Keeping it local in Penzance

PUBLISHED: 21:19 13 June 2013 | UPDATED: 22:08 13 June 2013

Sarah Brittain and Ghibli

Sarah Brittain and Ghibli


Penzance is known for singing pirates, its 501 year old charter and a tsunami 250 years ago - but there is much more to our most westerly town as Lesley Double discovers

Penzance is known for singing pirates, its 501 year old charter and a tsunami 250 years ago - but there is much more to our most westerly town as Lesley Double discovers

“It’s a wonderful place to live. I love being so close to the sea, as when I’m not playing tennis, I like windsurfing and swimming: I swim two or three times a week, indoors in the winter and in the sea in the summer. Since coming here I have been working to promote tennis in the area, with local schools, hotels and leisure centres, and offering taster and coaching sessions. We are very busy and have been accredited with the LTA Beacon Status in recognition of the fun and affordable tennis we offer to the local community.”

“June is one of our busiest months as, having watched Wimbledon on television, everyone wants to pick up a racquet and have a go. We start teaching children as young as three years old. They have small racquets and a small court and net to start off with and they love it! We could have another Andy Murray or Laura Robson here, you never know! It’s a lovely club here, with great facilities. There are four artificial grass courts, three macadam courts, a mini tennis court and practice wall, and we are set on the edge of beautiful Penlee Park. What could be better than that?”

Martin works with Mel Jones, who runs the bar and café in the club house. “The clubhouse was built in 2004, and ‘The First Service Café’ was included as a part of the building. It was very popular with club members, and parents who bring their children here for tennis lessons, and is now open to the public too. We received a Gold Award from Cornwall Council as part of its healthy eating campaign. The café is very community conscious and we are happy to welcome those who want to come and watch the tennis and have a great cup of tea and piece of cake whilst doing so!”

Birte Hosken is Penzance Tennis Club’s office manager, and has been a club member for 20 years. “I am in charge of bookings and memberships. We have more than 300 members, both junior and senior, so it can be quite a hectic job. It’s buzzing here on Saturday mornings! The phone is always ringing as the club is open to the public, with keen tennis players on holiday or enthusiastic locals booking a court for a game or two. It’s a lovely place to work, everyone is so friendly.”

Sarah Brittain is director of Cornwall Contemporary, a gallery on the corner of Chapel Street and Parade Street. “I have been here for seven years. When I decided to open a gallery, friends were surprised I’d chosen to do so in Penzance, but this building has character. People are amazed when they come in as there are several rooms on different levels. The first level is exhibition space and the other levels are for mixed works by various artists. My dog Ghibli is usually here with me, sitting on my lap or under my desk.

“Exhibitions change monthly, with three weeks of showing and one with change-over. I have about 20 artists on my books – I could have much more as I’m always being approached by artists who want to show their work here, but I’m happy with those I have. Some of the artists, such as Alastair Lindsay, I have known since art college and I have worked with regular exhibitor Neil Pinkett for 16 years.

“Cornwall Contemporary is in a good position, between Penlee Gallery and the Exchange, and people pass it as they walk between one and the other and come in. I hold various exhibitions in London, as some of my buyers come from the capital and it’s nice for them to see Cornish art in their own area instead of mine. I’m glad I chose Penzance for my gallery. It’s not traditionally known as an ‘art’ town, but if you look, it’s full of interesting independent shops, especially in Chapel Street and Causewayhead, and there are lots of lovely parks and little cafes too. It’s a great community town.”

Holly Hearn and Jessie Dowse-Willoughby run one of the newest ventures in the town. Part café, part vintage shop, Lost and Found opened for business in November 2012, half way down historic Chapel Street.

“I’d always wanted to run a café,” says Jessie. “I worked in a ‘normal’ job, but when Holly proposed we run a café here together, of course I said yes! We have been very lucky and our business is growing as word spreads.”

“I’d never thought of running a café,” adds Holly. “I had been working in a book shop just up the street, learning book binding. This building is owned by the Hypatia Trust, who has their offices upstairs. They thought the downstairs rooms would make a good café and shop, and I’m glad to say they were right!”

“Jessie and I went to school together. Although the idea of running a café had never crossed my mind, I knew Jessie wanted to do that. I had been collecting vintage china and old books for years, and so the front room of Lost and Found is a little shop. It has a vast selection of cook books, from Mrs Beeton to Nigella. People come in for a cup of tea and go out with a cookbook or vintage teapot!”

“We occasionally open in the evenings and had a Valentine’s Evening of Poetry, which everyone enjoyed very much. We have lots planned for the coming months, from supper clubs to art exhibitions: we are running an Affordable Art Exhibition over the summer.” n

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