Our 2020 theme is Breakaway

In September 2020, Penzance hosts the Grand Départ of the Tour of Britain. Thousands will flock to the town to see the professionals ride out from the newly revitalised promenade. As excitement is already building for this event, we’ve chosen Breakaway as the theme for the 2020 LitFest.

Submissions for the 2020 event are open until January 17, 2020 – more details.

The Penzance LitFest team


A poem for Penzance

The Penzance LitFest team commissioned Gray Lightfoot to write a poem celebrating 10 years of the LitFest and life in Penzance. It was performed for the first time at the 2019 Launch Party. The complete work follows below:

PENZANCE – THE REASONS IN RHYME
(on the Penzance Literary Festival’s 10th birthday)

“Isn’t Penzance at the end of the line?”
“Land’s End is close by…so that’s quite a clue.”
“But the broadsheets say ‘it’s the place to be’.”
Come closer my dears…I’ll edify you.

If you’ve only heard of the pirates here,
Prepare to be boarded and take your chance.
For here be writers, with their pens unsheathed…
You might just meet the poets of Penzance.

For this headland has always charmed authors
Each one in search of their own Lyonesse.
Defoe, Collins, Lawrence and Ballantyne.
Eliot (that’s George of course, not T.S.).

And we can’t forget Dylan Thomas, who
Was both inspired by and loved living here.
Go down to Mousehole, look round and tell me
That he didn’t set Under Milk Wood there.

Visitors come from all over the globe
Not only to listen but to take part…
Write, illustrate…even make their own book.
At the very least they’re making that start.

Because isn’t that what we’re all here for
To see the emperor without his clothes?
We want to know how the magic is done;
Not just to marvel and offer applause.

We hope you’ve not only brought yourself here
To seek intellectual arousal.
Make the most of Penzance and her neighbours
Of Marazion, Newlyn and Mousehole.

Watching over our cerulean bay
Stands Sir Humphry Davy, in all his pomp.
Discoverer of diverse elements,
Inventor of the miners’ safety lamp.

This Cornish Da Vinci, marbled marvel,
Held in place by a granite anchorage
Was also a poet much admired by
Such as Wordsworth Southey and Coleridge.

As your feet wend their way down Chapel Street,
Imagine those that stepped there before you…
Barbary slavers, Spanish invaders,
Smugglers, press gangs and a Bronte or two.

And while you’re a guest in this town of ours
Don’t be afraid of raiding the pantry…
There’s pasties, cream teas, ‘Ansome!…and some of
The best fish restaurants in the country.

The people are our town’s greatest asset
Warm and inviting and eager to give
Of themselves whether born here or blown here;
A mindset mindful of live and let live.

Penzance loves to turn its world upside down;
At the blast of a horn we’re off marching
With flaming torches or greenery-strewn.
We like to dance as if no one’s watching.

We’ve got an iconic art deco pool;
We’ve got pubs full of music and chatter;
Open-topped buses and streets paved with gold.
Sorry…sorry…I made up the latter

But that’s only because I love this place,
It’s become a part of me I hold dear.
Now is there anything else I’ve forgot?
Oh…did I say they film Poldark ‘round here?

It’s so beautiful surrounded by sea.
Our coastal paths become the gilded frame
Where the light is perfect for painting and
The rain only raineth now and again.

But then if it didn’t, we wouldn’t have
Our gardens of sub-tropical flora.
Which year round keeps our town dressed to impress
And it easy for us to adore her.

So, here’s a heartfelt welcome to Penzance;
We’re sure before long you’ll be Kernowphiles.
Because if you want ‘best and friendliest’,
Sometimes you need to go the extra miles.


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