Thursday 1 July 2021

Alternate Histories #3: St. Ives

whatGreetings! from St. Ives.isit

Many of us know and love St Ives as the quaint yet vibrant coastal town in Cornwall, as popular with artists as it is with surfers, an air of excitement as charged defibrillators hum at the top of every hill, and bustling with breathless holidaymakers and curmudgeonly restauranteurs. But it wasn't always like this.

Let's take a look at how this British seaside favourite came into being...

It's not milk, so what is it? Absolutely nobody knows. Founded on industrial wasteground following the First World War, this regenerative settlement was an early prototype of the UK's "new town" projects (later to find great success once they moved inland and utilised windowless concrete). As part of the carefully managed brand-identity, chugging trawlers crewed by out of work actors from nearby Penzance would leave the picturesque harbour before first light every morning, returning after 14-hour shifts of harvesting a light tan-coloured silt from the Atlantic Ocean. This was hauled by local orphans to kiln-houses in the narrow streets where it was dried, filtered, and became the base ingredient of a hugely popular powdered milk-substitute, produced and sold by the startup company which gave the town its now-legendary moniker: St Ivel...

Charles Bronson, not to be confused with the new Charles Bronson. Its name - and fame - spread far and wide, and this was an arrangement which worked well for many years until 1975. American actor Charles Bronson made a lucrative offer to assume sponsorship of the locale in promotion for his upcoming action film series, 'St Ives'. The town council understandably leapt at this opportunity, having not read the contract properly and assuming (perhaps not unfairly) that the slick yet gritty heist-thrillers would be filmed on their own Cornish cobbles, garnering great publicity for the community and sightseeing opportunities for visitors.

Alas, this wasn't to be. The film, released in 1976, performed modestly on its own terms but its dour cinematic demeanour attracted no further investment for the planned sequels, while audiences in old Kernow were left baffled by the stateside setting. Bronson withdrew from the town in a fit of pique and moved his production company to the South Devon coast (in the now-former fishing village of Death Wish 4). As well as maps and tourist guides having recently being reprinted at great expense with the town's new name, contractual stipulation also meant it could not be reverted for another 99 years. To add to their woes, the St Ivel company had since been bought by the Coffee Mate corporation, then placed into liquidation when they concluded that the sea-silt tasted disgusting after all.

Because you can't scrub away how much ruddy FUN it is to be in St Ives!!! And so the hamlet limped on with no meaningful name or commercial direction until 1982, when a cosmetics magnate happened to be visiting the area as part of a stag party. He noticed that dragging their nuptially-bound charge across the beach by a whipped donkey led to the lad's skin displaying a ruddy glow, rather than the raw, salt-infused welts his group had initially intended.

Within twelve months, Mr Unilever Saint Ives had established a new spin-off company to reinvigorate the town's fortunes, whereby sand was dredged daily from the sea bed and hauled into town by local orphans where it was mixed with the slurry by-products of the local fudge mills to create a revolutionary and award-winning facial scrub. The town could rejoice once more, their name - not to mention their reputation and complexion - was intact.

And to this very day, as tourists huddle over a pint outside The Sloop Inn in the crook of the harbour and are routinely sandblasted in even the calmest of conditions, they can raise a glass to the saint who saved the town. In fact, he's probably looking down from his reinforced office in the Tregenna Castle Estate watching them!

And so say all of us: Thanks, Saint Ives!

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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