A new project exploring the life and work of Cornish singer Brenda Wootton is underway, thanks to support from Arts Council England National Lottery and FEAST.

‘Mordonnow/Sea Waves’, from Penzance-based cultural production company BOSENA, will see the creation of a public archive documenting Brenda’s life, and will be housed at Kresen Kernow. In the autumn of 2021, an exhibition will display highlights of the archive, with the launch of a new audio-visual work from artist Florence Browne and music workshops for young people.

A Cornish cultural icon and ambassador, Brenda Wootton built an international touring career in the 1980s from her vocal performances, honed in the folk clubs of Penwith.

Once a familiar voice of Radio Cornwall, awareness of her achievements has dwindled since her death in 1994, and this long-overdue project will shine a light on her story and promote her music and poetry to new audiences.

Brenda Wootton grew up in west Cornwall in the 1930s, and with no formal musical training developed a later-life career as an international touring celebrity.

An unlikely star, by the 1980s she would be recognised by fans on the streets of Paris.

Mike Sagar-Fenton, who performed with Brenda, remarks that, while back home, she was simply: "Brenda from Penzance, one of us, doing rather well overseas.

"Unknown to us she could regularly fill the most prestigious halls in capitals all over Europe, meet and perform with the major stars of the day, shake hands with presidents and royalty, and conquer all she met with her music and supercharged personality."

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Brenda’s daughter, Sue Ellery-Hill, is a key contributor to the new Brenda Wootton archive.

Sue says: "Since my mother’s death in 1994, I have worked to ensure that her musical and cultural legacy is well established, bringing out new CDs of old recordings, creating a website and publishing her biography.

"So I was hugely encouraged and gratified to be approached by film-maker Florence Browne with her ideas for a major project about Brenda – for once, it is not me doing the pushing!

"I fully believe my mother’s unique story and her songs are most certainly worth pushing.

"She used that remarkable voice, and the sheer force of her Cornish personality, to spread the language and culture of Cornwall worldwide. I’m really looking forward to working with Florence and Denzil Monk to support this very worthwhile project, and can’t wait to see the final result!"

Newlyn-based artist Florence Browne, who has a background in music and film, will be drawing on the newly formed archive to create a moving-image work as part of the autumn exhibition, which will be staged for two weeks in Penwith followed by a month online.

Workshops for children and young people, led by musician Hilary Coleman, will bring Brenda’s music to a new generation and encourage new perspectives.