To celebrate and commemorate the Centenary of Armistice Day in 2018, C Fylm commissioned a young student team and school and college children to get involved in learning about and telling Cornwall’s WWI stories.
The Cornish Tommies project enabled local people throughout Cornwall to come together to preserve the memories and heritage of Cornish families who lived through the First World War.
Cornish Tommies tells the true story of a young Cornish miner who was called up to serve in the trenches in the last year of World War One. With help from archivists, curators, experts and student volunteers, Cornish Tommies presents the true story of a Cornish mining family caught up in the war.
To bring attention to and recount Cornwall's WWI stories
C Fylm engaged with a large number of partners and volunteers who advocated for the film and delivered participation and audience numbers beyond their expectation.
At secondary education level they engaged with Falmouth University, Truro and Penwith College, Bodmin College and Helston College. They provided paid jobs for eight undergraduates with meaningful experience in film production.
They provided a significant commemoration and celebration of the Armistice Centenary for their core club organisers and for communities in the Duchy as a whole.
They exceeded expected delivery to their existing C Fylm clubs, and engaged with WTW cinemas, Newlyn Filmhouse and The Poly as screening partners.
17 features, plus Cornish Tommies short film. Titles included La Grande Illusion, The Dawn Patrol, Shoulder Arms, Les Gardiennes, All Quiet on the Western Front.
The key research and curation partnerships were with St Agnes Museum and The Poly Falmouth, whose archivist team’s expertise and experience empowered the team of young volunteers. The Trench performance project in Bodmin helped with research as well as location and costume. They made links with Nankersey Male Voice Choir who provided the Methodist tunes in the film. St Agnes Parish Council raised a headstone to Henry Jennings, a previously un-memorialised DCM from the village. They also made connections with the British Legion, who approached C Fylm and attended some of the events to fundraise and spread awareness.
Budget in brief
Overall budget: £19,000
Key income sources were Heritage Lottery Fund, Film Hub South West, Cornish Mining World Heritage Site Fund, Vaughn Williams Charitable Trust, Historic England.
C Fylm engaged a large number of partners and volunteers in this project – more than we expected – and more than 3,000 people have seen the film.
They had strong engagement from the Falmouth University student production team, and made a partnership with ‘The Trench’ in Bodmin with participation from college students to create scenes for the film.
The student team learnt a great deal from the practical side of producing and directing the film, including the division of labour and delegating tasks, meeting very tight deadlines, managing volunteers, and learning from errors in estimating budgeting costs from ignorance e.g. underestimating costs of prop and costume hire.
We have provided a significant celebration and commemoration of the Armistice Centenary for the core club organisers and the Duchy as whole - engaging the British Legion volunteers and many new partners in screening the film as part of their Remembrance Day.
What has been difficult
Recruiting young people over the summer can be challenging with holidays and work – but it can also be challenging fitting in with coursework and exams during semester.
Organising young people under 18 can be challenging, especially as we had location trips and required permission to appear on film.
The time and resources required to produce a short film with a small core team.
What you would do differently if you did it again
Have a follow-up plan in place to keep young people engaged.
Take on a freelance producer to oversee the film.
A longer lead time to deliver activity and recruit participants – with time to spread the word more effectively before starting the project.
Awareness / Attitudes
Cornish Tommies raised awareness of the story of a real Cornish miner returning from the Trenches in the First World War. Their main participatory group was students and young people, and they took part in research and production as well as WW1 reenactment in The Trench to help them imagine what life was like as a young person in the War.
St Agnes Parish Council, whose burial clerk Annette Tippett had assisted with the research, heard the story and agreed they would like to fund the installation of a headstone for Henry Jennings, who the film was about. They felt this would not only honour Jennings 36 years after his death, but would also be a symbol of the Council’s recognition of all those from their Parish who served who may not have a marked burial place.
Knowledge & Experience
Providing paid roles for eight university undergraduates meant that they could take the first step of their creative careers or expand their knowledge and experience to go onto realising their full potential and spurring their creative talent.
Across all of the Cornish screenings there was a sense of community and pride – and especially in St Agnes where Henry Jennings, who was the focus of our project, was from.
The film screenings were held to commemorate and celebrate the centenary of Armistice, and the events brought the community together in village halls, schools, churches, other community spaces and cinemas. Some of the films were accompanied by Q&As and were presented by the undergraduate crew, who also did these at school screenings to give younger students an insight into filmmaking and how the story was put together.
Over 3000 people attended a film screening, which meant a significant contribution to venues in the form of ticket sales and refreshments. The Cornish Tommies screenings attracted visitors to film clubs who weren’t already members of C Fylm, who may return at a later date. C Fylm also provided eight paid roles to university undergraduates in their summer break, which helped to develop skills within their creative fields.
What audiences said
Feedback from many of the audiences has been full of praise - not just for the film itself (which for its budget and crew experience level is a highly creditable effort!) but also for the design and delivery of the project with young people.
“Good to see local students involved in a history film. Interesting to hear one man’s story and, in particular, his life after the war”
"Very Well Done with beautiful music”
What professionals, press and partners said
“Thank you very much for sharing access to this film. I found it moving and I am using it to support the assembly that I am doing with all our students through the course of the week."
"On Wednesday I would like to show the film to a year group where there is one student who is profoundly deaf, and I wondered if there is a version which has subtitles to help him access the content?”
The film was very well received by staff and pupils. Gemma and William and then Gemma and Caitlyn were excellent ambassadors and did a great job. Some of the students found it difficult to understand the man from the Cornwall military museum, perhaps the language was a little advanced for the pupils? It was very relevant, well made and researched. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to screen the film.
“The film was really good, great story and really well shot!”
“People from all over Cornwall have been working together to make a film about [Henry Jennings’] war and his life: the life of a Cornish Tommy... It looks like an incredibly powerful film.” – BBC Spotlight
“Young people have chance to make film documenting the life of a teenage soldier” – Cornish Times
“The heroic story of a 'Cornish Tommy'” – Falmouth Packet