About the Plen

Plen an gwaryThe Plen-an-Gwary, St Just

St Just-in-Penwith is home to arguably the oldest working theatre in Britain, standing in the heart of the community for over 600 years, this Plen-an-Gwary is a scheduled ancient monument and one of only two surviving outdoor amphitheatres in Cornwall.
 
In English, ‘plen-an-gwary’ means ‘place of the play’; the plen has acted as a theatre, sports arena and meeting place in the centre of the town since the Middle ages and still is in daily use as a vibrant and living part of the town, cared for by St Just Town Council. More recently, it has become inextricably linked to the spectacular large scale performances of the Ordinalia cycle, and the town’s annual community Lafrowda festival. It is not a museum piece, a tourist attraction or a recreation of a piece of history, but a real theatre with real history and a real part to play in Cornwall’s future.
 
Ordinalia

Our Mission

In order to mount larger events in the plen-an-gwary properly and safely, companies used the small wooden building next to the Plen, when the site went up for sale in 2006 a vigorous campaign was started by the St Just & District Trust Plen Project to purchase the site in order to secure its use as an essential backstage facility. In March 2011 the sale was completed; many thanks to our funders and the multitude of 'Plen Friends' for their generous donations.
 
 
We are now renewing the campaign afresh, raising money for a site specific rebuild on the site with the eventual aim of running a regular summer season of events in the Plen, and also hopefully reinstating the spectacular Cornish 'Ordinalia Cycle' (2000-2004) as re-enactments of the original medieval miracle plays. The origins of the plen are tied up with the Ordinalia cycle. These medieval dramas were written in the Cornish language by the canons of Glasney College in Penryn to be performed in the plen-an-gwarys that would have been spread across Cornwall. Unlike other Mystery plays of the time (York, 
Lafrowda in the Plen
Wakefield, Coventry etc), the Cornish plays were played in a round theatre space and a stage plan survived to
let us know what that would have looked like, with a central acting area and 8 smaller stages arranged around the edge of the plen.
 
The Plen has hosted a variety of ‘Ordinalia’ plays, most recently those created by ‘Cornwall Theatre Collective’ starting in 2000 with the ‘Creation’ , 2001 ‘ The Passion’ , 2002 ‘The Resurrection and 2004 ‘The Full Cycle’ ; over 200 local people took part as actors, choir and band members, makers and builders and the performances attracted audiences of over 10,000 people.
 
Lafrowda festival started in 1997, on the third Saturday in July Lafrowda Day’s three spectacular processions culminate in the ‘plen’ where many people congregate to relax in the sunshine, and enjoy the variety of music playing on the stage erected there; over 7,000 people now attend this event.