Jewish Heritage and Lived Experience in Cornwall

Cornwall’s hidden Jewish heritage peaks through like a palimpsest. Falmouth University students engage creatively with material culture and personal narratives collected through guided research to be shared with secondary and primary school students to encourage understanding of Jewish lived experience. 

AJR logo
AJR logo
CFF logo
CFF logo
Kehillat logo
Kehillat logo
Cornwall Council logo
Cornwall Council logo

Project details

Project lead Professor Carolyn Shapiro
Start date September 2022
End date Ongoing
Centre alignment Centre for Heritage, Culture & Society
External website Cornish Stories of Survival

This project connects clients to Falmouth University students to create animated films depicting modern Jewish stories that have a material relation to Cornwall. We disseminate the animations through stakeholders within primary and secondary Cornish schools. Participating groups include Cornwall Faith Forum and Kehillat Kernow, Cornwall’s Jewish congregation. The stories animated over the past three years were stories of Blanka, mother of a current Jewish resident of Cornwall, Cynthia Hollinsworth.  Blanka survived Auschwitz and kept journals that the students worked with. This year, students animated stories about individual Jewish children evacuated from London to Mousehole, where they were embraced during WWII. 

Challenge 11: Public & Community Engagement Plan (

My research enquiry was: how can we effectively create bridges between young students (primary and secondary school) and university students, and community stakeholders, particularly those invested in Jewish heritage and lived experience, within the context of Cornwall? I was investigating possibilities of enhancing levels of knowledge and awareness within this area that have proven to be severely lacking, according to responses from teachers, taking into consideration as well reports from Jewish students who have experienced discomfort from lack of general awareness of what it means to be a Jewish person, both historically and currently, in Cornwall.  

This project was built upon a collaboration between Cornwall Faith Forum, Kehillat Kernow and Falmouth University BA Animation students and staff, who had already put into production several short animated films about Blanka, survivor of Auschwitz, mother of a current resident of Cornwall, Cynthia. The project aligns with R&I themes of Heritage & Identity.  Happily, it met KEF aspirations as well, and contributed to a growing recognition on campus of Jewish identity.  More Jewish students than ever have gathered for support over the tragedies of Israel-Palestine.  The Chaplaincy invited me to work with these students pastorally, and as a support staff for social gatherings, Jewish holiday celebrations, and Jewish study groups. In addition, I worked with Falmouth University’s Race and Equality Commission to source acceptable working definitions of Anti-Semitism.   

To expand the repository of stories beyond the initially covered story of Blanka in Auschwitz upon which the website for secondary school usage were designed, I invited local historian Susan Soyinka to be a consultant on a new round of animated films to be produced by our students.  Susan wrote a book based on interviews, photographs, historical artifacts, and audio recordings, about the individual children who were evacuated from London Free School to live in Mousehole, Cornwall, in 1940.  I acted as client to, providing the brief.  Student groups produced three animated films based on Soyinka’s book and other research material, which we provided to the students.  I was working on behalf of Kehillat Kernow to develop a one-day teaching curriculum for RE in Cornish primary schools on Judaism and Jewish life. The project culminated in a screening and discussions of the animations at Mousehole School on 27 March 2024.  The next phase is to work with consultant Charlotte Lane to develop a teaching pack using these animated films for use across Cornish primary schools on Jewish history and life in Cornwall, and on Jewish life in general.  

Project team

Dr Carolyn Shapiro profile image
Dr Carolyn Shapiro profile image

Project lead - Carolyn Shapiro

Carolyn Shapiro has been teaching at the Falmouth College of Art, University College Falmouth, and Falmouth University successively since 2002. Her interdisciplinary approach to critical theory and philosophy has given her the flexibility to teach across programmes, including History of Modern Art and Design, Creative Advertising, Communication Design, English, and Illustration.  Carolyn was previously a Lecturer in the English Department at Baruch College, New York. Carolyn received her PhD in Performance Studies in 2004, from Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Carolyn’s scholarly approach uses psychoanalytical theories and deconstruction, from the particular perspective of feminist theory, and she has published with Women & Performance; Wiley Blackwell; MAI Feminism; Rowman &  Littlefield; Duke University Press; and UCL Press. She is active in Postgraduate Research, supervising 9 PhD students and teaching seminars in Critical Writing.

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Additional team members:

  • Katherine Nicholls; Derek Hayes (BA Animation)
  • Nigel Owen (BA Illustration)
  • Gemma Tracey (Chaplaincy, FX Plus) 


  • Cornwall Faith Forum
  • The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR)
  • Cornwall Council
  • Kehillat Kernow
CFF logo AJR logo Cornwall Council logo Kehillat logo


£4,000 KEF grant from Falmouth University; £500 community outreach grant from Kehillat Kernow; in-kind administrative support from Cornwall Faith Forum 

The seed funding of £500 from Kehillat Kernow lent recognition from the Jewish community to the project, upon which a KEF grant of £4,000 was generously added.  The money was used for: supply costs for the Teacher Training Symposium held on Penryn Campus on July 12, 2023; catered luncheon; consultants’ fees for time working with various Cornish secondary school teachers; web site design fees; miscellaneous administrative costs; bringing in two excellent speakers from London to speak at the Symposium: Alex Maws from the Association of Jewish Refugees, speaking on Historical Tropes of Anti-Semitism; and Antony Lishak, CEO and Founder of Learning from the Righteous, on “The Role of the Bystander.” 

Outputs & outcomes

The outputs include the Stories of Survival website; the Teachers Training Day at Penryn campus attended by approximately 40 participants from across Cornwall (July 2023); the primary school one-day module on Jewish Life in Cornwall currently in production; coverage of these events in local newsletter for Kehillat Kernow. 

The initial round of animated films have been screened nationally and won several awards.  

Impact & recognition

School teachers and leaders of the Cornish Interfaith Group have participated in the educational events and viewed the animations, and we have received letters of gratitude. The Stories of Survival website is now live and available for teachers to include in their History and RE delivery. Students and teachers from primary, secondary and university courses throughout Cornwall are the beneficiaries.  

Project news

"Blanka's Story" - Animated Short Student Film