A Serpent’s Dance by Lucy Frears


“Everyone can hold hands and take part in the Serpent Dance, an old Penzance dance that links community and two contrasting ancient, revived & re-imagined Penzance traditions – Golowan (in midsummer) and Montol (the winter solstice).
The light and the dark…”


“A Serpent’s Dance
started with collecting sound from the town of Penzance (Pen Sans which means Holy Headland in Kernewek/ Cornish). I recorded different sounds at all times of the day and night, in different seasons and during the festivals of Montol and Golowan. Night recording helped me, for example, capture the sound of flapping Golowan festival flags that were always ruined by cars and voices in the day. I asked residents and those that work in Penzance what sound they feel is closely connected with the town. The jangles and ting-ting-tings of the boat masts as the wind whistles through them (which feature prominently – they are one of my favourite sounds), the birds that live in the tree by the train station that signal that you are finally home, the kids playing in the water by the slipway, the sound of swimmers in the open sea and Jubilee Pool. Then there are the sounds of crowds of people enjoying themselves at two of the traditional festivals where the community – whether pagan or Christian, old or young and all those in-between – find a way to celebrate their home and community. There are lots of sounds you might not recognise – but someone will.”

“The sound piece meanders like Penzance’s Serpent Dance to evoke some of the atmosphere of the town and its traditions. Traces of interviews from the Re:Voice research project and interviews recorded specifically for this piece are used to emphasise what the sound effects are implying or to express aspects they cannot. Photographs and film footage were shared, kindly, by amateur & professional photographers, archivists and filmmakers contacted after seeing their work online or through targeted research. Marcus Cook edited this jumble of material together to the sound piece. My hope is that people listen to the soundscape first (with headphones) as an embodied experience and imagine what they are hearing. Watching the film afterwards (with headphones), adds another layer of understanding to these far southwest ancient Cornish community traditions.”

Dr Lucy Frears

Soundscape & Design – Lucy Frears
Picture Editor – Marcus Cook
Original Music (at end): MUHLA
Duration: 4.39 mins (designed to be played in a loop).


The sound & film were made possible by contributions by many people – thank you.



Interviews by Lucy Frears in order of first appearance:  
Leader of the Golowan Band – Rosie
Leader of the Golowan procession & Penglaze Teazer – Elise Sampson
Master of the Glorious Company of the Egyptian House (the ‘gyptians guise guild at Montol) – Carol Tanner
Poet, writer & part of the Golowan founding group – Pauline Shepherd
The Egyptian God Horus (Montol) & various Golowan & Montol roles – Andy Tanner
Montol researcher, initiator & director – Simon Reed
Producer & filmmaker Denzil Monk
Poet – Katrina Naomi
Montol Artistic Director (2022 -) – Joe Gray (who was interviewed by Lucie Akerman)


Thank you for sharing photos:
The Terry Sampson Golowan Archive – including photos by Steve Tanner,
Bill Mitchell Archive (courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Falmouth University and University of Exeter Penryn Campus),
© Sue Hill (a founder of Golowan who designed the logo),
Simon Cook, Mike Newman, John Stedman, Joe Beer & © Peter Waverly collection held at Kresen Kernow [AD2764]

Thank you for sharing film footage: 

The Terry Sampson Golowan Archive,
Barbara Santi,
Mike Newman,
Lucas Nott,
© Peter Waverly collection held at Kresen Kernow [AD2764]

Thanks to:

Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange – Blair Todd; Olga Reed AMPS – YXO Studios Ltd; Re:voice colleagues: Laura Hodsdon, Flis Tattersall, Denzil Monk & Paul Sewry, Golowan Associate Director – Martin Venning, maker of the Glorious Company of the Egyptian House osses displayed at The Exchange – Martin Cleaver, editor Marcus Cook, all those who helped secure permissions for photos – Debby Wright & Sharron Parsons, Cultivator Cornwall (for funding sound equipment), Maggi Simpson, Maria McEwen, Lucie Akerman, Harriet Poznansky, David Prior, Chris Ryan & Louis Frears.



Funded by Research England in partnership with Falmouth University.