Anna Chen on the Island overlooking St Ives. Photo Chris Eldon-Lee

Making St Ives and Me for the BBC

In 2011 I made a programme for BBC radio about the Cornish town of St Ives, a famous British artists colony, where I’d been going on holiday since the age of ten. My aunt and uncle first discovered it in the 1950s when they honeymooned there and it became a favourite family holiday destination.

The original broadcast in 2011 was Pick of the Day for the Radio TimesThe TimesDaily TelegraphDaily MailObserver and the Independent.

Introduction by producer Chris Eldon-Lee:

St Ives, a Cornish seaside town 300 miles from comedian and poet Anna Chen’s London home has been attracting artists for two centuries. A varied assortment of eccentrics, entrepreneurs and free spirits have turned the pilchard-fishing and tin-mining town into a popular cultural haven.

Anna has been holidaying there since she was ten and knew many of the famous artists who’ve populated and popularised St Ives.

In the late 1970s the bohemian fashion journalist and novelist Molly Parkin was a regular on the St. Ives scene and she recalls how, in the dark recesses of Mr Peggotty’s disco, she introduced Anna to artist Patrick Heron. In his Porthmeor studio by the Atlantic, Heron used to make Anna mugs of tea while he painted and sketched her and their conversations opened her eyes to the arts. Revisiting those studios, she meets two present day painters maintaining the St Ives’ tradition.

On a personal tour of the town, she returns to Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture garden, hears about the unique light conditions that attract so many artists and reveals the vital roles Napoleon, Von Ribbentrop and the 1960s hippies played in promoting and preserving St Ives.

At lunchtime, in Norway Square, Anna performs her comic poetry in the St Ives Festival, which has been attracting trendsetters for thirty years.

And she waits on the beach, with bated breath, for the legendary 33rd wave.

Producer: Chris Eldon Lee
A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 4.


Molly Parkin
Bob Devereux
Valerie Hurry
Steve Dove
Toni Carver
Jo McIntosh
Denise Ingamells
Annie Jackson
Iain Robertson
Clare Wardman


Charles Shaar Murray and Buffalo Bill Smith — Walking Blues by Robert Johnson
Charles Shaar Murray — Dylan in ’66
Bob Devereux — Queen of the GypsiesOak
Lol accompanying Bob Devereux
Rod Bullimore — Last OrdersSewage Against Surfers
Anna Chen — Ode to a Detox on Leaving St IvesKicking a Dinosaur

See also: How St Ives came to be one of Britain’s foremost art communities by Anna Chen for the Great Western Railroad magazine, 2014

Here are some photos of a great time had by all …

More images of St Ives

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