Golowan Down the Years – Ancient Roots and 30 Years of Revival

To celebrate the ancient Golowan Festival, the Golowan Team delivered a pop-up Exhibition highlighting Golowan’s celebrations from ancient times to its inception and revival in 1991. The exhibition artifacts and displays linked its chequered history of fire, dance, music, art, parades and song, epitomising the spirit of Penzance and its people, the integration of the community and mad midsummer display of joy, passion, civic pride and a unity of spirit.

The Golowan exhibition was very well received and large numbers of people visited and enjoyed it during the two weeks that it took place.

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Zone 1

A series of 23 panels that chart midsummer revels in Penzance between St John’s Eve (24th June) and St Peter’s Eve (29th June). Starting with the earliest mention of the word “Goluan” in William Borlase’s 1754 book Observations on the Antiquities Historical and Monumental of the County of Cornwall, it follows the colourful happenings at this time of year through 19th century newspaper accounts. They are all real stories as reported at the time. Up to the 1880s, Penzance held what were likely to be the most boisterous midsummer celebrations in the country. Bonfires, fireworks, dancing in the streets, accidents, crimes, fun fairs took place over the course of a week. It explores why the festivities died out, and touches upon the earlier 20th century midsummer bonfire revivals, ending with the panel “Golowan is back”, introducing the 1991 revival.

Zone 2

An archive led short film capturing the stories and traditions of the past 30 years of Golowan as we celebrate it today. Using archive footage, narrated passages, artefacts, photographs, music, and poetry, this new documentary captures the essence and foundation of this Cornish Midsummer celebration, bringing to the fore the history and heritage of Golowan and Mazey Day.

Zone 3

A display of memorabilia and descriptions of objects from the last 30 years, featuring Penglaz, school parade withy sculptures from past processions, souvenirs, jewellery, community created banners, Golowan Band instruments, posters, past Teaser clothing, costumes, the mock mayor, and the front covers of past programmes.

This exhibition was supported by:

It was produced by:
Curatorial Research Centre
Awen Productions
Terry Sampson
Golowan would like to thank Costa Coffee Penzance for supporting our exhibition volunteers. Thanks to the Big Dance Company, Three S Films, and PZ Scaffolding for the loan of equipment. Thank you to all who have contributed to and helped with this exhibition. It would not have been possible without you. Meur ras bras!