Coronavirus Stories Launch

Cornwall Film Festival projects receive funding from the National Lottery to help local communities talk about their experience of Coronavirus

As the UK Government sets out further changes to ease lockdown measures in England next week the Cornwall Film Festival charity is launching Coronavirus Stories after being awarded funding by the National Lottery to support its work in encouraging creativity and culture to thrive across Cornwall. The idea for Coronavirus Stories came out of a conversation on how we document the experiences of communities during the Coronavirus crisis and resulting lockdown. How do we come together while staying apart? 

At a time when the news cycle is saturated with global issues, we wanted to turn our attention to our immediate community – the residents of our street. By contributing to this shared history of the pandemic, we hope to bring the community closer together and discover the incredible diversity of experiences and perspectives that can be found behind every door on every street. Starting with St Thomas Street in Penryn, we hope the project will be taken up by other communities across the county, and will become a rich portrait of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.

54 addresses of mixed residential, social, private and multiple housing, on St.Thomas Street, Penryn, were asked to contribute their stories and their thoughts on the theme ‘together’ during this time, selecting strong and diverse voices, each showing a different side to community life here in Cornwall. This is peer to peer storytelling – by the community, for our community – making pieces that are equally engaging and enlightening for audiences.  The stories and portraits will be released online at www.coronavirusstoriescornwall.org and on social media, where shorter cut-downs of the interviews will engage a wide range of audiences and bring new voices to the project.  

“I’ve worked down South Crofty tin mine, been blown up three times, been shot twice, worked with the circus, skied all round the world… but never a pandemic like this, I don’t think anyone has… It’s unprecedented” – Nick 

“I’m a member of extinction rebellion, so I have quite a sense that this is a crisis within a crisis, and the larger crisis of the environment is all around us… we’ve got to localise to survive” – Sarah at Picketts Yard 

“My one rock has been Brian up the road, old Nemos. He’s fed me loads, he’s helped me out… I think we would have all starved to death if it wasn’t for Brian, he’s beautiful” – Dave 

“At first I was worried, about money, and obviously about losing the pub, and then the sun came out and I enjoyed it, and I’ve been gardening, and I enjoyed that. But it’s going on and on and on, and now I’m thinking… I’d like to be back to normal” – Angie landlady at The Famous Barrel

Documentary Filmmaker Clare Tavernor of Phono worked on the series of short audio interviews with the residents of St Thomas Street, Penryn. Clare is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work has taken her from the deserts of Mali to the Hollywood hills. Having directed and produced across all four BBC channels, her most recent series is about to be broadcast on BBC Four and is an immersive journey into the world of Latin American music. Now Clare is telling a story much closer to home… in fact, it’s the story of her street. 

“I’m used to landing in sweltering climates and climbing into vans with armed guards in order to make films about art and culture around the world. When lockdown was announced, I wondered whether it would be the end of me documenting fascinating stories… but it turns out I only had to knock on my neighbours door.” – Clare Tavernor 

The Cornwall Film Festival charity was established in 2002 and is based in Penryn. It is run by a small team, freelancers and volunteers. It was founded by a group of filmmakers to advance the education of the public in the art of cinematography, filmmaking and other forms of moving images including films in the Cornish language. It now delivers not just the Film Festival, but clubs, events, education, training and opportunities in the media industry, working with groups facing social, cultural or economic exclusion from the richness of media culture.

The new funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes and is the largest community funder in the UK, will support this project documenting Cornish lives, as the UK Government sets out further changes to ease lockdown measures in England on July 4th.

Following the work in St.Thomas Street, Cornwall Film Festival will be able to press on with plans for phase two – launching a Crowdfunder to broaden the project to other streets and communities in Cornwall. The charity will develop a package of questions for those who would like to carry out the project in their area.  Cornwall Film Festival wants to hear your story, how you came to live on the street, your thoughts and feelings about your community, and the impact of the current crisis on your own life.

Louise Fox, Director of Cornwall Film Festival, says: “We’re delighted that The National Lottery Community Fund has recognised our community work. Now, thanks to National Lottery players, we will be able to press on with our plans to strengthen our work in Cornwall. This is important because it gives a voice to communities by enabling them to capture and record events that are important to them.”

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