Cabaret Memories

These memories were collected during the Cabaret of Mechanical Movement exhibition, Summer 2018. We would love to add more, so please email your memories to

When we returned from America in late 1980 to live temporarily with my parents, my mother enthused about a new shop in High Street. Cabaret had a window crammed with beautiful and eccentric objects, and she thought my dough pieces might fit in. I took some photographs to show Sue Jackson. She like the stuff, we hit it off, and I became part of the Cabaret team.

It worked well; I expanded my range to included more and more theatrical and mad items; customers left orders for all sorts of weird and wonderful ideas, and Sue and I got on well. I would call in on my way into town and occasionally, after Sue’s welcoming: “I’ve sold LOADS” I would call in on my way back with a bottle of her favourite tipple, Noilly Pratt. Tesco’s used to sell sophisticated items like that back then! If the time was right, she’d shut up and we’d retire to her wonderful living room over the shop and drink it; if not we’d have surreptitious sips behind the counter.

Sometimes my husband Bob would be with me and on one memorable occasion he was there when Paul Spooner came in. Paul had, as usual, cycled over from Stithians. He asked how the elephants were selling- at that stage, Paul made wooden elephants, carved with great precision and fitted into their own shape in a square box, as seen in the window recreation. Sue shook her head regretfully. Paul asked if Peter Markey’s things sold well; we all nodded. The brightly coloured kicking ladies and rowing boats, and the more complicated wave machines were very popular. People love turning handles! And he said: “I think I’ll have a go at automata”. Off he went; we looked at each other; a couple of weeks later he brought the first of the Anubis series.

After we moved, I kept supplying Cabaret, and enjoyed seeing Sue and the newest arrivals in the shop whenever I visited my parents. When cabaret moved to Covent Garden, our relationship continued – by then, I had a stall in Jubilee Market, and managed to pop in to see Sue and Sarah and the astonishing collection quite regularly. I remember the excitement when the scheme for ‘The Ride of  Life at Meadowhall’ came up, and the disappointment when the plans changed. I also recall Sue’s thrill at being invited to Japan. Cabaret was on the world map, and the automata makers were deservedly famous.

My last meeting with Sue was at her ‘retirement’ party at the Watersports Centre, Falmouth. What a night that was; I got a taxi home when I could no longer dance or drink – old age catches up! – but by then Sue had appeared on stage with a wonderful band. Dressed in a long black coat and a slouchy hat and complete with pistols, she had given us ‘ A boy named Sue’, with an encore. It was a truly stellar performance. I suspect the celebrations continued well after I left, and it gives me huge pleasure to remember Sue and all her family, friends, and of course the ‘makers’ at the joyful occasion.

Janet Mitchel (Zoro)

In the early eighties I knitted some jumpers to be sold in Cabaret in the high street. Peter was my teacher at Falmouth school in the early 70s

Janie Gay 

As a teenager I used to save up my pocket money to go and buy their wooden badges

Tamsin Bent

I remember visiting the shop with my mum and sister. So magical and full of the most amazing objects I’d ever seen! Such fond memories of this place.


Alf and I used to sail here or visit Falmouth for sailing races, classic boats etc. We loved the Cabaret shop in the 80s and acquired some of Peter Markey’s* models, and other eccentric items ( also  from Bristol Guild) A stuffed seagull hat took a beating + never really recovered. What a brilliant exhibition.

*Falmouth working boats racing on the waves with seagulls overhead.

Nancy Copplestone

Sue gave me my first job at CMT Covent Garden. One night after work she took us all to Madam Jo-Jo’s – a hilarious evening of drag act, Can-Can ‘girls’ was had by all – an alternative Peter Markey piece in the making!

Best Regards Dominic

We remember the Cabaret shop well, we always visited when we came here on holiday and took home some ‘booty’ with us. We still have a mirror surrounded by a jungle scene – a joy forever on our landing. We also had a Pierrot kit – long gone – but we also still have a large Seagull with flapping wings which delights the grandchildren.

Many thanks for the happy memories + a wonderful exhibition.

Pauline Cooke (native to Falmouth but now living in Lincolnshire)

Loved Cabaret, my first marionette, a black and white heart harlequin was sold there, I then moved up the hill to sell for many years with ‘Rosina’ Sue’s sister-in-law, still making dolls and marionettes and worked many years for Rosina. Cabaret was a wonderland what a shame it couldn’t stay here in Falmouth but hey! We have it back for a while, totally fabulous exhibition.

Suki Haughton X

Fond memories of Peter Markey my art teacher. Peter always wore a denim jacket with a “Ban the Bomb” badge. We all had good marks for Art!

I started collecting automata many years ago. My first was the Annubis in Montmartre seen in the Cabaret window. My favourite Paul Spooner was the belly dancer with shaky (?) Anubis with a bottle of Camp Coffee = alas as a poor student I couldn’t afford it. I made many visits to Cabaret in Covent Garden = it was always such a joy.

Lyne Behemel – Mevagissey

I have memories of visiting the shop in Falmouth as a child, and then Covent Garden such a treat to see it all again!

Kate Wood – Kidderminster

Peter was not only my art teacher but also my 3rd year (yr.9) form teacher. He had a powder blue mini which at that time was a very trendy car to have. I still had contact with him when he moved to Wales, he was always one to inspire and offer advice.

John Burton – Budock

I remember coming home from school, up the High Street to Cabaret. The first bubble machine I ever saw, and the toys we still have and enjoy in my family’s various homes. My Flash Gordon fell apart but I still have my elastic band powered dreadnought submarine. Cabaret was wonderful, exciting and always magical. My dad was given a picture by Peter Markey which hung in my bedroom as a child, now in my living room for my children to enjoy.

Olly Bennett – Halvasso

Fond memories of Peter in his striped tops. He once asked if I could “Productionise” (?) one of his models, but they were best as unique constructions.

Barry – Falmouth

What amazing memories I have of the wonderful cabaret shop in Falmouth. Countless visits of the years until it closed and moved to London. I paid the Cabaret shop a visit there too. To see this exhibition is so special and quite emotive. 

Keep it alive – please!

Love Karen Owen Woon! + her best friend Sally Ingram

My dad bob woon (Robert) has memories of Peter Markey as his art teacher at Falmouth School back in the 1960s. Taught him to draw and he also took the craft classes. Such a lovely man.

It’s a delight to come and see his memory kept alive.

Bob Woon


Its Karen Owens again! (I always have a lot to say!)

Seeing all of this makes me want encourage you to return Cabaret to its home in Falmouth <3 Please!

My mum and dad used to make toys for Sue Jackson’s Cabaret – Mo and John Shears. The toys mainly of characters such as fisherman and policeman, who when a string was pulled they’d reveal a comical quote or a cod hanging out of the trousers, these were the ‘flashers’

As a sulky teenager in the early 1980’s I used to regularly visit Cabaret and hang around while mum and dad chatted to Sue. I thought it was all weird and bonkers then, but as I grew and matured I have realised what a fantastic creative scene we were part of – how lucky I am.

So pleased to see this exhibition and long live the weird and bonkers!

Sam Shears.

I was at School and remember Peter’s inspirational teaching. It is so great to see his ideas and others kept alive in such a fascinating way. I also remember the cabaret shop with fond memories.

C. Martin

Brilliant, fantastic, amazing, wonderful exhibition.

Thank you so much for staging it.

A J Miller – Falmouth

In 1982, I made my first teapot in the shape of a harlequin for “Cabaret”. For the next 30 years I made many hundreds more and sold them all over the world. I also made harlequin broaches.

Andy Titcomb

I’ve lived in Falmouth virtually all my life (!) and have brilliant memories of the inspirational Cabaret – the window display was a treat – ever changing and full of promises and delight. I still have 2 Christmas decoration – a Victorian girl and boy whose legs and arms move excitedly as you pull the string. I bought earrings, brooches and ornaments there; sadly, all gone. It was a delightful to me when I’d save enough to buy a lividly patterned mohair jumper. I loved that no one else had one. The displays bring back those fantastic times in the 70s when it was a place to spend your Saturday afternoon and whatever money you had!! So fantastic it’s recreated here – thank you.

Sue Cardew

I remember each time we walked into town from North Parade during the late 70s and early 80s, looking through the window of the shop. It always engaged my brother and I. we would always be allowed to peer through the window and sometimes visit inside. It always made the walk from our house into town and back a bit more exciting!

Melody Kaasjager

I first saw automata in Falmouth in the mid 80s and followed Cabaret Mechanical Theatre to Covent Garden. When I qualified in the first wave of Design and Technology teachers in 1989, my students, and many others taught by colleagues, continued to make automata. A colleague at the university where I work teaches undergraduates mechanisms through automata. Cabaret lives on in education despite the advance of digital technology. Long may it thrive!

Polly, Biggleswade, Beds

So lovely to see so many of the original pieces together again and I love the shop window display. I used to visit the Falmouth shop in the early 80s while my mum was shopping in Dingles. It moved to London at around the same time as I did, which was nice! I still have a wave machine and a peeing dog machine and I had a Paul Spooner T-shirt from the Covent Garden store with Anubis and “Egypt, Land of Mystery” on the front. Thank you for such a lovely exhibition <3

Vicky Wiltshire – 4th Sept 18

This is my idea of small but sure happiness <3

An amazing experience. Well done Falmouth art gallery – again! However this is just the best yet…

Visita deode real del Monte, hidalgo, Mexico un lugar increible y era t???, felicito a la gente que con ai esfuerzo hace posible este Queno y destapia la creatividid en c/u de nosotoros

Victor M J Aladro – San Martin

Visita deode real del Monte, ximenaz , Jacky, Victor. Espectacular fam butrin, peratta

5th sept 2018

What an amazing exhibition. Really got in touch with my inner child today. Thank you Also good to learn some of the history – I live in Falmouth, but I had no idea that our town was the seat of such specialist creativity. Loved the “Dog at the Disco”
Oh those cats!

So glad to have got to see this wonderful exhibition. Thank you everyone! So many memories woken! I had the joy of working with Peter Markey at Falmouth School 1978-79? Was taught by Keith Watson at Christ Church College, Canterbury 1968-1971 and delight in Paul Spooner’s wonders

Vivian Prideaux, Fowey

 I first saw Cabaret here in Falmouth and bought a jumping jack – Then again in Covent Garden. Our paths crossed many times, here and there and I loved and sold the work of Peter and Paul and Ron. This exhibition is a delight because for the first time in years it’s possible to see all three in one place and PLAY with them. Long live Falmouth automata tradition!


Cabaret in Falmouth opened our eyes and our minds to mechanisms and applications that made us smile, laugh and think. When we first encountered the wonders of Sue’s Shop and Peter and Pauls fantastic work we were short on money but nevertheless bought small items and when Peter and Pauls cut outs were produced we made all of them and they live in our house to this day.

This is a great exhibition in a great gallery

Thank you.


I was born in 1981 and moved from London to Falmouth 7 years ago. I grew up on the Covent Garden Museum. Every summer holiday, and other times, my mum would take me and my big sister into Central London to meet up with our dad, a Civil Servant, on his lunch break. After a jacket potato in the market, we went down to the museum with much trepidation/excitement. I remember these visits so fondly full of magic and wonder through small eyes and stature. We were distraught when it shut.


Does anyone remember the “Haunted House” (I think it was) in the centre of Cabaret’s window with a money slot on the outside that children could put their pocket money in to see it working – the big surprise was doors in the centre opening and a skull of skeleton popping out! I can’t find any picture reference to it and don’t know who was the originator – any ideas?

PS Thank you for a wonderful exhibition


A fantastic exhibition triggering many happy memories of visits to Cabaret with two young daughters. Somewhere I have photographs of us all in our Cabaret Christmas jumpers!


I used to knit things for Sue Jackson. She always had mad ideas,

“knit a plain black sweater. Get someone to put it on. Then pour a box of beads over their head and sew them on where they land.” Derek and I bought a ‘Goat in the bath’ model from her. Sadly I think one of our young grandchildren nicked the bath brush. (Paul Spooner model)

Jennifer Jenkins

I taught with Peter Markey at Falmouth School for many years and knew his family well. Missed him a lot when he moved to Wales and miss him even more now.

Derek Jenkins