Online Archive  
Issue 1 - December 1971
Beware The Ives Of March
Almost everyone has some preconceived idea of what is going on in St Ives. Those who over the past years have been conditioned by popular press coverage, may well picture herds of drug-crazed drop-outs, conning in the streets and ripping off milk from old ladies' doorsteps. Others may still expect to find the place throbbing with oozings of creative genius, wielding paint brushes and pacing around deep in thought wearing denim and sandals, while others may picture a miniature Surf City or even a little Brighton.

During the last five years it has become more noticeable that much in old St Ives has changed; and little, if anything, for the better. It's now apparent that Ives may well be in the grip of an age of deterioration as far as its tradition and culture are concerned. The once ever-present atmosphere of genuine exchange and determination to do something between scores of inventive minds in their exploration of pottery, sculpture, painting and writing, now seems irrevocably lost leaving a situation not unlike that which eventually crushed Greenwich Village and later Haight-Ashbury.

From the work of Whistler and Sickett, St Ives went from strength to strength and established a worthy name as representative of some of the finest works of art being produced in the world; a time which culminated in the brilliant careers of Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. The present situation unfortunately falls sadly well short of past attainments.

The great majority of artists moved out with the growing association of St Ives with freaks. The press in their usual stupidity and sensationalism, stereotyped the painters as beatniks though few even knew what 'beatnik' was supposed to be. Those painters still in the area recall how almost overnight, St Ives was besieged by the most unlikely of characters professing to be 'beatniks'.

The current scene in St Ives is also viewed by many who have remained in the area. For the summer is a waiting period. The season has become too chaotic for them and they seldom visit town after Easter when Fore Street gets its first annual taste of masses of pulsating tourists and one-week-heads. They feel that the tourist industry with its restaurant sharks and phoney gift shops has left the town like a sucked grape and this plus intensified bust squad activity has caused many real heads to move out.

Even so, Cornwall maintains its magic though plans for a motorway to Plymouth may shroud that, at least between Easter and late September. Yet many talented people remain - artists, poets and the internationally reputable potter Bernard Leach. St Ives is still a source of natural energy and stimulation. Reality could be a trip again if the decay is checked now. If more don't join those who have already decided to do something, St Ives could be lost forever.

Good luck to those I left, use your winter well.

Ahimsa Kevan