First John le Carré Memorial Lecture to feature “Slow Horses” author Mick Herron

On Thursday evening 2 May 2024 the inaugural John le Carré Memorial Lecture will be presented by The Morrab Library at the Acorn Theatre in Penzance. Tickets for the event have sold out.

Sponsored by The Arts Society West Cornwall and planned to be a biennial event, the first lecture will feature guest speaker Mick Herron, celebrated author of the Slow Horses / Slough House espionage novels, which have been adapted into a successful TV series starring Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas.

World-renowned espionage writer John le Carré (real name: David John Moore Cornwell) lived in St Buryan, Cornwall, until his death in 2020, at the age of 89. He was the author of 26 novels, including The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Constant Gardener, The Night Manager, The Little Drummer Girl, A Perfect Spy et al, many of which have been adapted into feature films and television series, plus five works of nonfiction, including his 2016 memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life.

Carré was a passionate supporter of the Morrab from the 1970s, later serving as president (1997-2002), then for many years as a patron. He called the library “a Cornish treasure house, a meeting place for like-minded souls, and a vibrant forum for contemporary writing,” with a special interest in encouraging young people to read and be inspired by the place.

The title of Herron’s lecture is “Running Away with the Circus.” Raised in Newcastle upon Tyne, he studied English Literature at Oxford. His first novel, Down Cemetery Road, set in Oxford, was published in 2003. Herron’s most recent novel, The Secret House, provides insights to the Slough House series with its riveting reveal about a disastrous MI5 mission in post-Cold War Berlin.

Associated events for this inaugural lecture include a loaned exhibition of John le Carré memorabilia at Penlee House Gallery & Museum (17 April-6 May); a “meet the author” gathering hosted by Penzance Mayor Cllr Stephen Reynolds; a writing workshop with students at Penwith College; and a “Conversation with Mick Herron” plus book signing at the Edge of the World Bookshop, on Market Jew Street in Penzance (3 May).

The Acorn event has been planned with the full and enthusiastic cooperation of le Carré’s family. His son Nick Cornwell will speak about his father in advance of the lecture, and Nick’s brother Simon Cornwell and their families plan to attend.

Author Mick Herron by Mikael Buck

Take part in the ILA Annual General Meeting – 30th-31st May 2024: Call for papers.

We are delighted to invite you to take part in the ILA Annual Meeting, to be held on the 30th and 31st May at The Morrab Library in Penzance, Cornwall.

Library staff, trustees, and volunteers are all welcome to deliver a paper, lead a discussion, or share your experiences around the theme of “Facing the Future: Responding to the challenges faced by Independent Libraries”, either in person, or via ZOOM.

Fundraising, governance, volunteers, the climate crisis and more – independent libraries need to confront a range of challenges in order to remain sustainable and future-proof. How are our libraries addressing the issues that are crucial to ensuring our survival and relevance? Proposals could include:

  • Successful fundraising projects at your library, large or small;
  • Tips and tricks on writing successful fundraising  applications;
  • Encouraging and supporting volunteers in the various roles they play;
  • Managing a significant volunteer project;
  • Experience of making old and even listed buildings more environmentally sustainable;
  • How good library governance can support change management.

We emphasise that your paper, or the session you lead, does not need to be scholarly, and all staff, trustees and volunteers of independent libraries are welcome to deliver sessions.

We would love to welcome you and help to share your stories about the wonderful world of Independent Libraries!

We shall open up bookings for attendance at this hybrid event at a later date.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Morrab Library Christmas Cards now on sale

This year’s Morrab Library Christmas Cards are now on sale, featuring a beautiful image by own staff member Harriet. 

You can purchase them from reception at £1.00 per card, £2.75 for a pack of three, or £4.75 for a pack of five.

All proceeds go to the care of the Library. 

We’re happy to post cards to you for a small additional fee if you can’t make it into the Library.

Illustration: @harrietjadeharrow

Wastelands to wonderland | Vicki Aimers Artist Residency

For one week in August (Tuesday 22nd-Saturday 26th), the Book Artist and Authorial Illustrator Vicki Aimers will have an artist residency entitled – ‘Wastelands to wonderland’ – in the Elizabeth Treffry Room.

We’re going to let Vicki introduce herself in her own words and tell you a bit about her residency…  

“I’m a Book Artist and Authorial Illustrator. My work focuses on creative storytelling intertwined with elements of social history. For the last few years, I have focused on the fascinating lives of some forgotten women in history and, in particular, female astronomers such as Caroline Herschel and Maria Mitchell. These were stories I explored in my MA in Authorial Illustration at Falmouth University.

To retell stories, I collaborate with a number of institutions and museums to bring items in their collections to life in creative ways. Throughout the year, I take part in various public events, organise bespoke workshops and develop online activities on a variety of art and storytelling techniques. These can include simple printing, book and zine making, stitch and inventive writing and poetry exercises.

“When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story’s voice makes everything its own.”  

John Berger, Artist and Author

At the moment, I’m working with several organisations, including Morrab Library, researching the story of Catherine Payton Phillips (1727 – 1794). Originally from Dudley in the West Midlands, Catherine settled in Redruth and married a local widower, a Copper Agent – William Phillips. The story of William’s descendants is fascinating too. 

They had met years before when Catherine was a young woman. However, from what I’ve read about her, I don’t think she wanted to settle down so young and be a stepmother to two very young boys. She extensively travelled throughout her life, through the U.K., Ireland, Europe and America – encountering crocodiles and journeying through swamps and prairies. 

Catherine and William met again later in life and married. William had never stopped wanting for them to be together all through the time they were apart. 

She was many things, as a well travelled Quaker preacher, but also a campaigner and interested in local ecology and communities. In particular, Catherine had two amazing ideas that have fuelled my research – the desire to ‘beautify wastelands’ and to grow fruit trees to feed communities.  

Over the last two years, I have devised a programme of artist residences at various locations to share my project, and the story of her life and ideas. So far, I have taken part in residencies at Kresen Kernow, Redruth Library and held events for Fun Palaces. 

As part of this programme of events, I have created a Cabinet of Curiosities, which is full of objects that all hint at aspects of her life, her ideas, the importance of orchards and facts about apples (a symbol of the project). There are many exciting and engaging strands to this project, as well as the Cabinet, including an interactive art piece called ‘The Library of Forgotten Fruits’, which will be on display during my residency. 

I also arrange workshops at Krowji and across the South West, enabling others to explore their stories and memories through interesting projects. I offer creative mentoring, where we work together over a number of sessions experimenting with different art techniques to bring your narrative into focus.

Finally, I’m the founder of the @palimpsest_project. This initiative helps record fragmented memories and stories of families through projects and kits. My recent research has been about the history of piecework. This is particularly apt in light of the pandemic crisis, where parents were trying to navigate how to work from home, while looking after loved ones.

Why did you want to do an Artist Residency at Morrab Library?

“It has been a wonderful opportunity to make contact with Morrab Library. I’ve been wanting to find a project that would be a perfect collaboration to work together on. 

I feel that, through the story of Catherine, there are common threads that run between all of us, such as the importance of community, the need to preserve and celebrate local history, and particularly women’s stories. This is at the heart of this inspiring and exciting collaboration.”

When did you first visit the Morrab and what do you remember about that visit? 

“My first visit to the Library was a very welcoming experience. I met Lisa and we discussed Catherine’s life and legacy. We both soon realised that this could be an exciting opportunity for both of us to tell a story that hasn’t been told before in Penzance and at the Library too. 

Since that first meeting, I ran a botanical sketchbook workshop for visitors, which was a lovely and popular event, and raised some funds for the Library too.”   

What do you hope to bring to the library through your work?

“My hope is that by sharing Catherine’s at the Library through this project, another woman’s story will not be forgotten. 

Also, her ideas for loving where we live and caring for the communities that we are part of – will be ‘paid forward’. We can learn so much from those who have gone before us. Small positive changes taken from Catherine’s ideas, that benefit everyone, such as growing a sunflower or planting a fruit tree. The author Nancy Kunhardt Lodge said ‘a library is a place vibrating with ideas’, and I feel this is so true, especially at Morrab Library.”

Members and visitors alike are welcome to pop in to see Vicki’s ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ which will be displayed in the Elizabeth Treffry Room (upstairs) for the duration of the week. Vicki will also be running workshops and events which you can find out about on our events page.

Faye Dobinson is our new Artist in Residence

We are delighted to announce that Faye Dobinson is our new Artist in Residence.  Her residency at Morrab Library is titled ‘Community Power Structure’, a phrase she borrowed from a book cover she spotted while visiting the library recently.

She says: “I was drawn to the cover of a book for its formal qualities – the colour, the typography, and the illustration. The 1953 cover will be the visual starting point for my residency.”

She adds, “I realised the title of ‘Community Power Structure’ contains three threads of interest that run through my art practice. These will act as both the activation point and the scaffold for the artwork that I make in my time at the library.”

Faye is a South East London born and West Cornwall based multi-disciplinary artist, activist and educator. She is an artist, curator, a Celebrant and also leads ‘Defining Practice,’ a yearlong practical based art mentoring course at The Newlyn Art School. She is passionate about art and creativity’s role in creating conversation, community, and heart led change. The relational aspect within her work has resulted in her exhibiting and teaching in Mongolia, exhibiting and working with artists in Tibet, helping open Europe’s first Contemporary Tibetan Art Gallery in East London, ‘The Sweet Tea House’ and saw her implementing ‘The Jupiter Project’, a space of possibility for artists and creative that was based at Jupiter Gallery in Newlyn and finished in April 2023.

She lives in Penzance, UK, with her daughter. We asked her when she first remembers coming to the Morrab Library and what her memories are of the library from that time.

“I first visited Morrab Library late 2019 when I moved into town after living in Phillack (Hayle) then Perranuthnoe for 12 years. I was astonished at the tangible peace, the active and alive stillness of the place. It vibrated with all the words and thoughts contained within it. I felt that Lisa and her staff had made a special place even more potent.”

Faye works in a range of disciplines including painting, drawing, printing, site-specific work and assemblage, and has travelled widely to meet other creative communities and look at the role of art in their lives. This socially engaged practice has run through her 25-year career, finding form in leading a wide range of creative projects in London with disaffected young people, working with children with emotional and behavioural problems, within her teaching and also in her own artistic output that asks questions of culture, power and love.

Faye says: “I will be using different artistic processes to let the space of the library unpack around me: the architectural space, the library as a container of meaning, as a space for the community and as a loved space, special to me and many others”.

We asked her why she wanted to be Artist in Residence at Morrab Library.

“I wanted to bring the different approaches of my artistic process to this wonderful building – to celebrate it through the act of tenderly paying attention.”

Faye has already begun creating artwork inspired by the library which you can have a look at on @communitypowerstructure. The first few pieces draw attention to some of the lesser spotted details of the rooms, such as the locks and escutcheons.

“Artist in Residencies create an opportunity for a place to influence and inspire an artist and for that artist to represent the place back to the community. It is a beautiful feedback loop!

I appreciate the very special space that it offers, the sense of community that it forges. My work is an active memorialising of this special community space: not in a solemn, static sense but, I hope, in a celebratory ‘alive’ sense.


I hope to bring a loving quality of attention to the details of the library – the idiosyncrasies and particulars that, for me, create a portrait of the place. I will be noticing what I notice and chronicling that. To me a place can be explored through myriad artistic processes and through that, different facets of the space can be revealed as it begins to unpack through the details of the sounds, smells and sights. I hope to help the often quiet and unseen be noticed and appreciated.”

We’re thrilled to be hosting Faye until November 2023 and you may spot her around the library over the course of the next few months, gathering inspiration and creating pieces.  She will be exhibiting the work created during her residency in the library in January 2024.





We need to share some important news about car parking over the next few weeks. The Honorary Health and Safety Officer, on behalf of the Trustees, has arranged for the external building to be painted and redecorated over the summer. This means that scaffolding will be erected around the entire building for the duration of the works.

As typical of works involving scaffolding, we do not have an exact date for the work commencing, but we have been informed that the scaffolding could be put up as early as the 23rd  of June, but more likely the week beginning the 26th of June. Until it is up, we won’t know how much of an impact it will have on access to all of our parking spaces. Some may be restricted for the entirety of the project, but we do not know as yet.

We do know for now that the painters have recommended that while they are refurbishing each side of building’s front that parking be avoided for that period, to reduce the risk of your car getting a new coat of paint! We know the work to paint commences from 3rd July, but we do not have any indication of how long it will take to finish each of these sections. We will provide updates as we find out more.

The work is estimated to take up to two months in total before the scaffolding is subsequently removed.

Ideally, it would be very helpful if you could avoid parking at the library entirely during this period if possible, so we can ensure those who need it the most can be guaranteed access.

But at the least, may we recommend throughout this period that you phone ahead if you need a car park to access the library and we can inform you of the state of play on the day you require it.

We’re sorry we can’t be more definitive at this stage, and we hope to have more of a steer as the work commences, but we wanted you to know in advance of potential limitations and inconvenience the works may cause.

So please get in touch with any queries, and we will do our best to accommodate and support your visit. At the end of this, the library will be looking beautiful and refreshed! Thank you for your support, as always.

Best wishes from the library team and Trustees.