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Random Acts of Art

The Hoss’s Lament

by Laura Frances Martin for Random Acts of Art

A lantern ghost ship sails the streets and the quays of Mevagissey at twilight, accompanied by a figurehead, who sings her lament of lost things.

‘The Hoss’s Lament’ is a walking work of art inspired by a local tale of the German barque of that name, which foundered off the rocks of Mevagissey with all souls lost in the 18th century. The good timbers of the wrecked ship were salvaged by locals to build many of the homes we still see in the village today, including the famous Hoss, a unique cottage that sits right on the edge of the harbour, looking out towards those very same rocks.


One of Kneehigh’s first Random Acts of Art was The Hoss Lantern Boat, along with Tony Plants Tide beach drawing, and Jenny Beare performing “The Walk Home”. The boat floated past homes in Mevagissey, made by artist & Performer Laura Francis Martin. The Hoss was guided by a figure head (Laura) who sang a lament with Jenny Beare, first mate and anchor. Laura was inspired by the story of The Hoss, which was written during a collaboration with the intriguing and wonderful Mevagissey Museum . It is fitting that this event was at the start of our Random Acts, as Kneehigh started here with Mike Shepherd and co, performing daring acts of anarchy in Mevagissey feast many years ago, and where Mike taught many people who still live in the village. The boat will be a gift to Mevagissey, and will appear again when her sails are full.
With thanks to Didge and the Museum, Sheila Vanloo, Paul Tregunna and crew, Jenny beare, Tracey Williams , Matt Facey, and members of the feast committee, both past and present, and Andrew the harbour master.

Lament words: Carl Grose
Music: Jim Carey
Story: Anna Maria Murphy

Photo: Steve Tanner

Video: Neal Megaw

Blog Post

Laura Frances Martin created a replica of The Hoss boat which sailed through Mevagissey during the first week of Random Acts of Art. The ghost of the boat trailing through the the streets of Mevagissey was accompanied by its ghostly singers, Laura and Jenny Beare. Helen Mallett, Communications Placement Intern from Plymouth Conservatoire, asked her some questions about her creation process, her collaboration with people including the Random Acts Art team and also her inspiration for her wonderful piece!

What has it been like being part of the Random Acts Arts?    “ It’s been a total and complete joy. What an incredible, supportive, talented group of people, from all over Cornwall, who bring so many attributes and wonderful ideas to this amazing project! Anna and Mike have invited us in with open hearts, and the whole brilliant Kneehigh team have been there to help us with whatever we’ve needed to help our ideas come to life. I feel very lucky to be part of the Kneehigh and Random Acts Art  family, and to have brought something to life under their wing and with their full support that has brought some unexpected joy to a whole community! I am also loving seeing how all the other Random Acts Art ideas are unfolding as we go – it is all pure magic! “

Where did your interest in The Hoss come from? –  “I’ve always loved the grace and majesty of tall ships. ever since I was lucky enough to go aboard the replica ‘Golden Hinde’ with my primary school in North Devon as a small child, which planted the seed of a life-long love of the things. As an adult, I also had the fantastic experience of sailing around the coast of Cornwall from Padstow to Newlyn on the replica tall ship ‘Matthew’, around nine years ago, with my then-10 month old daughter and partner. I think these beautifully-crafted wooden ships are so magical and evocative, and they are also lovely shapes to create in willow and light. The Hoss’s story jumped out at me, of all the lovely stories on the Walk With Me project and app, and the idea took hold from there” 


Since previously doing festivals making bike based lantern in the BikeLights and illuniate, Laura ventured out to making a ‘Large Galleon’ “PinARTa” for the ‘Sea Salts and Sail’ festival with Sally Crabtree and then a larger lantern the ‘Mayflower’ which sailed around the Illuminate Festival in Plymouth in 2018 and 2019. Laura brought it back to life and remodelled for this years Random Acts Art , transforming it into the German Barque, “Hoss” , with a completely new reshaped bow and stem and new ‘ghostly sails and rigging’. Laura was inspired by Anna Maria Murphy’s story from Kneehigh’s “Walk With Me” project, the story called the “Hoss” which was wrecked off the Mevagissey coast in the 1800’s.

What was your vision for the piece? – I imagined the ghost ‘Hoss’ sailing through the village, visiting all of its lost timbers! I also began thinking about a character who might appear with the ship, as I always love to incorporate characters with my lanterns, and the idea formed of a weathered old ship’s figurehead hauling the Hoss through the streets by rope. Anna really liked the idea and then suggested we get the figurehead to sing a lament to the lost ship as she went along – so the idea was born! I really enjoyed getting to grips with creating the figurehead costume, alongside the ship build”

Laura collaborated with Jim Carey and Carl Grose for music as they wrote a piece especially for her Having a new song written specially for this piece has been fantastic. I feel very honoured. Carl’s words are so haunting and funny, and Jim’s melody is just beautiful. It’s been brilliant to learn something specially created by these two Kneehigh geniuses, and then to get to sing it in public (something like 40 or 45 times!), all over Mevagissey, along with the lovely Jenny Beare, who was my able shipmate for the night! I’d love to record it at some point… I’m still singing it in my head now!“

How did it feel watching your piece finally take the streets? – “It’s been especially beautiful getting to see the looks on the faces of people of all ages, all over the village, as they watched the ship sail past on the night. Some people knew we might be coming – and others were completely surprised! It’s safe to say that everyone enjoyed it;  people came out of their houses to see and hear us: children in their onesies, all ready for a slightly late bedtime, and parents and grandparents out enjoying a cup of tea or a glass of wine, while we went by, or we stopped to sing to them, or waved up at faces in windows. We also felt really connected to the community as we had some amazing assistance from key people in the village who were in on the secret from the start, and gave their time, help and ideas in such generous ways to help make it all happen! You know who you are , so  thank you from the bottom of my heart! 

I think we all need a bit of unexpected magic in our lives after the year we have all had, and it has been a real privilege to be able to gift that to the people of Mevagissey, as well as anyone who has been enjoying the all beautiful photos and video clips on social media! It’s also sparked a whole set of new creative ideas, which I’m itching to get working on!”