Advisory Committee Report Supports The Cornish & Makes Grim Reading For Government

Council for Europe

The fourth compliance report of the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities  was published earlier this week. It provides welcome support (and, no doubt relief!) to many in Cornwall who have become increasingly exasperated at the government’s seemingly endless refusal to recognise that by signing Cornwall up to the Framework Convention, they actually have to back this up with actions to recognise the status that Cornwall is afforded by the Council for Europe.

Whilst the full report, which runs to some fifty pages, can be read here: Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities – Fourth Opinion on the United Kingdom the main observations of the body, and recommendations for the government which impact on Cornwall will be highlighted in the paragraphs below.

The report states that the committee were “disconcerted to learn that the UK government decided in April 2016 to cut all funding for the Cornish language with immediate effect”. The Committee urge that the government “reconsider the decision to cut all funding for the Cornish language in view of the disproportionate impact such a measure will have on the delicate process of revitalising a minority language when access to other public financial  resources is limited.” The report emphasises that: “as a signatory of the Framework Convention, the United Kingdom has undertaken to promote under Article 5 the condition necessary for persons belonging to national and ethnic minorities to, inter alia, preserve the essential elements of their identity, including language.” Consideration is urged for there to be a Cornish Language Act passed by Parliament.

There is also mention of the imposition of a Devonwall constituency. Whilst the committee does not urge the government to abandon the plan, they do ask that “any administrative and constituency border reform follows an inclusive process, which takes into account the presence of persons belonging to a national minority in the territory, their meaningful participation and respect for their rights.” The danger here though is the government will no doubt turn round and say that their public hearings into the plan that took place at Lys Kernow cover this particular recommendation.

There is also clear support offered for something that Cornish people have been demanding for decades: “The Advisory Committee calls on the authorities to take the necessary measures to include the possibility to self-identify as Cornish, through a ‘tick box’ in the next census, and to facilitate the expression of self-identification of any other group because data collection is relevant to the application of minority rights.”

It is not just the government who suffer a rebuke from the Advisory Committee – English Heritage also come into their sights for how Cornish culture and heritage is presented due to fears that “Cornish history is distorted”.

The committee then turn their attention to the BBC and ITV – “The Committee regrets the minimal profile of Cornish in mainstream media…The authorities should take resolute action to ensure that the revision of the BBC Charter improves access to the media for persons belonging to national and ethnic minorities, increases funding, ensures a variety of programmes in minority languages…and introduces BBC support for the Cornish language.

In response to the report, Mebyon Kernow leader Dick Cole said: “The UK Government’s recognition of the Cornish through the Framework Convention was a landmark decision, but the Opinion demonstrates that the Cornish are not being treated in the same manner as the other national minorities within the UK such as the Scots and the Welsh.

“The Opinion shows a great deal of empathy and understanding for the situation in Cornwall, for which we are grateful. But we are bewildered at the response from the UK Government, which fails to address the recommendations produced by the Advisory Group.

“We would challenge Cornwall’s MPs and the UK Government to show due respect to Cornish culture and identity by supporting all the recommendations contained within the Opinion, wholeheartedly and without reservation.”

The work of groups such as Kernow Matters To Us continue to flag up to the Council of Europe the shortcomings of the UK government. The Cornish people will be heartened that the Advisory Committee have shown such strong support for their battles. The ball is now firmly back in the government’s court.

 

 

Cornish Identity – (Very) Early Findings

I’m rapidly approaching the manic writing-up stage of my Masters dissertation relating to what it means to be Cornish.

After holding a large number of 1:1 interviews and one focus group so far, there are a couple of strong themes coming through which are worthy of debate here ahead of the intensive period of focus groups which I am holding in Cornwall over the next ten days. It has been fascinating to discover the topics in which there are broad senses of agreement between born and bred Cornish and those who could be classified as in-comers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the headline revelations so far among the born and bred is a strong sense that Cornwall being watered down as a consequence of the numbers of people moving into the territory and that, they feel their identity and way of life is being eroded.

Yet, a fascinating aside is that fact that both the native Cornish and the in-comer community feel that Cornwall’s “otherness” is a prime attraction to a large percentage of the in-comers. A commonly held opinion is that “The in-comers like the individualism, they like the difference”, or more powerfully “I moved to Cornwall a couple of years ago and I have never known such a sense of pride and passion in a region. People use that to express their identity.”

Given the concerns that the native Cornish people have over their territory being watered down by in-comers, one may have been forgiven for thinking that there is a very negative opinion of people moving to Cornwall from outside of its borders. Yet this has been far from the case. Examples have been given of people moving into Cornwall, learning Kernewek and then teaching it to people who have lived in Cornwall all their lives. A particularly pertinent point was made by a farmer from the Lizard peninsula who told me: “It’s all about attitude. To be honest, they (in-comers) are better than our dyed in the wool Cornish who get me absolutely spitting bloody mad that they won’t stand up for anything!” There is also respect for in-comers who have skills that local people do not, and who use these skills to help their new local communities.

The real anger so far seems to be reserved for the politicians and officials who do not seem to understand Cornwall and its needs, with the consequence that the people who live in Cornwall are demonstrating more visible signs of their separate identity, whether it be through the Kernewek language, forming local or Cornwall wide groups or re-establishing cultural movements. It is felt that those who are responsible for making decisions are doing so without the appreciation of what they are talking about. There is real disaffection with the imposition of a housing policy which is seen as not catering for local people at all and a sense that even if they covered “Cornwall in concrete from the Tamar to Tresco, they’d still want more!”

Interestingly, there is a strong feeling that there is a wider problem here – not just one of Westminster v Cornwall, but Urban v Rural, with countryside management and infrastructure policy being dictated by people based in urban areas with no idea how this impacts on rural communities.

One of the assertions that I have put to people so far was whether or not they felt that the fact that all six of Cornwall’s MPs are Conservative was a consequence of the large numbers of non-indigenous Cornish now voting in parliamentary elections for Cornish constituencies. Generally speaking, the feeling so far is that this is not the case. Cornwall, it seems, will vote for the candidate that it believes is most likely to put Cornwall first and their particular party second. This was something that probably did for the Liberal Democrats in the last General Election. Cornwall has been a Liberal stronghold since time time immemorial, but after going into coalition with the Conservative party, a large number of people I have spoken to so far feel along the lines of this opinion: “They became Westminster-ised and went too far…they went away from their roots.” You may be forgiven for thinking that if the favoured candidate in Cornwall is one who will always put Cornwall ahead of internal party politics, then Mebyon Kernow should be a shoo-in for a seat at Westminster. However, it seems that the party is just not taken seriously by the vast majority of the Cornish population. They are seen as a bit of a token effort, and, with the exception of two of their regular candidates, not seen as being worthy of voting for. There also has been the point raised that the relationship between Truro and the rest of Cornwall is not good. There is a sense that East Cornwall and West Cornwall simply do not have the same viewpoints about topics, and the danger of this is that if Cornwall cannot come together as one entity, it cannot be taken seriously in London.

In terms of the Cornish language, almost everyone agrees that, at present it is a language that is only really spoken in arranged social gatherings (apart from the small number of families who are completely fluent). Despite this, there is huge respect for the language and a wide sense of just how important it is and how vital it is to preserve it and encourage its wider usage. With all these things though, there is a big difference between people enthusing over the language and actually volunteering to actively spread its use. A number of people have noted concerns about those who may be termed “the gatekeepers” of the language. It has been asserted that such people are of the opinion that “you speak the language proper or not at all” and that using a few words here and there in English sentences or as slang is not something that should be done. Despite this, the people I spoke to who have concerns over language gatekeepers, said it would not put them off trying to use more of the language because, at the end of the day it was about furthering their sense of Cornish identity and that was the most important thing.

What do you think about these topics? Why not have your say by replying to this post OR WHY NOT ATTEND ONE OF THE FOCUS GROUPS IN CORNWALL OVER THE NEXT TEN DAYS AT THESE VENUES:

The locations are:

Penryn – Penryn Rugby Club Clubhouse, Kernick Road, Penryn TR10 8NT  Friday 10th February 7:00pm

Redruth – Cornish Studies Library, Alma Place, Redruth TR15 2AT  Saturday 11th February 10:30am

Rescorla – Rescorla Centre, 10 Hallaze Rd, Penwithick, St. Austell, PL26 8UT  Sunday 12th February 2:30pm

Newlyn – Newlyn Trinity Methodist Church, The Orchard Room, The Centre, Chywoone Hill, TR18 5AR.  Monday 13th February 6:00pm

Among the topics that are likely to come up are:

– Status of the Cornish language.

What does it mean to be Cornish?

Experiences of people who have moved to Cornwall in recent times.

Cornwall’s relationship with Westminster.

 

London Focus Group – IMPORTANT update

Attention for all who are planning on attending Saturday’s focus group, entitled ‘What Does It Mean To Be Cornish in 2017?’

The location for the event has changed – it will now take place at:

Red Lion Pub, 2 Castelnau, Barnes, London SW13 9RU at 12:00 midday.

The plan is then to go round the corner and watch Redruth’s rugby match against Barnes which starts at 2pm. The Cadgwith Singers are likely to be in attendance.

Again, the event is organised independently of the pub, so please don’t contact them for info. If further info is required, please reply on this page.

The Charter For Cornwall

Pete Burton, Dr. Bernard Deacon and Julie Fox have recently launched ‘The Charter For Cornwall’ – a reaction against the huge numbers of housing projects which appear to be in the pipeline across the territory. Housing projects that, simply are not thought through properly. No regard seems to have been paid to the additional strains that would be placed on already busy roads, overburdened medical and education services, poor transportation facilities and a further dilution of Cornish heritage and identity.

The group behind the Charter have stated: “Across Cornwall local groups have been campaigning against massive, speculative and unnecessary housing projects. Over 7,000 people have signed the CPRE’s petition Save Cornwall’s Green Fields, calling for a change in the planning system. Over 70 town and parish councils have supported Cornwall for Change, which is demanding a change in direction at Cornwall Council.”

Each week, I receive the Falmouth Packet newspaper sent to me up-country, and each week I despair at the numbers of pages devoted to planned new developments around Falmouth, Penryn and Mylor – most of which are part of the obscenely short sighted plans to allow thousands of extra students to study at the Tremough campus. If only a tiny percentage of these plans go through, this one beautiful corner of Cornwall is going to be ruined for ever. But the housing plans go way beyond the Falmouth area.

There is now pressure being applied on all candidates seeking to be elected to Cornwall Council in May to sign up to these four pledges:

i) reduce Cornwall Council’s excessive housing targets and put local needs first.

ii) restore social rented housing and increase genuinely affordable housing.

iii) reduce the number of second homes.

iv) support the devolution of strategic planning to Cornwall.

It remains to be seen how many of the would-be councillors will sign up to this, and how many will hide behind the claim that numbers of new homes are forced upon them in terms of numbers from Westminster. History tells us that Westminster doesn’t “get” Cornwall. It’s time for Cornwall to take control.

For more information on the charter, see www.charterforcornwall.com

 

Attention South-East Based Cornish Exiles!

Recently, I announced on this blog locations for four focus groups relating to my MA Cultural Geography dissertation relating to the Cornish Culture and Identity.

After receiving messages from a number of my fellow South-East England based Cornish Exiles, I can now announce that there will be one additional Focus Group, held in London on Saturday 28th January.

The group will take place at The Sun Inn,  17 Parkshot, Richmond-upon-Thames, TW9 2RG from 11:30am. The plan is to hold discussion over a pint and pub lunch, with events expected to conclude by 1:00pm. Two Cornish rugby sides will be in action within short distance of The Sun Inn on that day, with Cornish Pirates playing at London Welsh and Redruth playing at Barnes – so people attending the Focus Group will have plenty of time to go on to either match!

The Focus Group is arranged totally independently of The Sun Inn – we are simply meeting there and discussing Cornish issues over a pint and a bite to eat, therefore please don’t contact the pub for details!

A flyer for the event can be found here: focus-group-advert-london

What Does It Mean To Be Cornish In 2017? Focus Group

In early February, I will be holding a series of focus groups at four locations in Cornwall entitled ‘What Does It Mean To Be Cornish In 2017?’ The discussions which will take place, will aid my research for my MA dissertation which I am presently putting together.

A full advert and list of the venues can be seen here:

focus-group-advert-all-venues

At the heart of the discussions will be Cornish language, heritage and culture. I dearly want to get the views of people who are both Cornish born and bred and those who have moved into Cornwall from other parts of Britain or overseas.

Among the points that would be good to discuss are:

– Status of the Cornish language.

– What does it mean to be Cornish?

– Experiences of people who have moved to Cornwall in recent times.

– Cornwall’s relationship with Westminster.

The venues and timings are as below:

PENRYN – Penryn Rugby Club Clubhouse, Kernick Road, Penryn TR10 8NT Friday 10th February 2017 – 7:00pm

REDRUTH – Cornish Studies Library, Alma Place, Redruth TR15 2AT Saturday 11th February 2017 10:30am

RESCORLA – Rescorla Centre, 10 Hallaze Road, Penwithick, St. Austell, PL26 8UT Sunday 12th February 2:30pm (Cake provided!)

NEWLYN – Newlyn Trinity Methodist Church, The Orchard Room, The Centre, Chywoone Hill, TR18 5AR.  Monday 13th February 6:00pm

If possible, please RSVP with the venue you are interested in attending.
 

 

 

Montol Celebrations Ahead

This coming week, Penzance will celebrate an integral part of the winter season as the Montol Festival takes place on the evening of the Winter Solstice, 21st December.

 

 

The event is a revival of several Cornish midwinter celebrations traditionally practiced in Penzance and the surrounding area. The date is historically the feast of St Thomas the Apostle.

Guise Dancing forms the centre-piece of the celebrations and is an elaborate dance with people disguising their identities using masks, make-up and costumes. Historically people taking part would walk around towns or villages going to houses and pubs to entertain using music and Christmas carols. Conversely the music may be used to evoke moods which may be dark.

There are parallels in the elaborate masks used during the Montol Festival and those seen in traditional Venetian carnival. Other examples of masking can be seen in the form of animal faces or distortions of a human face.

 

 

This Cornish Cultural Association are organising this year’s event, and are offering people the opportunity to make costumes, masks and lanterns at their pop up shop in Causewayhead. This location will also provide people with the opportunity to learn some of the traditional dances linked to the event. On the day itself, Market Jew Street will be lined with stalls and entertainment. From 4pm the festival kicks off properly with a Sundown procession from the top of Causewayhead led by the Raffidy Dumitz Band, followed an hour later by Fire Performers outside Market House, with the main performance at 5:30pm in Chapel Street. From 6:00pm, the main Montol procession, led by Raffidy Dumitz, Bagas Crowd and the Keen Sham Town band with massed guisers flowing down towards the Princess May Recreation Ground. Half an hour later Tamsys Montol will occur at the Recreation Ground. The Admiral Benbow pub sees the location of the Midwinter Revels featuring the Guise Guilds at 7:30pm. Finally, at 10pm, the Chalking of the Mock will take place. During this event, a Mock or Cornish Yule has a stick man chalked on. This is said to represent the old year and the birth of the new.  The Lord of Misrule then declares “According to our tradition this represents the end of the old and the beginning of the new”. The Mock is then burnt.