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Verbal and visual treats with 26 Flavours of Cornwall exhibition

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A new exhibition will be serving up a feast of verbal and visual treats to visitors to Cornwall in August and September.

The exhibition 26 Flavours of Cornwall features a series of eye-catching paper table-settings that combine writing and design to bring Cornish foods and drinks to life. It is the result of a collaboration between the national writers’ association 26, University College Falmouth and the Cornwall Design Forum, and takes place at The Poly Falmouth, between August 6 and 14.

Among the pieces on show are a meditation on saffron by the best-selling novelist Patrick Gale, a poem about nettle-wrapped Yarg cheese – with a sting in its tail – by the highly acclaimed Falmouth-based poet Penelope Shuttle, and a piece on oysters by Philip Marsden, whose history of Falmouth, The Levelling Sea, is currently enjoying rave reviews.

The designers working on the project include illustrators, fashion designers and mural artists, as well as many leading graphic designers. One of the UK’s most celebrated creative branding strategists, Marksteen Adamson, has worked with writer Helen Gilchrist to create wrapping paper for Cornish apple varieties that brings out their hidden beauty. Others have used techniques ranging from photography and light sculpture to some highly innovative typography, including lettering carved from fudge.

Tom Scott, who lectures on University College Falmouth’s MA in Professional Writing, came up with the idea for 26 Flavours after sampling Cornish apple varieties from an orchard on the college’s Tremough campus.

Tom said: “I became fascinated by these extraordinary fruit and they got me thinking about the links between food and creativity. Cornwall has such a wealth of superb natural produce and culinary talent, and also an abundance of gifted writers and designers.

“With 26 Flavours, we’re bringing together people from all these different areas to create something special. We’ve given our creative teams complete freedom to interpret their flavour in any way they like, and the results are stunning in all sorts of ways – witty, imaginative, thought-provoking and beautiful.”

As well as iconic foods such as Cornish pasties and clotted cream, the 26 flavours also include some that are much less well-known such as hevva cake, rock samphire and seaweed. To research their pieces for the exhibition, writers and designers visited places associated with their flavours around Cornwall – farms, fisheries, bakeries, breweries and more.

They have been posting news of their experiences at www.26flavours.com, a website created for the project with the support of the Design Programme.

26 Flavours is the latest in a series of high-profile projects mounted by 26 in partnership with organisations ranging from London Underground to the V&A Museum.

John Simmons, a founder-director of 26 and a leading expert on writing for organisations, said: “The creation of ideas can be a social rather than a solitary activity. In fact, creativity often works best when people collaborate with a common purpose. Previous 26 projects have shown that, and 26 Flavours is the latest brilliant example.”

In January, John took part in a writing/design workshop at University College Falmouth and helped select three student teams to take part in the project.

Anna Traylor, programme manager for the Design Programme, said: “We’re delighted to be supporting this imaginative project, which is a great showcase for design in the South West as well as for the region’s delicious food and drink.”

The exhibition opened at Trebah Garden in July and will be at The Poly in Falmouth between August 6-14, 9am to 5.30pm daily. It will also be shown at the Lander Gallery in Truro as part of the Cornwall Food & Drink Festival in September.

(image: Seaweed writer Kieran Haynes designer Mat McIvor)