What’s on in Cornwall in May 2021
The stage is set. There are actual, real-life, in-person things to do in Cornwall this month and we've got the lowdown on the best of them.
What’s not to love about May in Cornwall? Two bank holidays, half term and a whole lot of fun.
The historic Enys Gardens are famous for their incredible display of bluebells. During the annual Bluebell Festival, the gardens are open every day, from 11am-5pm.Within the 30 acre gardens lies an open meadow known as Parc Lye, where the spring show of bluebells is breathtaking.
EAT: Wind in the Willows Afternoon Tea at Fowey Hall Hotel
There are many who believe that Fowey Hall was the model for ‘Toad Hall’ in Kenneth Grahame’s. ‘The Wind in the Willows’. Grahame was a frequent visitor to the Hall and eight bedrooms in the Courtyard are named after the characters in the book – so it seems fitting that the hotel is launching two new Wind in the Willows-inspired Afternoon Teas for guests to enjoy on their terrace for outdoor dining and then inside as well from 17 May 2021. This special tea will be served throughout the spring and summer until the end of September and features an adult version as well as a special kids version.
KIDS: Flambards Family Fun, Helston (1-3 May)
Flambards Theme Park is open for family fun over the bank holiday weekend with a mix of rides and outdoor attractions for all ages. Plus, fans should look out for the Park’s beloved mascot, Ferdi the Fox, who will be meeting and greeting families.
FOOD: Picnic on the Farm, Nancarrow Farm, Zelah (1-16 May 2021)
Enjoy the outdoors with a special feast from the comfort of your own picnic blanket or at one of the farm trestle tables, set around the beautiful farm and barns. Nancarrow will provide a tasty selection of food and drink (all served in take away containers) for you to enjoy at on the farm or to take home. Guest numbers will be limited and arrival/collection times staggered to ensure everyone has enough space to be safe and to relax.
MUSIC: Eden Session tickets on sale for Snow Patrol, Ben Howard, The Script and McFly (4, 6 and 7 May 2021)
The Eden Project have announced that there will be an Eden Sessions series of concerts in September, with Ben Howard the first act confirmed as 11 September 2021 (tickets go on sale 6 May) shortly followed by Snow Patrol who will play on 16 September 2021 (tickets on sale 4 May). McFly is also announced, squeezing in between on the 12 September (tickets on sale 7 May), plus The Script on 17 September.
EXHIBITION: Jethro Jackson, ‘Autumn, Winter, Spring’, Jackson Gallery, Rock (10 May – 6 June)
British contemporary artist Jethro Jackson’s solo show Autumn Winter Spring begins on 10 May at this delightful gallery in Rock. Based nearby, Jethro’s paintings are based on his daily walks around Rock, Daymer and Porthilly and bring a moment of calm and tranquility to an otherwise quite busy and touristy part of Rock. You’ll find the gallery towards the quarry carpark near to the ferry slipway with a huge sculpture outside.
MUSIC: Hall for Cornwall, tickets on sale for Fishermans Friends (11 May 2021)
Re-opening after a three year closure for refurbishments is Truro’s Hall for Cornwall in October 2021. First on the boards are the cast of a brand-new musical based on the true story of Cornwall’s favourite singing sea-shanty sensations and the smash-hit 2019 Universal Pictures film, Fishermans Friends.
KIDS: Camel Creek Members Weekend, Camel Creek, Nr Wadebridge (15 & 16 May 2021)
Following a multi-million-pound makeover, Cornwall’s favourite family attraction, Camel Creek is set to re-open in May 2021, featuring a new and improved park layout and exciting new rides.
Fun seekers can experience exhilarating rides including the park’s newest roller-coaster The Airbender, Vertigo and fan favourite Morgawr. For those on the lookout for a super soaking, Camel Creek’s water rides Thunder Falls and Raging Rivers will surprise and delight.
FOOD: The Greenbank Hotel Champagne Afternoon Tea Terrace, Falmouth (until 16th May)
This open-air suntrap, with panoramic vistas across the harbour, will be open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12pm until 6pm and is £30 per person, including a glass of champagne. Book by calling 01326 312440.
EXHIBITION: David Hardy – First Light, North Coast Asylum, Newquay (ends 16 May)
First Light, a solo show by David Hardy is a sublime collection of work. Comprising of 27 works that truly showcase David’s ability to work with his mediums to create and reflect both the serenity and energy in his subject, the natural world.
His subtle yet expressive mark-making, and ability to transform his medium from a light wash to a textured brush stroke creates a visceral response from the viewer.
EXHIBITION: Laura Knight, Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance (17 May until 15 September)
This major new exhibition celebrates the career of one of Britain’s best-loved artists. Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970) was one of the twentieth century’s most prolific British artists. Her career spanned nearly eighty years and the extraordinary breadth of her talent encompassed a huge variety of subjects, techniques and styles. Her achievements included being the second ever female Royal Academician, a highly acclaimed War Artist and being made a Dame of the British Empire.
The exhibition is an overview of Knight’s entire career and focuses on several different genres; beginning with her early years, the flowering of her work in Cornwall before the First World War, through her portraiture and on to her later years painting the Gypsy dynasties in Malvern.
EXHIBITION: Seaside : Photographed, The Exchange, Newlyn (19 May to 3 July)
This touring exhibition by Turner Contemporary looks at the relationship between photography and the British seaside from the 1850s to the present. Images of the beach, hotel life, the holiday camp, dressing up and dressing down, wild waves and coastlines all combine to create a rich picture of British resorts, featuring photographers including Jane Bown, Henri Cartier Bresson, Vanley Burke, Anna Fox, Susan Hiller, Paul Nash, Martin Parr, and Ingrid Pollard.
THEATRE: And Then Come the Nightjars, Minack Theatre (25 May – 3 Jun)
It’s a dark night in 2001. Farmer, Michael, and local vet, Jeffrey, are huddled in the cow shed playing general knowledge games as they await the birth of a calf to join his herd. Outside the warm lamplight of the barn, the terrible shadow of Foot and Mouth disease is growing darker but Michael and Jeffrey both have troubles nearer to home.
Bea Robert’s compassionate portrait of country life is about more than an unstoppable epidemic. She traces the profound changes in society overtaking rural communities as Michael and Jeffrey face a new world of Grand Designs, Tesco Metros and rural tourism.
Leavened with gentle humour, this award-winning play is a both a requiem for a vanishing world and a hymn to the survival of friendship even when everything else falls apart. (Strong language and ideas mean this is only suitable for 14+).
EXHIBITION: Wheat – From Plough to Plate, Jackson Foundation Gallery, St Just (until Aug 14)
The building that now houses the gallery in St Just was once an integral part of Warrens Bakery, the oldest pasty-maker in Cornwall. From here, forklift trucks darted back and forth taking their loads to the bakery up the road, where the sweet aromas of baking bread and cakes, sausage rolls and pasties emanated, perfuming the town, filling the streets. In this exhibition, contemporary artist Kurt Jackson traces the journey of a staple crop – wheat – from ‘field to fork’, exploring how it has shaped the landscape (and our lives) in a range of media spanning paint, sculpture and poetry.
EXHIBITION: Robin Hanbury-Tenison: Echoes of a Vanished World, Jackson Foundation Gallery, St Just (until Aug 14)
Bodmin based explorer Robin Hanbury-Tenison is a natural born storyteller. A founder of Survival International, his images speak directly to us in a voice that is fresh and clear.
Echoes of a Vanished World, an exhibition of some of his best work from time spent in Africa, South America and the Pacific during the 1950’s – 1970’s.
There is nothing self-conscious or patronising here. Instead, there is a deep admiration, a sense of wonder, respect and desire to share what he sees with a world that has grown increasingly out of touch with the things that really matter.
Echoes of a Vanished World is presented in partnership with Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights.
EXHIBITION: Haegue Yang Strange Attractors, Tate St Ives (until 26 Sept 2021)
Berlin-based South Korean artist Haegue Yang has been taking the art world by storm and her largest exhibition to date in the UK opened at the Tate St Ives last October. Gloriously fun and chaotic, Haegue Yang’s exploration of the domestic, cultural and spiritual responses to the natural world is a definite conversation starter. Check out our review here.
MUSIC: 28th May Krysia Osostowicz, St Endellion (28th May)
Renowned violinist Krysia Osostowicz returns to St Endellion on 28th May along with British pianist Nicola Eimer. Krysia and Nicola will celebrate 250 years since Beethoven’s birth by performing “Spring” Sonata op 24 in F. They will also perform “Spring” by Huw Watkins and Cesar Franck’s Violin Sonata in A. Tickets are available here.
RUN: SW Traverse (30 May)
Covering 44 miles of coast, The SWT will see runners start at the most southerly point, The Lizard and travel to Land’s End, taking in some of the most breath-taking scenery Cornwall has to offer. This section of the coast has everything from narrow paths to beaches, steps, wide, open runnable sections and craggy, scrambling rocks.
KIDS: Dino Week, Camel Creek (31 May – 4 June)
Go back 150 million years for Dino Week at Camel Creek – release your inner dinosaur and run wild to unearth some hidden secrets.
Get up close to the real-life dinosaurs in the daily shows, find clues and follow the trail around the park using the brand-new app or learn all the fun facts in the educational stands.
& SADLY, WHAT’S NOT ON IN MAY
These events which usually happen in May are sadly either postponed until later this year or until 2022, listed here to keep you fully updated.
Padstow Obby Oss & St Ives May Day, Sat 1 May & Mon 3 May (cancelled for 2021)
If you fancy seeing some traditional May Day celebrations, Padstow and St Ives will (hopefully) be making merry the old fashioned way. In usual years particularly keen revellers in Padstow can be seen singing in the streets from midnight on 30 Apr but the main Obby Oss celebrations begin the next morning with local people parading and dancing with their Obby Oss’ (hobby horses). St Ives’ May Day celebrations were revived relatively recently but involve choirs, brass brands, dancing round the may pole and the crowning of a May Queen and King.
Flora Day, Helston, usually 8 May (cancelled for 2021)
The people of Helston have been celebrating the ancient tradition of Flora Day for hundreds of years. It is a spring festival to mark the end of winter and arrival, vitality and fertility of spring. The shops and houses are decked out with bluebells, laurels, gorse and other greenery and the dancing begins from seven in the morning, continuing all day. Eighty couples dance through the streets – as well as several shops and houses – to drive out the darkness of winter and usher in the light of spring.
World Pilot Gig Rowing Championships, Isles of Scilly (postponed until 2022)
2019 marked the 30th year of theWorld Pilot Gig Championships and each year it gets bigger, with more crews attending, from as far afield as Holland and the USA. The majority of participants, however, come from the South West where the wooden pilot gigs are still built locally and raced regularly. The “champs”, have become an island spectacle with a carnival atmosphere. The veteran’s race kicks off the proceedings on Friday night, followed by men’s and women’s races on Saturday and Sunday.
The Masked Ball, Porthleven, (Cancelled, next ball is Halloween 2021)
“A multi-layered wonderland of secret venues and twisted surprises, set to a scorching soundtrack.” The Masked Ball, an event that heralds the start of the great British festival season, is staged in West Cornwall and has been running since 2009. The Spring Ball is carved into the clifftops near Porthleven, overlooking stunning Mount’s Bay for one long weekend in May. Crazy costumes are encouraged and there’s the option of camping, which you’ll probably want to take, so you can dance till dawn.
Fowey Festival of Arts & Literature, Fowey (postponed to 2022)
A nine-day literary festival based in Daphne du Maurier’s beautiful hometown of Fowey, Cornwall. Featuring a wide range of guest speakers with talks, panel debates, workshops and concerts.
St Ives Food & Drink Festival (postponed from May to 17-19 Sept 2021)
Prepare for a weekend of culinary treats on the sands of beautiful Porthminster Beach – although this year (we hope) in September, not the usual May. There’s always a great line-up of local and national chefs putting on demonstrations, which in previous years have included Tom Brown, Aine Carlin, Simon Hulstone, Jude Kereama, Hersha Patel, Chris Eden, and Ben Tunnicliffe. There’s usually a large selection of the best street food on offer plus plenty of traders with delicious produce for sale in the Artisan Tent.
Bude Folk Festival, Bude, (postponed to 2022)
Bude & Stratton Folk Festival is a friendly festival by the sea in Bude, North Cornwall with the emphasis on enjoying & sharing traditional acoustic music.
Cornwall Open Studios, various (postponed to 2022)
There are many galleries large and small across Cornwall, where you can see the work of local artists but during this special event, almost 300 Cornish-based artists will open their studios to visitors. Some of these artists may not show in Cornwall at all, giving a unique chance to see their work in their workspace and to meet and talk with working artists around the county. Many artists are also offering workshops throughout the week and if you are looking to buy a piece of art, this is a great opportunity to see a range of work or possibly commission something. Participating studios will display an orange ‘O’ outside, so you know you are welcome to pop in and say hi, though opening times vary, so check the catalogue before making a special visit.
The Great Estate Festival, Scorrier (postponed to 27-29 Aug 2021)
“The most rambunctious Garden Fête!” Expect major international headline acts – 2019 included James, Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly and Craig Charle – and a mix of comedy, theatre, music and the arts, all within the beautiful grounds of Scorrier Estate. Look out for the vintage fairground, woodland silent disco, secret gin garden, The Whispering Woods, burlesque sessions, Madame Wong’s House of Wrong, classical corner, glamping, hot tubs, The Sanctuary and the Swamp Circus and much more. Usually in May, this year the festival has moved to the August bank holiday weekend.