My Cornwall Life: Penzance, a town for all seasons and for all people
PUBLISHED: 01:16 23 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:15 20 February 2013
With such a variety to offer the visitor, Penzance is a town for all seasons and for all people. We to Tracy Story from Mounts Bay Music to discover more about the area. Find out more...
My Cornwall Life: Penzance
Right:Market Jew Street, Penzance
With such a variety to offer the visitor, Penzance is a town for all seasons and for all people. We talk to Tracy Story from Mounts Bay Music to discover more about the area.
In the 13th century, Penzance was known as pen sans or holy headland, when a chapel to the patron saint of fishermen, St Anthony, was built near the harbour. Before that it was raided by Vikings and Saxons, and afterwards by pirates, French, Turkish and Spanish invaders and the plague, so its not surprising that the town is steeped in history, with buildings and artefacts dating back hundreds of years. Gardeners can marvel at the variety of plants that grow in Morrab Gardens or Penlee Park, and art lovers can see works by Newlyn School artists in Penlee House Gallery and Museum, or modern works in the ultra-modern Exchange. Currently, visitors to the Isles of Scilly can travel from Penzance by helicopter or ferry, although plans are afoot for a new harbour for a new boat.
It is a town that loves to party: St Pirans Day, Golowan, Montol and the latest festival, the Penzance Proms, are just a few of the ways in which Penzance shows its lighter, brighter and festive side. What better way to bring the past and present together than with music, dancing, art, flags and banners, elaborate costumes and parades through the streets?
I spoke to Tracy Story, owner of Mounts Bay Music to find out what it is like to work here. I have owned Mounts Bay Music in Causewayhead for the last three years, Tracy explains, but Ive worked here in the shop for much longer than that. Apart from owning a music shop and playing guitar in the Tracy Story Band, Tracy is also the chairman of the Penzance Proms.
In 2009, several tourism, marketing and commercial groups got together to see if we could do something to attract more people to Penzance, especially out of season, he says. We planned a music and arts festival and decided to hold the first one in October 2010 in the quiet time between the end of the holiday season and Christmas. We wanted to have events covering all different styles of music: jazz, folk, blues, rock, mixed choirs and male voice choirs, indie and orchestral, all culminating with The Last Night of the Penzance Proms concert. There were lectures, poetry readings, various workshops and film shows, and Morrab Library had a small display of music related items. It was a very successful week. Penzance Proms is a Community Interest Company, which means that it is a non-profit organisation and so all money made will go to the following years Proms. This year we hope to spread the events out over a longer period and encourage more people to take part, especially schools, Tracy explains.
What would be your perfect weekend in Penzance?
I love walking along the promenade, from one end at the Jubilee Pool all the way to Newlyn. There are so many things to see and places where you can stop and watch the world go by.
Wheres the best place to eat?
I like the Market Plaice Fish Bar. Its quite near our shop, so its convenient for me, but I truly think they do the best fish and chips in town and the chips are made from locally grown potatoes.
Whats the best pub?
The Union Hotel in Chapel Street has a long and interesting history, involving Spanish invaders, Lord Nelson and Charles Dickens, to name just a few. I like the Admiral Benbow too. Its another very old pub and was the first place I played with my band.
Whats your favourite beach?
If had to choose, my favourite would be Marazion beach. The views across to St Michaels Mount and round Mounts Bay are stunning.
Where would you go for a special occasion?
We tend to go to the Sea Palace. Its a Chinese restaurant at the bottom of Quay Street, just above the Dock Inn. Its quite hidden away and you could miss it if you didnt know it was there. The food is always lovely and the staff are friendly.
What event sums up Penzance?
Id have to say the Penzance Proms! Wherever you go there is live music in pubs, clubs, halls and churches. Its lovely to be able to pull it all together and have a showcase of peoples talents, all in a week to ten days. It certainly encourages people who wouldnt necessarily listen to blues, for example, to go and listen to a blues band in a pub in the afternoon, and then perhaps a male voice choir in a church in the evening.
Where would you take friends out for the day?
I love Chapel Street. Its the most fascinating street in the whole of Penzance. Its full of history, has lots of interesting little shops and art galleries, and a wealth of pubs and restaurants. We could walk down there taking our time then along the sea front.
Where would you buy local produce?
Thornes greengrocers is great for fresh fruit and vegetables. It has a delicatessen too. We also like the Farmers Market, which is held on a Friday. We love the home-made bread and cakes. Theres so much to choose, and its all locally produced or made.
What is the most interesting piece of history about Penzance?
The history of the town is mostly involved with the sea: pirates, sailors and smuggling. Many of the buildings in Chapel Street allude to this, but there are two that are completely different. The Egyptian House is amazingly ornate and colourful. Its supposed to be a copy of a building in London and is about 180 years old. Further down Chapel Street, is a house with a plaque on. Maria Branwell lived there and she was the mother of the Bronte sisters. She moved from Penzance to Yorkshire when she got married.
All major roads lead to Penzance, so its easy to find.