ArchieVan is still undergoing his post voyage fettle, so this post has nothing to do with van life but everything to do with the best little community in Britain. It’s life on the edge at its zenith.
Community events arriving like buses.
And what a brilliant weekend it made for all who ventured to our far western town.
First came the third of our biannual entertainment awards, followed next morning by the 681st St Just Feast.
The Lafrowda Academy of Fun and Television Awards (LAFTAs) followed the 2013 St Just OSCARs and the 2015 MOJOs (music of St Just origin) and yet again was an hilarious and well coordinated event worthy of a metropolitan city. Although of course no city could hope to deliver the local context and sense of community achieved by the LAFTAs team.
The hall at Cape School was packed with nearly 300 people to see awards presented for 17 categories of 30’ films all created (or plagiarised), filmed and produced in and around the town.
There was a red carpet treatment for everyone.
Prosecco was cheaper by the bottle than many establishments charge for a glass.
And we let the good times roll.
Poldark’s Demelza, Bottom, The Young Ones and many favourite TV adverts all received a very local treatment to tears of joy, and whooping appreciation. I’m A Celebrity’s Child left us wondering what we’re lining our kids up for.
The Cornish Wanderer sponsored a category and I was honoured to be asked to present the prestigious Best Actress award. This was to be an exciting moment for me as I thought I may at last come face to face with Demelza, perhaps even momentarily hold her hand or graze her cheek. Alas though, the utterly independent and unbiased panel of judges saw fit to instead award the performance of an actress from the special edition of Coronation Street filmed not in the Rovers Return, but in The Star on Fore Street.
The next incarnation of the awards is not likely to be for another two years – but anticipation is already high.
Only in St Just!
Watch all of the films on the LAFTAs YouTube Channel here.
Next morning the town was again surprisingly lively.
At 10.50 a civic parade, led by the excellent Pendeen Silver Band, left the Old Town Hall (there’s no new one, but we did spend a while with none at all) headed for the church for the start of the 681st St Just Feast. In church the Lord’s Prayer was read in Cornish and the band accompanied a rousing singing of Trelawney during the collection. Funerals aside, it was the first time I have been to a church service there sober (I usually attend midnight mass after a shift at The Star) and it was a much better experience than I expected. That’s partly due to the joy of seeing the pastor read his sermon from his iPhone and partly because of the wildly differing quality of singing between the well known Trelawny and the dreadful dirge of some hymn about St Just.
The return to the town hall after the service was more ramble than march, but once there Mayor Brian made a few presentations before a fine spread (proper tay) was uncovered and everyone dug in for a late breakfast feast.
Next stop The Kings Arms.
The Kings is busy with just twenty people in, so when a hundred or so pack the small pub and most of them are singing you know it’s going to be good. The Cape Singers led the music, bolstered by supporters from Newquay and Bude. From where I stood it sounded great, even when competing with the legendary Falmouth Marine Band.
Ah. The Marine Band. Kilted in Cornish tartan the Marine Band is a visual experience and an aural assault! Banging away on a variety of drums, occasionally singing, and barging their way through any obstacle, the Marine Band crashed through each of the pubs, fuelling up as they marched. There can be few gangs of pensioners who earn such a following and bring spectators such joy.
“Fall over and fall out.” As the leader cries at the end of a set.
More singing? Of course there’s more singing.
By 3.00 most people have had enough St Austell tea to join in and the crowd in The Commercial were giving it bell tink (I must ask mother what on earth that means, beyond the obvious making of a right racket). The Commercial’s conservatory was rammed with people and nearly all singing along with the Cape Singers and their supporters. The Commercial has the advantage of being the only house not tied to St Austell and I wish I could remember the Sharp’s brew I was drinking there. It was rather moreish.
For once I eschewed The Star and headed further up Fore Street to Age Concern (none of that fancy rebranding to Age UK in St Just!) for an evening feast laid on by The Cape Gig Club to thank the supporters visiting from afar. Ex-mayor Kenny Trembath was holding court, accompanied by yarns, song and roaring laughter.
I retired early to gather strength for Feast Monday.
By 10.30 folk are gathering on the Market Square to see off the hunt. At 11.00 there are more than 50 mounts, and a good few hundred people enjoying a visit from the sun which has been rather too absent over the past few months. Not surprisingly the hounds are a bit too interested in McFadden’s the butchers, and anyone carrying a pasty. Looking down onto a pack of only semi-domesticated large dogs is an interesting sight. The hunt master is their prime source of nourishment and most watch him constantly, aware too of the huge hooves pounding down around them.
Stirrup cups demolished, the master sounds his horn and his 65 strong hunt ride down the street and off to wreak havoc across the countryside for the afternoon. I’m guilty of being ignorant of what happens next but I have to admit to enjoying the spectacle.
Later the rugby at St Just was characteristically brutal, with many of the players battling hangovers as much as opponents.
The sun was bright and the coast was calling so we finished the first day of GMT at Gwenver.
And Feast. For another year. Was done.
My thoughts after events like these always turn to community. It’s a strange and valuable concept that many will never understand or experience. In the far west it’s strong, and I love my home for that.
I have never lived in another place where people are more ready to declare their affection for the town they call home. That would be special even if you didn’t know about the fog that envelops us for so many days of the year. That the fog doesn’t put us off makes it all the more remarkable.
Long may it last.