss and play his 1980 film about Jack Clemo, A Different Drummer, which was a real highlight of the event. We were also lucky to have poets James Goodman and Alan Kent reading from their work
The weekend ended at Trethosa Chapel, with a new film by The Motion Farm, Roots of my Story, showing interviews with some of the many local people who knew Clemo when they were growing up around St Stephen, Trethosa and Treviscoe. KneeHigh Theatre actor Simon Harvey and Seize the Day performer Will Coleman told some brilliant local and Cornish stories in the chapel, which was full that night, for the film, the storytelling and for the closing address by trustee Alan Sanders, who was bidding farewell not only to the conference-goers but also to the chapel itself.
Kindling the Scarp was a great success and promises a lively future for the work and study of this important Christian and Cornish poet, novelist, autobiographer, theologian and story-writer. Clemo’s significance was shown to be local, national and international, with visitors from Canada, America, Scotland, England and Wales as well as from all over Cornwall and the surrounding villages.
The event was organised by PhD student Luke Thompson of the University of Exeter, and Dr Gemma Goodman of the University of Warwick.
Jack Clemo: The Awakening, Poems Newly Found is a collection of poems published by Francis Boutle Publishers ISBN 978 1 903427 17 0 Paperback 85 pages £7.95