Library Talks

We have a fantastic programme of talks at The Morrab Library and have now taken our first steps towards recording them for you to watch online. You can find information about each talk below, as well as the link to watch the talk on YouTube.

We hope you enjoy them!


A poetry reading from Katrina Naomi

In this clip from Katrina Naomi’s recent Poetry Reading at the Library, Katrina reads from her collection Wild Persistence (2020). Her latest collection ‘Battery Rocks’ is due from Seren in July 2024 and has already received the Arthur Welton Award from the Society of Authors. Katrina is also a recipient of the Keats-Shelley Prize and you may have spotted her work on Poems on the Underground, heard it on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and Poetry Please, or read it in the TLS too.

You can watch the talk here.



Faye Dobinson: Giving Form to Silence

Artist Faye Dobinson talked about her affection for The Morrab Library, what she unearthed about the space and herself through being one of the recent Artists in Residence. She explored the library through a myriad of different artistic processes and through that, different facets of the space revealed themselves and found form in curious and unexpected works of art. From moulds of obsolete locks to cyanotypes of plants outside, listen to her talk about how she gets to create a portrait of a place by making art within it.

Faye gave this talk at the Library on Wednesday 24th April 2024. 

You can watch the talk here


The Holy Wells of Cornwall

One of our brilliant volunteers, Guy English, gave a talk entitled ‘The Holy Wells of Cornwall’ at Morrab Library on Wednesday 14th February. 

This is a story of searching for Cornwall’s Holy Wells, first in chance encounters, then by turns curiously, obsessively, finally doggedly. For five years Guy English and his late wife Catharine scoured the county, following the previous authors, but also checking maps, streams, apparently pointless footpaths, and in the process found more than twenty wells not previously recorded. Their hope is the book will encourage others to seek these wells. Some are special for beauty, for remoteness, for the spiritual sense that many recognise, or for the stories which have accreted over time. At the very least, there are some good walks, and the discovery of parts of Cornwall not to be missed.

But this is also a story of their partnership, and something of a memorial, being one part of the huge legacy of art and poetry left by Guy’s wife of fifty years.

You can watch the talk here


The Cornish Language in West Penwith in the 19th Century | with Kensa Broadhurst

Several items in The Morrab Library collection offer us insights into how Cornish was being spoken, used, and regarded during the nineteenth century in West Penwith. The Reverend Wladislaw Lach-Szyrma of Newlyn carried out investigations into the use of Cornish during the 1870s and worked to promote the language. He instigated an essay prize, the entries for which are held in the Morrab’s archives. At the same time, Cornish was featuring in regional newspapers and novels.

What do these sources tell us about how Cornish was being used during the nineteenth century and what this means for the wider history and status of the language?

Kensa Broadhurst gave this talk at The Morrab Library on Wednesday 6th March at 2pm.

You can watch the talk here.


The History of Novelty Children’s Books by Dr Ian Alcock

On Wednesday 21st February, Dr Ian Alcock gave a talk at The Morrab Library about History of Novelty Children’s Books. Alongside conventional children’s books, where pictures and stories entertain and educate, there are novelty formats, where pictures transform themselves, come to life on the page, pop up off the page, break into sound or invite interactive participation through an array of gimmicks.

Tens of millions of children have lifted flaps to solve the Where’s Spot? conundrum, or peeped through the page holes in The Very Hungry Caterpillar. They can seem like the latest thing, but children have had novelty books for as long as they have had books. Dr Ian Alcock has published articles on the early history of novelty books. His illustrated talk will plot their development from the 18th century and is appropriate for children aged 9-99.

You can watch the talk here.


Walking in West Cornwall with my Great Aunt Hilde, Murdered in Auschwitz. Some Poems by Ben Barkow


On Wednesday 31st January, Ben Barkow read some poems that he wrote about his family’s experiences during the Holocaust, especially his great aunt Hilde and her siblings, who included his grandfather. He will introduce the poems with a description of the background and how he came to write them.

Ben Barkow was born in Berlin but grew up and was educated in London. He worked for 30 years at the Wiener Holocaust Library, 20 of them as its Director. The Wiener Holocaust Library is the oldest collection of books and archives on the Holocaust in the world and the UK’s largest. He retired from there in 2019.

Today he chairs the Academic Advisory Board of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, which is establishing the UK’s national Holocaust Memorial next to the Houses of Parliament.

He is a Trustee of the Holocaust Centre North, a survivor organisation based in Leeds and Huddersfield, as well as the Ernest Hecht Charitable Foundation. In 2022 he was awarded the CBE for services to Holocaust commemoration and education. He has published a number of books.

You can watch the talk here. 


Broadening the mind: The travels and travails of Hugh Seymour Tremenheere


In this talk, Guy English gave an insight into the ‘Tremenheere Collection’ in our archive at The Morrab Library. Guy describes Hugh Seymour Tremenheere as “an unsung Cornish man who shaped our world” and “the most significant Cornishman you’ve never heard of”. Through his talk, he explores the travels of this Cornish boy of Family but no Fortune and how he became an unsung hero of social reform in Victorian England, having an impact on nearly every aspect of society, still recognisable today. Guy English worked making Kodak film and then came to Cornwall in 2001 for better sailing than London. With his late wife Catharine, secretive artist and poet, he produced several reports, and books, some involving botany. This led him to The Morrab Library, and he has been volunteering, documenting the extensive archives for several years. One such archive was that of the Borlase family, which then morphed into the Tremenheeres, a project he completed in 2022.

You can watch the talk here


Pillas: Our Forgotten Grain a talk by Harriet Gendall 

Pillas “sometimes called “pill-corn” or “naked oats, […] was formerly a common crop in Cornwall, but seems now to have become quite extinct.” (Morton Nance, 1930) In earlier centuries, adventurers and botanists described this intriguing grain as cultivated in abundance near Land’s End. It made a hearty porridge known as ‘pillas-gerts’ and was used to fatten pigs and calves, while thatching-rope and bonnets were woven from its fine straw. But by the mid-19th century it was gone from Cornish fields.

This year—for the first time in over 150 years—pillas is being harvested in Penwith. Its remarkable survival in seed banks has enabled ethnobotanical researcher Harriet Gendall to explore its reintroduction, in partnership with local farmers and growers. In this talk at The Morrab Library on Wednesday 13th September 2023, Harriet Gendall spoke about about her journey with pillas, as well as it’s forgotten history and complex entanglement with Cornish identity—including a fascinating twist involving The Morrab’s very own Head Gardener William Watson (1929-1951).

You can watch the talk here.


Byzantine Silk on the Silk Road: A talk by Sarah E. Braddock Clarke

Co-editor and contributing author Sarah E. Braddock Clarke gave an excellent talk at the library about the new book by Bloomsbury Visual Arts, London, ‘Byzantine Silk on the Silk Roads: Journeys between East and West, Past and Present’. Unfortunately, technical difficulties meant that the sound failed to record, so Sarah has kindly given us permission to share her Powerpoint here instead.

Sarah reveals glorious Byzantine woven silks from the infamous Silk Roads. The content will be explored with examples of historical textiles from world-class museums and archives. The influence of the rich Byzantine era is still felt today where contemporary textiles and fashion deliver evocative imagery, rich textures, and patterns in jewel-like colours – a feast for the eyes and the mind.

Sarah is Senior Lecturer in Fashion Design at Falmouth University. Her area of research lies in materials and technologies, fashion, textiles, and cultural identities with a particular interest in East – West exchanges.

Sarah’s Powerpoint presentation is available to download here to watch.

Published by BLOOMSBURY VISUAL ARTS. Cover image: Dolce & Gabbana Autumn-Winter 2013-2014, Milan, Italy. (© GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)


Pre-Raphaelite Mythbuster: Gossip, Scandals and Secrets 

Did Elizabeth Siddall’s hair really grow in her coffin?

Why did Effie Gray really divorce Ruskin?

Did Rossetti really seduce all his models?

Did Holman Hunt see gnomes?

Dr Serena Trowbridge, Reader in Victorian Literature at Birmingham City University & Chair of the Pre-Raphaelite Society, will look at the evidence & explore a number of myths surrounding the Victorian artists associated with the Pre-Raphaelites. She will use serious research to answer daft questions.

Watch the video here

Who was Frank Latham and what did he do for Penzance?

Captain Frank Latham was the Borough Surveyor & Engineer for Penzance from 1899-1938 & designed the Jubilee Pool, that much most people know, but what else did he do for the town?

Can we still see the contributions he made to the fabric of Penzance and why do we know so little about him?

In this talk Robin Knight will try to answer questions that surround the life of this interesting man & will take you on a tour of Latham’s Penzance. 


Watch the video here

The Second Sea: An illustrated talk from Des Hannigan

Des Hannigan talks about the SECOND SEA, his name for the impressions that professional seagoers retain in their deep memory.

The talk is built round excerpts about the sea from the works of famous writers and poets and also from Atlantic Cornwall, Des Hannigan’s own popular trilogy of prose and poetry about Cornish deep water fishing and the county’s extreme sea cliff landscapes.

Des is a journalist and travel writer who has written over fifty books for Lonely Planet and AA Publishing.

Watch the video here.

William Borlase, Uniformitarianism and the Ice Age in Cornwall | With Professor James Scourse

For natural scientists working in Cornwall, Borlase is where it all started. His descriptions and observations are hugely valuable and his interpretations are well ahead of their time.

Professor James Scourse’s talk focused on his observations on the geology at Porth Nanven (Cot Valley). He explained why Borlase was years ahead of the movers and shakers in geology at the time in interpreting the sediments, in terms of processes operating now (the actualistic principle that underlies Uniformitarianism) rather than resorting to Biblical explanations.

He then explained our current understanding of these and associated sediments and how we can interpret them to paint a picture of how Cornwall has evolved over the last 120,000 years, latterly coinciding with archaeology and cultural evolution.

Watch the video here

Morvoren: Poetry of Sea Swimming 

On Wednesday 15th March 2023, four of the Morvoren poets – Ella Walsworth-Bell, Abigail Ottley, Kerry Vincent, Kate Barden and guest poet Morag Smith – gave a fantastic poetry performance at the library.

Watch the video here

The library holds archive collections on three of these great women, and Maggi and Melissa bring all of their stories to life in this talk.

Watch the video here

Forced To Flee – a talk from Dr Lynne Jones

Her book is dedicated to “all those forced to leave the place they call home” and bears essential witness to the refugee crises of France, Greece, Italy and Mexico over a period of five years. In this talk, Dr Lynne Jones will discuss what forces families to make these journeys – including the climate and ecological crises – and strikes a sharp chord with the stories of displacement currently at the forefront of our minds. Her diaries records the voices of those we very rarely hear from and shares their extraordinary tales.

This video contains strong language. All views, comments or opinions expressed are the speaker’s own and should not be interpreted as those of The Morrab Library.


Watch the video here.


The British Way of War, Sir Julian Corbett and the battle for a national strategy. 

On Wednesday 13th April 2022, Professor Andrew Lambert gave The Morrab Library members a fascinating insight into the uniqueness of British war strategy. British security needs have been maritime and oceanic, rather than military and continental, unlike those of other major powers, and when British Governments forget that reality the results have been devastating, in lives and resources.

At the centre of the lecture is Sir Julian Corbett, (1854-1922), the brilliant strategist who developed the concept of a distinctive ‘British Way’ working with the Royal Navy, Government and the academic community.

Andrew Lambert is Laughton Professor of Naval History in the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London, and Director of the Laughton Naval History Unit. His work focuses on the naval and strategic history of the British Empire between the Napoleonic Wars and the First World War and the evolution of seapower. He has published widely and is winner of Anderson Medal of the Society for Nautical Research and the Gilder Lehrman Prize for Military History.


Watch the video here


From East End to Lands End: A talk by Susan Soyinka

On Wednesday 16th February local author Susan Soyinka gave a talk at The Morrab Library about the evacuation of Jews’ Free School, London, to Mousehole in Cornwall during WWII. In June 1940, about 100 children from Jews’ Free School, London, were evacuated to the Methodist village of Mousehole. Remarkably, most of the evacuees quickly integrated into village life, and were accepted by the villagers as their own.

During this talk, author Susan Soyinka, gives a flavour of this heart-warming story, using illustrations and readings from her book.

Watch the video here

Robert Burns – The Curly-Heided Swan: A talk by Des Hannigan


On Wednesday 26th January 2022 we celebrated the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, with Scotsman Des Hannigan, through stories and verses and a recital of the bard’s famous narrative poem ‘Tam o’ Shanter’.

Poet of the people and the pastoral, Burns merged a liberal, humane approach to life, salted with realism and romanticism, and more than a hint of bad behaviour. In Tam o’ Shanter, he spins the glorious, cautionary tale of the drunken farmer Tam and his grey mare Meg as they become entangled with witches and warlocks during a night of wild weather – a tale without a tail.

All views, comments or opinions expressed are the speaker’s own and should not be interpreted as those of The Morrab Library.

Watch the video here

The Morrab Library Short Story Competition 2021

In 2021, The Morrab Library held a Short Story Competition. This page presents the winning entries. The competition was sponsored by member Nigel Castle, and prizes were donated by the Edge of the World Bookshop and we are grateful for their support.

Christmas Video – Some Christmas cheer from the library trustees – December 2019

We’re pleased to share this light-hearted look at Christmas and our library 100 years ago from the trustees.

Watch the video here.