Small Town, Big Ideas: The Seaside Town that Gets the Ink Flowing

Amy Matthews considers the influence of the beautiful cornish surroundings on Falmouth writers.


Source: Amy Matthews
Source: Amy Matthews

Writers in search of inspiration tend to escape to either end of the geographical spectrum: to an electric, bustling city, or to a secluded retreat somewhere in the rural hinterlands. Having lived in Falmouth for a year now, I can vouch for merits of the archaic seaside town, all too frequently disregarded as too quiet or not quiet enough.

Poet John Harris, who lived in Falmouth for the latter half of his life in the mid-19th century, recalls in “The Cornish Chough”; ‘Where not a sound is heard, but the white waves… In Freedom’s temple nothing is more free’. Watching the waves ebb in and out at Gylly or Swanpool transcends with ease into deeply imaginative meditation – a sense of freedom that lends itself to the exploration and germination of ideas. The escapism that the town and its coast can inspire, is liberating for the everyman, and playground for the writer.

I have always deemed Falmouth’s culture to be a wonderfully curious mix of the bohemian and the boutique. Its ‘Camden meets Cambridge’ feel is so unlike any other place that I have visited. There’s something about its hybrid aesthetic of a quaint English quintessence and a colourful artistic wildness that harmonise beautifully, creating a town with a respect for a traditional past whilst embracing a carnival of artistic variety and cultural diversity. The marriage of drystone walls, fisherman’s cottages, cobbled streets and tearooms with Himalayan prayer flags, contemporary art, curiosity shops and world cuisine, is an unlikely one; it is a marriage between the cosy and the exotic, providing a fruitful realm for the imagination.

A coastal walk or aimless stroll around the local area will almost certainly feature a friendly face, the discovery of a place previously unknown to you or some other exhibition of serendipity. It’s an inspiring town for the drifting flâneur, and once one’s wanderings have come to some avail, its ample choice of boutique cafes mean that, coffee in one hand, pen in the other, a moment to resurrect the day’s cogitations on paper can be taken in quirky, charming and vibrant scenery, good enough for any Jean Pierre Jeunet protagonist.

Falmouth: a cog in the clockwork of Cornish lifestyle, nonetheless, a town with a confident and alternative identity. It was good enough for Du Maurier then, and it is good enough for the budding wordsmiths of today. Able to accommodate both the traditional and the avant-garde, Falmouth’s literary scene is delightfully reflective of the essence of the town itself. Its sense of removed perspective of the country retreat and the vibrancy and energy of the city-sphere combine to make an inimitable space for the writer to work and delight in.