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Pictures of Minack Theatre

in the town of Porthcurno, in the county of Cornwall

About Minack Theatre

The fact that we have a theatre in such a spectacular setting is solely due to one woman, Rowena Cade, and the story of the Minack Theatre is very much her story.

Rowena was born in 1893 in Derbyshire, later when her father retired in 1906, she moved with her parents to live in Cheltenham. At the time of the First World War, Rowena went to work selecting horses for the use of serving soldiers at the fronts of Belgium and France. Her husband died during the war, so the house in Cheltenham was sold and together Rowena and her mother travelled to Cornwall.

It was here that Rowena discovered the dramatic high granite headland that was forever after to hold and enchant her. Minack headland rises above the sands of pretty Porthcurno and this Rowena bought for £100 while they were renting a house in near-by Lamorna, and it is here she built a house of local stone for herself and her mother.

The idea for the theatre came following a friend staging a performance of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" in her garden. It was all so amazingly beautiful with the rugged coastline acting as a backdrop, little in the way of lighting save for car headlights and lamps from a cable run from the house, but it was such a resounding success that Rowena began to concentrate her thoughts on building an open-air theatre on the cliffs.

It was 1932, prior to this she had done little in the way of manual work, now aided by her gardener Billy Rawlings and his friend Charles Angrove, Rowena began her labour of love. Together the three worked tirelessly, the theatre was taking good shape and then came the interruption of World War II. During the turbulent war years the army used the site and by the time the war was over the land had virtually been reclaimed by nature. Once again, with the aid of Billy Rawlings, Rowena set about chasing her dream. No one could have worked harder and no better outcome could have been achieved.

Today, the Minack Theatre stands as a unique testimonial to the endeavours of Rowena Cade and her band of willing helpers. It is a setting for theatricals which rivals any to be found in any other part of Europe, some of England's finest celebrities have trod its boards, these have ranged from the magical voices of Sarah Brightman and Charlotte Church to the talented Hugh Dancy, Sue Pollard and John Nettles.

The theatre was passed over to a Charitable Trust by Rowena in 1976 when she was over eighty. Later, the trustees extended the season of plays, opened a Visitor Centre and Gardens which are open all throughout the year. The programmes presented are diverse in content, with new companies performing as well as a rich selection of seasoned actors.

The magic of the Minack remains just as bright as it was when the very first enactment of The Tempest took place in the summer of 1932, it is a truly wonderful place with which all who visit cannot fail but be impressed. For Rowena Cade it was a dream come true, certainly on the day she discovered the Minack Headland, little did she know what an inspirational choice she had made or what joy the theatre would give to generations of theatre goers from all over the world.

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