Heritage Festival and Community Play



The original concept of a St Austell Heritage Festival and Community Play based on the 1847 Bread Riots came from Restormel Arts Chairman Richard Turner.
Richard who was a founder member of Restormel Arts and who has chaired it since its foundation in 1991 until 2015 explains how the play As Well Be Shot As Be Starved and its surrounding events came about.
When we were casting around for a suitable subject on which to base a community play - one that would go to the heart of what St Austell was all about - we looked to the early nineteenth century for a good story. It was then that the foundations of St Austell's prosperity were really established. Our signposts describe St Austell as a "Market Town" and indeed for most of its early history that is exactly what it was. However many claim that a "Mining Town" would be a more accurate description for it was tin and copper and, more importantly, china clay extraction that made it, for a time, the richest town In the South West.
It is appropriate that the Market House should have been the focal point of the disturbances that broke out in June 1847. Markets were the province of the farmers and they, in turn, were beholden to the local landowners who controlled every aspect of civic life. Together they were a powerful lobby for the Corn Laws that set a duty on all imported grain, kept prices high and guaranteed them a healthy profit on their produce. In 1847 poor harvests and the potato blight caused a sudden rise in the price of staple foods and working people found themselves on the brink of starvation. Markets throughout Cornwall were attacked, shops looted and corn mills plundered. In every instance miners were at the forefront of the protests, but in St Austell it was the clayworkers who took the lead and who gathered their strength from the outlying villages.
Fortunately the Heritage Lottery Fund recognized this as a story that gives a compelling insight into the culture and heritage of our town. Without their grant of £39,200 Restormel Arts supported by a Project Team drawn from a wide range of local organizations would not have been able to mount a project of this complexity, with a professional production team and a script by a noted Cornish playwright. An early challenge was to find a suitable venue for the performances. We are immensely grateful to St Austell Brewery for coming to the rescue with a setting that is full of historical resonance and one which has been both a challenge and an inspiration to our designers.
Finally, we owe a great deal to the dogged enthusiasm of our Project Manager, Sheila Vanloo. She has been the prime mover in assembling a wonderful production team, has held numerous community workshops, visited many schools, force-fed our website with news and commentary and is altogether the rock on which this project has been built.  

Some of the Management and Creative Teams

Original idea from Richard Turner

Project Manager Sheila Vanloo

Writer Bill Scott

Director Liam Hurley

Musical Director Ben Sutcliffe


Assistant Director Sharon Andrew

Wardrobe Mistress Sheila Gill

Movement Aaron Marshall

Set Design Alan Munden

Stage Manager - Angelina Boscarelli

Dance Artist - Emily Dobson

Project Group Chairman Mike Hackney

Following various pieces of street theatre the play took place over six nights in July 2013 in the old cellars of St Austell Brewery.


Steve Gilbert MP on Twitter -"was at last night of "As well as be shot as starved" - FANTASTIC play based on the 1847 St Austell Bread Riots - well done to one and all!"

"Well what can I say - That was one hell of a show. My wife and I both said how slick it was. You should all be pleased with yourselves"

"Congratulations to the entire cast and crew on such a superb production! Atmospheric, powerful and moving.....Well done!!"

"'I've just got home from seeing 'As well be Shot….' and it was truly outstanding and would be worthy in the West End of London and I'm not kidding. Fantastic, my congratulations to absolutely everyone involved and that includes the cheerful car parking helpers. Thank you.'"

"We have just got back home to Plymouth after seeing tonight's performance which we all felt was absolutely brilliant. Thank you!"

 Sheila Vanloo on 10th July

A packed house for our opening night, there was a real buzz of excitement backstage. Massive round of applause to all the cast - you were fabulous. Superb music from our wonderful Bread Riots Band, led by Ben Sutcliffe. Huge plaudits too for Stage Manager Angelina Boscarelli and her little team who nailed rapid costume changes when thick clothes were literally sticking to skin and had to be peeled off, also great work by Production Manager Ollie Oakenshield and the techies. Thanks also to our stewards for taking care of car parks and people. The audience loved the play, most used one word on leaving 'Brilliant!'


During the whole process a mass of photographs were taken many by members of the St Austell Photographic Club. A small selection follows.


Heritage Festival and Community Play. Copyright Restormel Arts 2017
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