Art, literature and theatre

Today Cornwall has a thriving creative sector and, for hundreds of years, the landscape has been a source of inspiration for artists and writers.

Kresen Kernow is home to a large collection of published material on artists connected to Cornwall, as well as having an extensive fiction and poetry collection by writers such as Daphne du Maurier, Jack Clemo, Charles Causley and Winston Graham.

We also hold original archive documents and artworks from several artists and writers. These include the Garstin family archive, which contains thousands of letters between artist Norman Garstin and his writer sons, Crosbie and Denis, and artist daughter Alethea, and also includes manuscripts of some of their published works.

The archive of writer Denys Val Baker contains a wide variety of material, including manuscript novels, short stories and articles. The collection includes letters from literary greats such as Iris Murdoch and John Betjeman.

Kresen Kernow is also home to the archive of artist Mary Mills. A bard of the Gorsedh, Mills’ work was used to illustrate a number of Cornish publications.

We also look after archive collections from various theatre organisations in Cornwall, including Redruth Players, Truro Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society and Hall for Cornwall and have a large poster collection advertising all kinds of different performances. Cornwall’s historic plen-an-gwaris , or outdoor theatres, are represented on maps in our collections.

You can find out more about Cornish music and festivals in our Cornish language and culture collections guide.

Key search terms: individual names of artists, amateur dramatics, theatre, show, performance, musical, painting, drawing, craft, knitting, sewing, embroidery, drama, concert, orchestra, choir

Key collections:  GN (Garstin), X1394 (Mills), AD2451 (Baker), X651 (TAODS), HFC (Hall for Cornwall)

Recommended reads:  Art in Cornwall by Michael Bird, 2012; Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall 1880-1940: dictionary and source-book by Melissa Hardie, 2009; The theatre of Cornwall: space, place, performance by Alan M Kent, 2010; The literature of Cornwall: continuity, identity, difference, 1000-2000 by Alan Kent, 2000