The Fantastic Anna Maria Fox

A year of celebration!

2016 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Anna Maria Fox, a staunch advocate of Cornish innovation and culture, who co-founded what is now the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society, aged just 17.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery and collaborating with the Fox family, Mawnan Smith primary school, Falmouth University, The Royal Polytechnic Society, and Glendurgan Gardens, Scary Little Girls celebrated with a year of events about Anna Maria Fox as trailblazer. These events ranged from performances and picnics to pin-hole camera workshops and the opening of a new studio at her beloved Art School!

This show is not currently available for booking

About Anna Maria

Anna Maria Fox is now rightly celebrated for her pivotal role in promoting the arts and culture in Falmouth. Without her, we might never have had an art school, or specialist arts university here.

Dr Ginny Button
Director, Falmouth School of Art, Falmouth University

The lack of women in science has been a hot topic the past few years. Anna Maria Fox conceived and co-founded the first ever UK Polytechnic institute in Falmouth – the word polytechnic didn’t even exist until then! Such an inspirational figure for our young scientists and entrepreneurs deserves to be celebrated.

Rebecca Mordan
Artistic Director, Scary Little Girls

The legacy of Anna Maria still echoes down the ages, meeting with the present and shaping the future. It is a call to action for us all, to be of service wherever we can making a difference using whatever God given gifts and talents we have at our disposal.

Tricia Grace-Norton
Lead Volunteer, Anna Maria performer

An interview with Anna Maria Fox

The pupils of Mawnan Smith School brought Anna-Maria to life with this fantastic animation.

How did we celebrate her?

Held a birthday party

The project was launched on the eve of her birthday and took place in the Kings Charles the Martyr Church and community cafe.

We held a programme of events in the church, including readings from the Fox family diaries, an interview with Charles Fox (one of Anna Maria’s closest living relatives), performances of her favourite songs, speeches from local dignitaries and art work inspired by her life from local school children.

A local Scout’s troup then ushered our guests around the corner where we then held a mingle in the Church’s community cafe with a beautiful birthday cake and toasted her with fizz and pop.

A quintet from Mawnan Smith School provided festive music which delighted all of the party guests.

We invited people to talk to us and the Fox family about Anna Maria and record their thoughts and memories.

The party was a fabulous way to kick off the year of celebrations!

Celebrated her home

We held two celebratory picnics at Glendurgan Gardens, the home of Anna Maria’s family to this day that were designed by her uncle in her life time.

The Falmouth and Mawnan Smith scouts and the students and staff from Mawnan Smith school co-hosted these, with the scouts running victorian games with visiting children and the school performing tradition cornish dancers for picnickers to watch or join in with.

One of our volunteers also played Anna Maria Fox and engaged audience in readings of her letters and her siblings diaries and answered questions about her life.

Students and our volunteers worked together to lay out a picnic table with food from Palestine and the North Americas, places Anna Maria traveled, and of course lots of goodies local to her from her beloved Cornwall.

Every dish was labeled with facts about her such as which exotic pet did she smuggle into her Quaker meetings (a monkey!) and how old was she when she founded the Falmouth Royal Polytechnic Society or Poly (17!).

Created the Fox Heritage Trail

A trail of blue plaques is being created to highlight the sites in Falmouth and the surrounding area associated with Anna Maria. The first location is the Royal Polytechnic Society and further plaques will be created over the next few months. The aim is that the heritage trail grows over the next few years as more sites are identified throughout Cornwall and beyond.

Developed an app

The fantastic app created by Christina Li for Scary Little Girls is available to download from the app store. Learn about the life of Anna Maria Fox by exploring the areas associated with her. In each location you can discover stories about her life, take photographs and make notes to add to your exploration diary and see some beautiful places along the way.

Facilitated workshops

SLG joined forces with the Poly and Falmouth University for a series workshops on themes that came out of Anna Maria’s interests and legacy:

  • Falmouth uni photography department sent us their first year students and a lecturer who set up a dark room for two days at the Poly. Visitors were able to drop in and learn about the early process of film development by making their own pin hole cameras, in the context of the experiments and discoveries the Poly was set up by Anna Maria to facilitate.
  • the Fine Art and Drawing department of the uni also asked us to help open their new drawing studios, dedicated to Anna Maria and on the site of the original building she founded as part of the exhibition. One of our volunteers opened the buildings as Anna Maria, with the attendance of the press, full faculty, most students from the course and the students from Mawnan Smith who performed traditional songs and dances for all. Uni staff and students then led a life drawing class for the public (and the children of Mawnan Smith school) in which everyone drew our Anna Maria Fox volunteer.
  • Back within the walls of the Poly we held three drama sessions for local schools, drama clubs, scouts and brownies troops using drama games and improve to share her life and legacy. In these sessions they created little scenes about Anna Maria’s life for inclusion in the closing event.

Anna Maria Fox was an innovative woman enthusiastically developing new ideas at a time of great change. There are strong links with the new development of photography and Falmouth Town at the time.

Dr Paul Cabuts
Director, Institute of Photography


Hosted the Grand Finale

This event was held at The Poly as the seat of Anna Maria’s commitment to art, science, exploration and improvement for the benefit of all. Performances and speakers from local artists, schools and dignitaries combined to give a lively over view of Anna Maria’s life and contributions. These included –

  • Tamsin Daniel giving a rousing speech as our HLF guest speaker
  • Charles Fox performing a specially written poem about his ancestor and presenting his life drawing of Anna Maria to our volunteer who played her
  • a whole audience game of pass-the-parcel with christmas favours and facts about Anna Maria in each layer
  • extracts from Anna Maria’s letters and poems, and publications from her pen pals, such as Wordsworth and John Stuart Mill, performed by actors and project volunteers
  • the presentation of a blue plaque to Judith Hann, director of the Poly
  • a sing-a-long of cornish carols and folk songs plus dances and sketches by local school children and youth groups

We then took everyone up stairs for mulled wine, hot spiced cider and figgie obin (traditional victorian cornish christmas pastry) and further events including –

  • the launch of the app and a talk about its uses by Falmouth uni students and project volunteers
  • a short animated film made by students of Mawnan Smith primary school bringing Anna Maria to life and interviewing her!
  • music played, food and drink served and commemorative booklets given out by project volunteers, scouts, brownies and local children

What did we make?