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I have been conducting fieldwork in the town of Newlyn and villages of Paul and Mousehole in the far west of Cornwall. Here, I am examining the relationships between industry and identity, processes of memorialisation and nostalgia, and the changing rhythms of life in rural Britain. Atop of my present-based ethnography, I am gathering dozens of memoirs and diaries written over the past hundred-and-fifty years by residents of this area. My thesis will knit these elements together to give a richer sense of transformation and enhance my theoretical work.

I use the following images to provide insight into the perceived demise of tradition, the desire to support fishers in a town now frequented by tourists, and the corresponding dynamics of housing here. I hope to convey the vibrancy of the place, showing people engaged in actions which they hope will shape its future.


The Hunt at Paul Feast                                                 (October morning)


Every October, during the Feast of Paul Aurelian, the Western Hunt meets. Older residents remember the large crowds that used to gather, drink stirrup cups, and wave them off, but over the past twenty years – accompanied by strengthening campaigns for the welfare of foxes – the scale of the event has drastically shrunk. I ask Mark why he is here; “I don’t support killing animals – I don’t really like the hunting bit, but it’s a tradition and we need to keep that sort of thing alive.” A mutual friend of ours joins in, “All the boats used to be in the Harbour for this not long ago – the school kids would come out too. Barely anyone’s out today. I’m stood here drinking a latte for Christ’s sake!”

In a scene replicated across rural Britain during hunting season, a group of local hunt saboteurs (sabs) protest the Meet over the road from the group of fifty-or-so assembled in support. After a brief announcement from the Master, the stream of horses and hounds takes-off. Pointing a whip at the sabs, the man on the white horse directs a few words at them before some climb in a car and follow the Hunt down the road. Talking with a sab (not pictured here) the following week, she tells me that these protests are about more than animal rights, “they’re about the assumption that these people can dominate whatever they want to – land, life, whatever... [hunts] shouldn’t have a place in the future.”


Quayside Tales                                                        (October afternoon)


The fishing industry is central to the history and growth of Newlyn. My interlocutors often contrast fishing with tourism – the former is described as providing a beating heart for the town, the latter often as a threat to the future of community. The village of Mousehole – 2 miles down the road – is frequently referred to in these conversations; the density of holiday homes there leaves it feeling deserted outside of tourist seasons – “dead”. Action to support the fishing industry in Newlyn is, therefore, associated with care for something central to the town’s identity and its protection into the future.

Here, a boys’ trip to catch crabs off Newlyn’s Old Quay coincides with works to convert a former place of worship into ‘The Fisherman’s Rest’. This community café is aimed at providing a social place for fishers and locals, as floorspace demands a premium in the town and former meeting points close. The boys ask Luke (pseudonym) why he’s digging in a conversation that leads from electric cabling to cooking, to the importance of community, and onto the local stories they’ve been told by friends and family. Here, I have chosen to imitate the ‘Newlyn school’ artists who, in the 19th century, attempted to tread a path between realism and romance in their depictions of the town and its surroundings.


Condensation, Companionship                                   (February night)


Perched beside the sea, Trina and Joe (pseudonyms) eat dinner in the caravan they currently live in. They discuss the house they are renovating and which they hope to move into when finished. This stretch of road is dotted with caravans, while boats sat ashore in nearby carparks form further residences. The situations of those who live in them vary – some see this as temporary, others as a way of life they have chosen, others as a way of life they have not chosen – but their presence conveys the sheer demand for accommodation in this area of Britain. With prices rising year-on-year, Cornwall’s low wage-rates, a steady increase in holiday homes, and the further pressure of the UK’s cost-of-living crisis, many are finding themselves ‘priced-out’ of the market or unable to afford rents.

Visions of the past and of the future run through the three images I have selected. Trina and Joe quietly plan life in a place they love; Luke works on creating a community hub, so as to protect something many fear is being undermined; and opposed groups argue about the place of hunting in the present. All are involved in building ‘home’, their entangled projects shaping the local political and economic scene.