Porthcurno - the gateway to the internet

Porthcurno Coastal Communities Project and Grant 2016 - A List of Issues, Questions, and Possibilities

House build into cliff on beach

Now bricked-up house on Porthcurno beach, originally built by Miss Cade

Ex-toilet building in Porthcurno carpark

Disused former ladies' toilet in carpark

The UK Coastal Communities project intends to give an economic boost to selected communities in the UK, and you can see a 2015 list of the successful applicants. The scheme targets heritage and tourism and since 2012 has created over 14,000 jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships and training placements. Porthcurno is the smallest community accepted, thanks to the excellent work of those who submitted the application, and thanks also to Porthcurno's scenic bay and beach, technology history and museum, live transatlantic fibre optic cables, and thriving open air theatre.

The partners administering the initial grant of £10,000 are Cornwall Council, St Levan Parish Council, the Telegraph Museum, the National Trust, the Minack Theatre, and the Porthcurno Residents' Association (pkrassoc.org). The partners can choose to use these funds to prepare an economic plan to submit by the end of the year 2015 for another £50,000 (Update: that application succeeded in December 2015), with sums as large as £250,000 potentially available and even matchable the year after that. The plan and measurable outcomes are required to produce economic benefits to local residents. Interestingly, this calls for a vision of what you would like to see, and raises questions of how we would like to develop in future, as well as how we actually can.

This page is one resident's effort to kick off debate and report or raise issues and questions, so we can bounce ideas off each other and pull out key information. It's not a finished list, more of a break in the brainstorm, and of course you can share, copy, paste, email and edit your own version, and your comments and inputs are welcome. This could evolve to a wiki or forum or just be a prompt for a freeflowing brainstorming meeting or virtual suggestions box or page or survey before it gets concrete.

Anyway here is a bit of a list of stuff to chew on, to be added to or modified. You can send ideas, inputs and feedback to coastal@porthcurno.info

Questions
Is it possible to have mobile phone signal introduced at Porthcurno?

Does anyone coordinate the way Porthcurno receives and welcomes visitors? Should someone co-ordinate what happens here?

Who owns/controls the vacant ex-toilet building at the top of the carpark? (See photo on this page.)

Do businesses responsible for traffic generation, traffic problems and wear on the highways have a financial responsibility to the council and residents? A moral responsibility?

Who is responsible for litter collection at Porthcurno?

Can the large revenues from the carpark fund the public toilet located in the carpark?

Should peak visitor levels be capped, for example at the present level?

Has Porthcurno reached Peak Traffic, the point beyond which increased road traffic would make the place unworkable?

How can employment/visits be made less seasonal?

What out of season activities could be enhanced or introduced at Porthcurno? Courses? Digital offices such as Workbox in Penzance, or a workspace for internet based workers who want to work somewhere tranquil for a week or month?

Is this an ideal location - especially due to the lack of mobile signal - for people who want to do a week of Digital Diet, basically an offline week escaping from online life. Yes, people now pay to do switched-off retreats of this kind in Cornwall to recuperate from their internet use.

Can the now closed up Wendy House (see photo - architectural folly?) in the cliff on the beach be used, for example as Punch and Judy theatre, gallery, salon (with spray-on-tan), cafe? If not in use, couldn't it have shutters placed over the blank window spaces to make it look more cheerful and less abandoned?

Can greater prominence or visibility be given to local products, crafts, businesses and services, or ones that are locally based?

What is the definition of local resident for the purposes of this project? What is the specific geographic area? Where must the economic benefits be located?

How do you measure economic benefit to residents? More people employed? Higher wages? More hours worked? Greater profits? More spend in the area? More skilled work? More out of season work? More possibility of working at home or close to home? Training? Better services available?

Ideas
Park and Ride
Community shop
Leaving off place for package delivery (nice for holidaymakers)
Highlight/showcase local crafts, skills and businesses
Give way or traffic light at bottleneck by former Post Office (could be sensor-operated or seasonal)
Add a pavement along the road below former Post Office (would that be better on the side with the houses if possible?)
Add a pavement on the seaward side of the road from the carpark up to the Minack Theatre
Commitment to paying the Living Wage to all employees at Porthcurno
Visiting Artist Program ie Artist in Residence
Writer in Residence
Visiting Geek Program

Traffic
Seasonal
Bottlenecks
Coaches struggle to pass one another
Seen by many as a real problem, bigger than ever, not controlled
May interfere with emergency services
Council traffic census data is public info obtainable on request, as is accident data

Data /Tech
Some of the solutions and opportunities here may be digital. Bear in mind this was a tech and training centre! The trend is towards more and more data becoming available and being processed in surprising ways to create insights and interactions. We are entering the Internet of Things (IOT) era where potentially all objects become digital and connected and sensors pick up on them - why not lead the way? Imagine walking around the valley and having your phone respond to tagged objects or local attractions, if you let it. Where might that lead you?

For example, if we have the information that all carparks are full, as well as showing that online, with digital signage we can display this at the top of the valley before people even turn into the Porthcurno valley. Result: less traffic, and a better experience for visitors - who wants to go sit in a traffic jam and be turned away? Does that give a good impression of a place?

Making data publicly available allows people to mix it up in interesting ways, discover things, and also make plans. Knowing that peak traffic occurs at particular hours on sunny days with offshore winds and Minack matinees, you could plan your day or even holiday based on that. Imagine having data readily available on today's menus, weather, number of people on the beach, traffic, buses, accommodation, shows, and even how many times the public toilet has been flushed and how many gallons of water that used and the cost. And what if you could pre-book carpark spaces or meals or tennis or hairbraiding?

Is there a Cornwall-wide strategy for this? Presumably Cornwall Council have a lot of highways, traffic and parking data. And an interest in optimising traffic and road safety. For a really interesting discussion of Smart Cities and the need for citizen participation please have a look at this Smart City Demonstrator article, and read about the open co-creation of smart settlements at organicity.eu.

Dotrural.ac.uk offer particulary interesting and relevant resources for the Internet of Things in Rural Areas, where rural travellers are describe as being "information poor".

Themes (it might help to have a theme to pull it all together ?)
Connected
Past to Future
Created at Porthcurno (highlight tech and artistic accomplishments and production here, past, present, future)

And an under-appreciated fact: Porthcurno is the origin of the internet both in the sense that the first transoceanic data cables came ashore here to connect up the world, and now the internet passes right below your feet when you are sitting on the beach here. As you sunbathe at the source of the internet vast amounts of data pour in and out of the UK through the many fibre optic cables buried in the beach. So Porthcurno is in a sense still a gateway to the world, people just don't know it. Yet.

For the latest information on meetings related to this project, please see the Porthcurno Residents' Association at pkrassoc.org.