Interview with The Poly

Posted: 13th December 2023

Heather and Lay are delighted to be the first local company to sponsor Falmouth Poly as they launch their new Business Supporter scheme. It’s no secret that we are huge fans of The Poly, with a few members of the team having backgrounds or experience in the arts, so when the opportunity came up to offer them further support, we jumped at the chance! This week we got to visit the General Manager of The Poly to find out all about what’s on offer and what makes The Poly such an iconic part of Falmouth. Over to you Ed…


Tell us about The Poly…


Well, it was set up in the 1830s as The Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society, by the Fox family, with the aim of advancing the fields of science and art and promoting Cornish culture and innovation. Over the years, it has been through various incarnations as an arts and cultural centre, but it is now a registered charity to support the arts, history and sciences. We try to combine genres and mediums, to shine a light on what is happening culturally and locally. We have a theatre and cinema space that seats 164, a nice size for touring companies eg if The Pavilion is too big. It also has a good size stage. Our Grade 2* Listed building has 2 dedicated gallery spaces for exhibitions by local artists. The university have a couple of exhibitions here each year and we have a members show once a year as well as a spring open exhibition. We want to be the venue where different disciplines can meet and cross-pollinate and there is a lot of cross-over as the art college was set up by the Fox family too. The university also hire our spaces for their courses, and we are continuing to build on our partnerships in the community.


Can people buy products from The Poly?


Yes, we have a Guild Shop which represents local artists. Individuals have to be based in or work from Cornwall to be stocked in the shop. We also sell our own pottery, our studio next door runs workshops, courses and firings.


There seem to be a lot of people coming and going in the building today even though you don’t have an event until this evening?


Ah yes, we have a class on in the gallery upstairs today. It’s a space that local artists and freelance tutors can hire for their workshops and tutorials. We also have a pottery exhibition on downstairs in our gallery space and there is always a steady stream of footfall for our café. Solskinn run the café space and it’s a real hub of creativity with a library space for working and using laptops and a more social space for catching up with friends. There are different things on each day and no two days are the same. There’s always an exhibition taking place in the Spring Gallery, which is a very popular and cost-effective space to hire by local artists. 


The Falmouth History Archive


The Falmouth history archive is based here, staffed exclusively by volunteers. There are a wealth of documents stretching back 200 years such as original historic records, photos, maps and books relating to Falmouth and the local area. From significant World War 1 landmarks to Falmouth’s maritime history, notable buildings and catalogues, indexes and registers, you can see how the face of Falmouth has changed over the years.


What are the benefits of being a member of The Poly?


The membership benefits are two-fold really. There’s the financial benefit – discounts on events and money off in the café for instance, but also the overarching benefit of supporting The Poly and shaping our future direction. Members are invited to have a say in our AGM to shape and support the organisation and its values. Members also automatically get a piece accepted at the members show.


What does The Poly have planned for 2024?


We are excited to have Paul Foot coming next year, we are now getting some bigger names back after Covid. We are a hosting venue for many festivals next year including Wanderfal (organised by the Cornish Bank), Falmouth’s Comedy Festival ‘Falmouth Cringe’ will be back in July, as will  Falmouth International Arts Festival (imPOSSIBLE producing) , The Falmouth Book Festival and the Film Festival (by Mormedia). Another local business, The Meat Counter are also sponsoring a series of cult films throughout the year. There’s a lot happening next year and still some things in the pipeline!


What is your background? How did you end up at The Poly?


I actually studied Craft at Falmouth University and graduated in 2007. I went on to work in community arts and theatre, then working in Birmingham for a prop building scenery company. I also did some work for community arts projects in Dudley, involving pop up galleries and workshop spaces in empty shop units. But I came back to Falmouth eventually (as many people do), keen to work with more local businesses and The Poly was the perfect place.


To finish the interview, I would love you to tell me something unusual that people might not know about The Poly


Something unusual? Well, the Post Office used to be based at The Poly. There also used to be a dispensary here and a holiday booking agency. There have been many iterations of The Poly as it has evolved and changed. But something I find particularly interesting is that we used to run a medal series, awarding medals to people exhibiting in the 1800s – we actually awarded a Poly Medal to Alfred Nobel for the invention of nitro-glycerine, which was tested successfully at Falmouth Docks, blowing a large iron anvil to bits.



We relaunched a new Cornish medal last year, for outstanding achievement in the fields of art, business and science; awarded every 2 years. In fact, a lecturer from one of those awards is speaking here this evening.



Just one final question, for any fellow local businesses out there who might be interested in becoming a Corporate Sponsor, as part of your Business Support Scheme, could you tell us a little bit about the benefits?


Of course, our corporate sponsors receive priority tickets for events alongside their logo on our website and print marketing. The important thing to mention with our corporate memberships is that they are tailored to the company so for those interested in supporting The Poly, please get in touch as there’s lots of options.


Wonderful! Well, thank you so much to Ed for the interview, this has been so interesting, and we cannot wait to support you for 2024. Find out more about The Poly and what is planned for 2024 here or follow them @polyfalmouth

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