The life and work of Cornish singer Brenda Wootton is to be celebrated in a public exhibition next month, thanks to support from Arts Council England, National Lottery and FEAST. ‘Mordonnow/Sea Waves,’ from Penzance-based cultural production company BOSENA, will display highlights of a new archive created to document Brenda’s life, alongside the launch of a new audio-visual work from artist Florence Browne.

The exhibition will be open to the public 10.30am – 4.30 pm from the 2nd- 6th October in the Redwing Gallery, Penzance, and the 8th- 11th October at the Count House, Botallack.

Members of the public are encouraged to bring their own photos and memories of Brenda to the venues, where these can be scanned into the archive.

There will also be a month-long digital version of the exhibition hosted online, with the moving-image work and selected images available to view

Music workshops for children will be led by musician and researcher Hilary Coleman.

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 exhibition and archive project hopes to shine a light on her story and bring 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, especially in France.

An unlikely star, by the 1980s she would be recognised by fans on the streets of Paris, though her fame never reached the same scale back home.

She left a considerable legacy of songs, many written by close collaborator Richard Gendall and was also a familiar voice to many through her popular Radio Cornwall show ‘Sunday Best’.

Falmouth Packet: Brenda WottonBrenda Wotton

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Her daughter, Sue Ellery-Hill, is a key contributor to the new Brenda Wootton archive, which forms the basis of the autumn exhibition.

Sue said: "My mother always regarded herself as a Newlyn maid, and that was certainly where her heritage lay –but from about 1960, Penzance was our home town, which I still see it as – with St Just running a close second for me now.

"And St Just, specifically Botallack and the Count House, became such an important part of her story.

"It was where her professional career can be said to have started – where she first found the confidence to get up on a stage and sing in front of an audience, and where she first realised that her voice, and her charisma, her personality, her memories, her history – the whole package – was so significant, and of such great interest to others, whether at home or abroad.

"Penzance was definitely home territory – when my mother’s career turned stellar, she needed to return to Penzance just to keep her feet on the ground.

"When her singing took her so far away, for so long, she dreamed of coming home, just to walk up Market Jew Street, see the old faces, meet old friends and have a bit of yarn, catch up on the

‘Mordonnow/Sea Waves’ is a new project from Bosena, a cultural start-up led by Denzil Monk.

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.

Florence says: "It’s such an exciting project to be working on.

"Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Brenda, her personality comes across so vividly in the video archive we have.

"She was obviously such a natural musician and performer, and her stage presence is something I wish I could have experienced myself."

Bosena is keen to hear from anyone with photos, recordings or memories of Brenda which they’d like to contribute to ‘Mordonnow’.

During the exhibition opening there will be the opportunity for the public to bring their items in for scanning or photographing, and to chat about the project.

For archive submissions and general enquires, contact Florence Browne (