A Place For Words: Living Legends, Tintagel, Cornwall

What happened?

Michael Fairfax, a public artist who mainly works with wood and stone was lead artist of a regeneration project in the village of Tintagel in Cornwall. The project created a new public space in what had been a car park, and aimed to create links between the village and the area's main tourist attraction, Tintagel Castle. Michael appointed poet Amanda White to work alongside him on part of the project. Her work encompassed creating a picture book about a newly created local legend with primary school children, and writing a piece of work to form a wall of words in the new public space. The poem was written through walks, conversations and workshops with local residents. Amanda's mission was not to articulate her own response to Tintagel, but to somehow encapsulate the voices of the village's residents. This was not writing by committee, but it was about the writer using her skills and experience to find a way of speaking for the place and its people.

It is indicative of Amanda's skill at articulating the voices of the local people and giving that voice an artistic form, that the forum of local residents involved in the wider regeneration of the village said that when Amanda presented the poem and touchstones to them: It was the first time we have all been in agreement over anything at a Forum meeting.

Individual stanzas of the poem Amanda White wrote in collaboration with the residents of Tintagel were engraved onto ’touchstones‘ made from local slate which formed a circular walk linking the village to its main tourist attraction, Tintagel Castle. The touchstones are placed within the landscape of Tintagel in the places which directly inspired the words. Many of these contain information about the area's ecology and history:

courting down't Gilla
adders meet
amidst the tab mawn
lover's end

This stanza is placed at the corner of a field which is historically a place where lovers have come to court, and a place where adders are likely to be spotted. The poem also uses the Cornish name for Sea Daisy: tab mawn, and in doing so celebrates and preserves the local dialect.

Project Gallery

Arcing rocking

‘arcing, rocking’ – words from the poem on the wall of words

Wall of words

The wall of words in the new public space


Words from the poem on a touchstone in the place that inspired them

What made it work?

  • Excellent project management by North Cornwall Arts, who brokered relationships between the artists, community and builders
  • Appointment of a writer with appropriate community engagement skills
  • Clear project brief and aims

Further information and links:

« Back to Case Studies, Literature and public art (permanent outcomes)