Kerdroya: Cornish mythology meets Pokémon GO
05 May 2021
Professor Tanya Krzywinska and a team of developers from the Games Academy, including Tim Phillips, Jeff Howard and Al Parker have been collaborating with Cornish arts company Golden Tree Productions to create an immersive digital experience for visitors of The Kerdroya Project, a major new piece of permanent public art on Bodmin Moor.
Kerdroya is a Cornish Landscape Labyrinth that celebrates 60 years of Cornwall’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) - designated exceptional landscapes whose distinctive character and natural beauty are precious enough to be safeguarded in the national interest. The labyrinth has been constructed from 12 different hedge designs to mark each of Cornwall’s 12 protected landscapes.
Tanya’s role in the project was to encourage new audiences to explore Cornwall’s hidden landscapes, by providing a digital platform that enhances the cultural experience of Kerdroya.
Agan keyndir ha’gan gonisogeth Kernewek yw demedhys warbarth.
(‘Our Cornish landscape and culture are wedded together’).
“The brief was to create an app that appealed to younger people who might not relish the idea of visiting Bodmin Moor in the drizzle! We hope an augmented virtual experience will encourage audiences to looks more intently at the landscape.”
To achieve this, the app incorporates Cornish mythology and language into the Kerdroya labyrinth - Golden Tree’s Artistic Director, Will Coleman, has written and narrated a series of episodes based on the Legend of Jan Tregeagle.
As Tanya explains, “the app celebrates the myth of Jan Tregeagle. Jan was a magistrate in the early 17 Century in Bodmin, who was known for being particularly cruel. There are various stories about his malice; that he cheated an orphan out of their inheritance, murdered his wife and was consistently unkind towards anyone he encountered.
“The story goes that Tregeagle was destined for eternal damnation – he had led a wicked life and would inevitably be sent to hell. Jan knew this, and in an attempt to avoid his fate, donated enormous sums of money to The Church. The Priest’s prayed for Jan and managed to arrange a deal for his soul. Rather than spend his afterlife in hell, Jan would work on 12 impossible tasks until Judgement Day, at which point he would be brought before God to decide whether he had atoned for his sins. The Devil was furious that he’d been denied a soul that was rightfully his, and pursued Jan whilst he attempted to complete his tasks.”
I think it might set a precedent that a walking app can enhance your engagement with the hidden elements of an environment.
Visitors to Kerdroya will use the app to help Tregeagle evade the Devil and complete his 12 impossible tasks. Each section of the Labyrinth has a corresponding task, with app users also exploring 360° images of the corresponding AONB section to locate a key item. It’s Pokémon GO meets Cornish mythology.
Both Tanya and Will believe that folklore can act as a starting point for those who may be otherwise reluctant to explore their local landscapes. As Will says, “Agan keyndir ha’gan gonisogeth Kernewek yw demedhys warbarth. (‘Our Cornish landscape and culture are wedded together’)” and Tanya agrees, “your engagement with a place is deeper if you understand the stories and mythology that exists.”
“All of Jan’s tasks are tied to the Cornish landscape. For example, one of the tasks was to empty Dozmary Pool with a limpet shell. Another was to carry all the sand from the beach below Berepper across the estuary of the River Cober to Porthleven.
Tanya and her team hope that visitors will be inspired to learn more about their local environment and connect with their surroundings in a new way. As Tanya says, “I think it might set a precedent that a walking app can enhance your engagement with the hidden elements of an environment.”