FALMOUTH Art Gallery is celebrating after being awarded £11,900 by the Heritage Lottery Fund for its ‘A Cabaret of Mechanical Movement’ project.  

The gallery will be using the Heritage Lottery funding to mark forty years of automata making in Falmouth with a hands-on automata and moving art exhibition, an exciting programme of community events, the creation of an online automata archive and the restoration of Peter Markey’s mural in Webber Street.  The project will run from June – September 2018.  

Do you have memories of the Cabaret shop on the High Street?  Do you own an automata or a Knit-Wit jumper? Was Peter Markey your art teacher?  Were you part of the team that painted the ‘Markey’ mural on Webber Street?  If so Falmouth Art Gallery would like to hear from you so please call 01326 313 863, email or pop in and chat to gallery staff. 

Falmouth has been described as the ‘home’ of automata making due to Cabaret and its association with three figures who were central to the renaissance of automata making in the UK: Peter Markey (1930-2016), Ron Fuller (1936-2017) and Sue Jackson (1938-2016). It continues to be an important nucleus of contemporary automata makers many of whom have international reputations.  The exhibition A Cabaret of Mechanical Movement, provides us with an opportunity to celebrate their contribution to automata making and the important role Falmouth plays in the history and development of automata making in the UK.   

The ‘father’ of the Falmouth automata makers was Peter Markey, who taught art for many years at Falmouth School and encouraged his pupils in automata making.   Markey is famous for his naïve style which can be seen in the large public mural he designed in 1984 and can be found on Webber Street, Falmouth. 

The mural was originally commissioned by the Falmouth Civic Society and carried out by The Man-Power Services Commission using Markey’s drawings.  It was actually painted by Paul Harris of Falmouth and Shane Buckingham and Tristan Jewell of Truro, supervised by Ray Hall.  The gallery would be delighted to hear from Shane, Tristan and Ray and urges them to get in touch if they would like to share their memories of the project.  The mural has gradually fallen into disrepair so part of the funding will be used to restore it to its former glory with the support of Tesco who now own the building.  Any help with cleaning and restoration would be greatly appreciated.  Please contact Tamsin Bough to register your interest:  

Peter Markey was the first recruit when in 1979 Sue Jackson, a former Falmouth art student, opened a craft shop called Cabaret in the High Street, Falmouth.  Peter’s work was soon joined by the creations of Paul Spooner and Ron Fuller, both of whom had been encouraged by Sue to turn their hand to automata making and went on to become internationally renowned makers.  In 1983 she founded Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, the first collection of contemporary automata in Britain, made by artists originally recruited in and around Falmouth.  Sue moved Cabaret Mechanical Theatre to London’s Covent Garden in 1984 where it delighted visitors until 2000 but the Falmouth shop is still fondly remembered locally.

Henrietta Boex, Director of Cultural Services for Falmouth Town Council writes “I still have a pair of felt fuchsia earrings that I bought from Cabaret. In fact, a visit to the shop was a must every time we visited Falmouth. It cost 50p to go in and I well remember my delight at the ingenuity, humour and variety of each individual automaton. Many of us are National Lottery players and I think it is great that your money distributed by the Heritage Lottery Fund is helping us to recreate these memories and restore the mural which I consider a very important civic feature for Falmouth”.


 A Cabaret of Mechanical Movement can be seen at Falmouth Art Gallery from 30 June – 8 September 2018. Entry is free.  Falmouth Art Gallery is open from Monday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm, admission free.  For information on this exhibition please contact Donna Williams on 01326 313863 or  

A History of Cabaret

This film celebrates the history of Falmouth's automata makers from its origin of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre at the High Street in Falmouth, to the local automata makers still working in this area.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Film produced by Tim Lowe.


FALMOUTH Art Gallery is one of only three organisations in the country to receive the first Max Rheinhardt Literary Awards.

We were awarded £3500 to stage an innovative art and creative writing project in partnership with local writer Mac Dunlop and Penryn Community College. The 14-15 year old students took part in workshops linking creative writing, 2D and 3D art with the gallery's automata collection. The project has culminated with the launch of a new publication that has been written, illustrated and designed by the students in partnership with Penryn Press.




The Cultural Triangle project follows on from the hugely successful John Singer Sargent community heritage project (2009-12) which not only secured an important artwork for Falmouth Art Gallery's Collection but also set out an infrastructure and strategy to ‘celebrate Falmouth's rich artistic heritage'.


The clue to the project is in the name ‘Cultural Triangle' and the intention to elevate Falmouth's artistic heritage to a level on a par with that of Newlyn and St Ives. The project focused on art produced since about 1880 by artists practicing in this geographical triangulation.
The Cultural Triangle project (2014-15) has included a year-long programme of exhibitions which began in February 2014 with Artists of the First Falmouth Art Gallery and ended in January 2015 with Porthmeor past and present