‘THE JUMBO – A RENAISSANCE IN ST.IVES” An illustrated talk with Jonny Nance.

Jonny has fired the imagination of his community and won the admiration of his peers by reinventing the marvellous Jumbo and, in doing so, bringing back traditional boat-building skills and reinvigorating the old spirit of St.Ives. So the Jumbo, a thing of beauty in itself, has far greater significance than just any old boat – it is an instrument of regeneration and a symbol of all that hidden potential that lies ready & waiting in the hearts of all our communities.”  Anthony Anderson, Promoter of Ebenezer Chapel Talks

His inspirational, entertaining talk has been enthusiastically received by a wide variety of audiences and describes an unfolding story of community empowerment and regeneration providing a welcome ‘feel-good factor’ in these gloomy times.

It normally lasts about 90 mins and covers a variety of topics which may be tailored to suit the audience.

Please contact us if you would like to know about booking Jonny for an event.


Most people associate St.Ives with the Tate and the artists who brought international recognition to what they consider to be a prosperous tourist town.
Beneath the prestigious façade, the reality for many residents is rather different. An over-dependence on tourism has taken its toll. St.Ives has surrendered its former residential heart to second home ownership and so the close-knit community that still existed 50 years ago has dispersed – and with it the memories and experience of an illustrious maritime heritage and fishing industry.

In 2005, in an attempt to kindle memories and an awareness of this maritime heritage, Jonny Nance launched a replica St.Ives ‘punt’ he had just completed into the harbour. Struck by the warmth and scale of the response from the dwindling waterfront community, he realised that the skill of traditional boatbuilding could have a new social purpose. He decided to create a racing class of ‘jumbos’ – small boats from the heyday of fishing which were unique to St.Ives – in a bid to regenerate the harbour and a community in decline.

With the aid of numerous photos, he describes the process that lead to this decision; the research, construction and sailing characteristics of the jumbo and the extraordinary achievements of The St.Ives Jumbo Association which he set up to manage their use.

In a few short years the Association has become a force for positive change and social cohesion within the community which has come to regard the jumbo as a symbol of its maritime heritage.

The Association has introduced scores of people to lug-rigged sailing and is now a registered charity with over 250 members from very mixed backgrounds and nationalities. 

JONNY NANCE  – biography

Raised in St.Ives, Jonny is the grandson of two remarkable men associated with the town: one was R. Morton Nance who has been described as ‘one of the very fathers of modern maritime research’ and ‘the revered leader of the Cornish Revival’ whilst the other was the potter, Bernard Leach who Wikipedia describes as the “Father of British studio pottery”- that’s quite a lot of fathering for any family!

His great-great grandfather was the owner and master of the MORTON, a brigantine registered in St.Ives engaged in the export of pressed pilchard to Italy,
returning with citrus fruit. This ‘pierhead’ painting shows her
entering Naples in ”Jannary’ 1840 whilst Vesuvius erupts.

Jonny is therefore a mix of both the indigenous local population and the arty incomers (social groups which, to this day, remain largely divided) which offers him a unique insight into this extraordinary town. Having gained a degree in Fine Art at Falmouth in 1977, Jonny remained in the town embarking on a precarious career as a shipwright and wine bar pianist with a winters oyster-dredging under sail thrown in. One of his early projects was saving the working boat ‘Victory’ from literally falling apart. He went on to establish a cidermaker business at Luscombe in Devon (now Luscombe Drinks) and created ALKASALSA, the west country’s first salsa band, which he ran for 16 years, all the while continuing to work as a shipwright, sailor and eventually as captain. Most notably he skippered the replica of Columbus’ Nina (‘the most authentic built to date’) – which he had researched and rigged in Brazil. In 1991 Jonny gathered a crew of 10 and navigated 4,500 miles by sextant to Costa Rica via the Panama Canal on her maiden voyage to participate in the Ridley Scott movie, ‘1492. Conquest of Paradise’. – but that’s another story.


“In the many years I have had running the Ebenezer lectures, I don’t think we have ever had such an immense number of hands go up in the Q & A session after Jonny’s talk. In fact, despite protests, I had to cut it short or we’d have gone on all night. He left us with a real buzz of excitement.” Anthony Anderson.  Promoter of Ebenezer Chapel Talks

“A truly inspirational evening. His passion for his craft, his determination, drive and energy shine through in his talk. Jonny left a roomful of people in awe.” Richard Johnston. Fingals Hotel.

“It was fascinating to hear how the Association has been supported by the community and how it is reviving a part of life in St Ives that was being lost.
I thoroughly recommend Jonny as a speaker. His wit and charm are evident and bring alive his subject.” 
Kate Hattersley, Commodore Topsham Sailing Club.