PREVIEW – Tin Violin, Arts Centre Washington

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ARTS Centre Washington is gearing up to take visitors from Africa to Cornwall via Brazil in a play based on an inspirational true story.

Tin Violin is an award-winning play based on the true story of Guinean slave Joseph Emidy, who made his way from Africa to Cornwall in 1800 and became a famous violinist and composer.

Born in Guinea, West Africa, in 1775, at the height of European colonialism, Joseph “Josh” Emidy was first captured as a slave by the Portuguese, and then kidnapped by the British Navy, serving as a fiddler on The Indefatigable during the French wars.

Landing at Falmouth and being presented with a magical tin violin made by an illiterate miner, Emidy became a musical genius in the early 19th century.

A magical re-imagining of Joseph’s journey, from the oppression of slavery to encounters with mad sailors, the potty queen of Portugal and a chorus of Cornish fishwives, The Tin Violin is a thoughtful, moving and funny exploration of identity, creativity and belonging.

Writer Alan M Kent said: “Emidy’s story is one that I had been longing to write a play about.

“One of the figures now celebrated during Black History Month, parts of his life are well-recorded, but other periods are hidden.

“We have had to ensure a continuity from his berimbau-playing and Capoeira adventures in Brazil to his time in early 19-century Cornwall. The real loss is that none of his compositions have survived – the story of which we tell in the drama.”

The show, which was the winner of the 2009 Holyer An Gof award for best drama, also features music from the People’s String Foundation of Cornwall and choreography by C-Scape Dance Company.

•Tickets are £8.50/£6, available from or tel 219 3455.