Summer Event Ahead For Capital’s Cornish Diaspora

 

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‘Wreckers By The River’ – next weekend’s Summer event for the Cornish diaspora in London.

 

London has been home to a large community of Cornish people or those with Cornish ancestry for several centuries, and next weekend sees a major summer event aimed at bringing together Cornish Exiles from the Home Counties on the banks of River Thames at Richmond.

‘Wreckers Wednesday’ is a monthly event in the capital which aims to bring the diaspora community, and indeed anyone with a love of Cornish culture together. Each evening comes complete with pasties brought up from the Homeland, singing, Cornish ales and the ever popular Meat Raffle. On Saturday 1st July, the group will be holding ‘Wreckers By The River’ at Richmond Boat House on the quay next to Richmond Bridge from 2:00pm to 8:00pm with a whole afternoon of Cornish entertainment planned. The London Cornish Shanty Singers will be making their debut appearance along with Hanterhir, the Cornish folk-rock band. Those coming along will also have the opportunity to learn some Cornish and go out on the Thames aboard a real Cornish pilot gig boat. As if this was not enough, there will be ‘proper Pasties’, Skinners ale and Cakey tea available.

Next Saturday’s arrangements are just the latest of a long series of events organised for the Cornish diaspora in London over the years.  Historically, the most high profile group in the capital have been The London Cornish Association, who were formed back in 1898. Their foundation was influenced by a dinner in 1886 which had been organised by a group of men from Helston living in London to celebrate the expected election of Mr Walter Molesworth St Aubyn to Parliament. The election result didn’t exactly go to plan with their man failing to succeed, but they went ahead with the dinner regardless!  It was such a success that it became an annual event.

It is hoped to see ‘One And All’ at Richmond next weekend and that news and photos from the day will appear in a future blog post.

For further information on cultural, political and social links between Cornwall and London, see the previous blog post entitled ‘Cornwall Connections Conference Review‘ dated 17th March 2016.

Murdoch Day – Celebrating Redruth’s Heritage

Given it is the town which is the source of my own Cornish ancestry, I will always have a major soft spot for Redruth. This Saturday (17th June) it will celebrate arguably the most famous person to be connected to the town.

 

William Murdoch

William Murdoch

 

William Murdoch, although born in Ayrshire in 1754 will always be synonymous with the town situated in the historic mining heartland of Cornwall. At the age of 23, Murdoch had begun to work in Birmingham under the steam pioneer James Watt, who rapidly became aware of Murdoch’s potential. Within two years, Murdoch was promoted to become an engine erector at Boulton & Watt’s business in Cornwall. With Redruth at the heart of the territory’s mining industry in this era, it was no surprise that Murdoch made his home in the town – a dwelling now known as Murdoch House, and located at Cross Street. Murdoch quickly became renowned for improving the steam engines in Cornwall’s tin mines.

 

Murdoch House

Murdoch House, Redruth

 

He next made a name for himself by developing steam locomotives. In 1784, he produced the first steam driven road vehicle. A replica of this vehicle, known as ‘The Murdoch Flyer’ was completed in 2007 and can be seen at Cornish steam rallies and also on Murdoch Day.

Murdoch Flyer

The Murdoch Flyer

 

Murdoch then progressed to putting together the first gas lighting anywhere in the world in 1792 – something Redruth remains famous for. Within a few years the method used in Redruth was copied for use on Westminster Bridge and throughout London.

In order to celebrate the incredible inventions of William Murdoch, alongside the special heritage of Redruth, each year, Murdoch Day is held to honour him. Schools and community groups dance and parade through the streets of the town from 10am and there is singing and many stalls. Additionally there will be parades of steam engines (of course, including ‘The Murdoch Flyer’), vintage cars, art installations, exhibitions and a full programme of live music on stage at Green Lane.

 

Murdoch Day

Murdoch Day, Redruth.

 

 

 

Can Any Political Party Offer Cornwall The Recognition It Deserves?

If anyone had any hopes that a flash General Election would result in the various political parties rushing to offer Cornish voters promises of a land of milk and honey, it was very quickly dashed.

The unexpected campaign caused Mebyon Kernow, fresh from an energetic Cornwall Council election campaign where they recorded a tally of four seats, to regretfully announce that they were not able to stand any candidates for reasons of both finances and extreme exhaustion from the group just coming out of a campaign for votes at Lys Kernow.

Therefore, who was to stand up for Cornwall against the disgraceful treatment it had gained at the hands of the Conservative Government, and indeed by its ‘own’ Conservative MPs?

Six days after Prime Minister Theresa May called the election, Gorsedh Kernow Grand Bard Dr. Merv Davey issued a timely rallying cry for the territory when he made his Proclamation speech on behalf of the bards in Launceston town square.

Davey highlighted the fact that: “Today it is our culture and heritage which is under threat…and there are still forces at large today that would deny us our Celtic, global identity and demote Cornwall to a provincial existence on the periphery of a so-called south west region.”

The example of local TV and radio failing to cover St. Piran’s Day celebrations, and indeed Gorsedh ceremonies are prime examples of neglect. Davey also observed how negative stereotyping by the media has led to intolerance and racism towards Cornish people. It is Cornwall’s unique culture and history which must, he argued, be used more than ever to counter these threats. The Grand Bard noted the potential of “some powerful democratic tools” that the Cornish have in their arsenal, “including recognition of the Cornish language, Kernewek, National Minority Status and the Devolution Deal which gives clear commitment to cherish and promote our precious Cornish culture.

Davey concluded: “Modern Cornwall is distinct for many more reasons than those laid down constitutionally. We have our musical culture, our folk traditions, Cornish dialect, our sports, our moors, coastline and our Cornish cuisine. The flagship for our identity is our Cornish language together with our membership of the community of Celtic nations that lies along the western seaboard of Europe, all of which is embodied in the recognition of the Cornish as a National Minority. Our landscape has a distinctive geology and history which embraces our world famous mining heritage. Cornwall is unquestionably recognised as a World Heritage Site and this goes hand in hand with our global perspective through the Cornish Diaspora. Such a fantastic heritage resonates with people of all ages and sets the scene for a contemporary Cornwall.

However – the question as ever remains, how can Cornwall gain further recognition of itself when the MPs that represent it go with their party first and constituents second? Several months of research that I carried out around Cornwall in winter and spring 2017 revealed not only a growing frustration with the present group of Cornish MPs (not helped by one of them being accused of calling for all funding for the Cornish language to be withdrawn and another incident where it was stated later how glad they were that foodbanks exist). At every site in Cornwall that I held interviews and focus groups, at least one person highlighted the fact the “the last proper Cornish MP died with David Penhaligon”. What was also abundantly clear was real anger that the situation was not going to change any time soon due to the extreme numbers of incomers in Cornwall completely skewing the Westminster election results in the territory.

Pressure on the government for change and recognition of Cornish needs is stymied by none of the territory’s MPs calling out their party for a total miscomprehension of Cornish issues and a blatant ignoring of the Framework Convention for National Minorities. The Conservative Party’s treatment of the Cornish under the Framework Convention should not be a surprise after Eric Pickles announced on BBC TV a few weeks ago that, as Local Government Secretary in the coalition government, he only backed Cornwall getting funding for Kernewek in exchange for the Lib Dems backing a separate policy and readily admitted that it “was a bribe”.

If Cornwall’s Conservative MPs won’t stand up for Cornwall’s individual needs, you would expect them all to be voted out today, right?

To be continued…

This is a topic that the blog will return to with examples of primary data once my research has received its final grade.

 
 
 

Cornwall – A Land And Language Battling To Exist

At the present time, I am writing my Masters dissertation on Cornish culture, identity and language. Below is part of the draft of my scene setting chapter about Cornwall and the reasons for its historical and cultural difference from England. As it is a draft, I would welcome any corrections and views from readers.

  *    *    *    *

“Den heb tavas a gollas y dir”

(Weatherhill: 2016)

Kernewek phrase which translates as “A man without language has lost his land”

Cornwall has had a historically complex and often tempestuous relationship with England. As the author and playwright Alan M. Kent observes, “It is and is not an English county. It is and it is not mentioned in the same breath as Wales, Scotland and Eire” (2000: p11). The territory had its own kings and spoke a different language. Evidence of this can be seen in Hereford Cathedral by examining the 13th century Mappa Mundi which identifies the four parts of Britain as England, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.

Throughout history, the Cornish people have fought battles against the people of England. An early example of this was seen in 1497 when thousands of Cornishmen, led by Michael Joseph an Gof (the Smith) marched to London in protest at the raising of taxes by Henry VIII to fund a war against Scotland – a country which the Cornish considered themselves to have a closer relationship with than England. During the English Civil War, Cornishmen joined the fight against Parliament. At this time, The Earl of Essex and the Roundheads were forced to retreat when invading the territory with the consequence that 6,000 out of the original 7,000 strong Essex army were killed or taken prisoner (Knight: 2016). There is also evidence to suggest that Cornwall has never been legally incorporated into shire England (Angarrack 1999, 2002 & 2008) and questions over whether or not, legally it is the Queen or Duke of Cornwall who has the final say in Cornish matters (Williams: 2004). Additionally, there are those in Cornwall who claim that their land has status as a quasi-independent ‘nation’ (Angarrack 1999, 2002 & 2008) due to Cornish Stannary Law. This, they argue gives Cornwall a power of veto over Westminster due to the fact that the Cornish Stannary Parliament, which last met in Truro in 1753, has never legally been dissolved (Rowe & Nute: 1996, Angarrack 1999, 2002 & 2008 and Kirkhope: 2014).

The very essence of what makes many Cornish people feel a race apart from those across the River Tamar border is the Celtic heritage that plays a central role in establishing the foundations for their identity. The fact that; “Celtic identities are in part about class and place-based differences within white identities and privileges” (McCarthy & Hague: 2004: p 389) is crucial to where Cornwall has found itself historically, and where it remains today. Arguably the most important example of this ‘place-based difference’ is the Cornish language, Kernewek. A language which ensures that Cornwall’s historic ties are with Celtic cousins:

“It was with the kindred Welsh and Bretons that we joined our forces in warlike enterprise…there was one event, of all others the most effectual in strengthening the alliance of the Cornish with their ancient friends, I mean the war against the infidels of the East (England)”

(Polwhele: 1806a: p 6-7).

Celtic languages are divided into two classifications. Kernewek is known as a Brythonic Celtic language in common with Brezhoneg (Breton) and Cymraeg (Welsh). The other Celtic languages are grouped as Goidelic Celtic and cover the indigenous tongues of Ireland (Gaeilge), Scotland (Gàidhlig) and Gaelg or Gailck (Isle of Man) – see Berresford-Ellis (2000). Whilst a recent study by Weatherhill (2016) has sought to emphasise a paper from Parry (1946) in disproving the long held theory that Kernewek died out towards the end of the eighteenth century, it is an inescapable fact that the imposition of the Common Prayer Book in English during 1549 did its best to eradicate the language. Unlike their Celtic cousins in Wales, where legislation was provided for the bible and Common Prayer Book to be translated into Cymraeg, this was never ruled permissible for the Cornish language (see Payton: 2004). The consequence was a major rebellion which saw the Cornish capture Exeter and hold it for a full month before Edward VI gathered an army of foreign mercenaries who slaughtered the Cornish army in a battle at Clyst St. Mary in Devon (see Rowse: 1941).

Additionally, the razing of Glasney College in Penryn a year earlier also had a detrimental impact in terms of academic and literary writing in the Cornish language. It was at Glasney that many medieval mystery plays such as The Ordinalia were believed to have been written. This work, published in around 1375 has been proven by Will Coleman (2015) to be among the oldest surviving play scripts in Europe, with the oldest remaining stage diagrams in the world. After the loss of Glasney, there were small, rare published literary works in Cornish but the written word virtually died out by 1650 (see Kent: 2000). Indeed it also meant that archival material of Cornish language texts were taken away from the territory to ensure their survival in the reformation period. Hawke (2001) and Coleman (2015) carried out intensive research which unearthed rare Cornish language mystery plays in the National Library of Wales and the Bodleian Library in Oxford which were written around 1500.

The maintenance of Cornwall’s Celtic heritage was the driving force to get more people speaking the language. Stoyle (cited in Spriggs 2005) identifies William Scawen, a Royalist Civil War soldier and MP for St. Germans & East Looe in 1640, as someone who was “among the first to see that it (Kernewek) was in danger of dying out” (ibid: p 99). Scawen delivered a manuscript of a ‘Passion Poem’ in Cornish, and a book in English detailing Cornish identity entitled Antiquities Cornubrittanic. Another important staging post in recognition of Cornwall’s separate identity came in Edward Lhwyd’s 1707 publication of the Archaeologica Britannica. In this work, he traced the Celtic languages and provided a dictionary of their terms. This was seen as a seminal text in its linguistic description of the Cornish language.

It was the early twentieth century which saw a concerted effort to raise the status of Kernewek. In 1904, Henry Jenner published The Handbook of the Cornish Language before establishing the Gorsedh Kernow, the Cornish group of bards in 1928. The Gorsedh closely mirrored the work of Welshman Iolo Morganwg, who similarly ‘invented’ a bardic community around his personal interpretation of a long deceased, ancient movement in Wales (see Morgan: 1983). Jenner’s work also included a Cornish-English dictionary in published 1938, which is still in use today. The revival’s bid to gather pace became increasingly bogged down in the 1980s and 1990s with heated arguments about what an authentic indigenous Cornish language should look like. Unified Cornish, established by Robert Morton Nance, had its supporters as did Ken George’s Kernewek Kemmyn (Common Cornish). Also appearing on the scene was Nicholas Williams’ Revised Unified Cornish. Public disputes and various factions developed (see George: 1995, Williams: 1996 & 2001, Grant: 1998, Everson: 1999, Mills: 1999 and Kennedy: 2001 & 2002). In the twentieth century, the work of MAGA (the Cornish Language Partnership) aided agreement on a Standard Written Form of the language, and by 2010, UNESCO altered its classification of Cornish to recognise that its prior description of being an extinct language was no longer true.

The consequences of these two events led to the profile of Kernewek increasing rapidly. Kenneth McKinnon’s research for the British Council estimated there were 300 people able to hold a conversation in Kernewek (See ibid: 2002 & 2004). By 2005, O’Neill & Texier’s survey revealed that the numbers had increased to 3,000 (2005: p 242). According to the 2011 census, 557 people in England and Wales stated that Kernewek was their first language (www.ons.gov.uk/census/2011census/2011censusdata).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Angarrack, J. (1999): ‘Breaking The Chains: Propaganda, Censorship, Deception and the Manipulation of Public Opinion in Cornwall’: Cornish Stannary Publications: Camborne.

Angarrack, J. (2002): ‘Our Future is History’: Independent Academic Press: Padstow.

Angarrack, J. (2008): ‘Scat t’Larrups? Resist and Survive’: Independent Academic Press: Padstow.

Berresford Ellis, P. (2000): ‘The Celtic Revolution: A Study in Anti-Imperialism’: Y Lolfa Cyf: Talybont.

Coleman, W. (2015) ‘Plen an Gwari: The Playing Places of Cornwall’: Goldentree Productions: St. Buryan.

Everson, M. (1999): ‘An Event of Great Signicance (sic): A Review of George’s Gerlyver Kres’: in Payton, P. (ed): ‘Cornish Studies Seven: University of Exeter Press: Exeter.

George, K. (1995) ‘Which Base for Revived Cornish?’ in Payton, P. (ed): ‘Cornish Studies Three: University of Exeter Press: Exeter.

Grant, A.P. (1998): ‘Defending Kernewek Kemmyn’: in Payton, P. (ed): ‘Cornish Studies Six: University of Exeter Press: Exeter.

Hawke, A. (2001): ‘A Rediscovered Cornish-English Vocabulary’ in Payton, P. (ed): ‘Cornish Studies Nine: University of Exeter Press: Exeter.

Kennedy, N. (2001): ‘Gerlyver Sawsnek-Kernewek’: in Payton, P. (ed): ‘Cornish Studies Nine: University of Exeter Press: Exeter.

Kent, A.M. (2000): ‘The Literature of Cornwall: Continuity, Identity, Difference: 1000-2000: Redcliffe Press Ltd: Bristol.

Kirkhope, J. (2014): ‘An Introduction to the Laws of the Duchy of Cornwall, The Isles of Scilly and Devon’: Evertype: Lecanvey, County Mayo.

Lhwyd, E. (2009): ‘Archaeologia Britannica: Texts and Translations’: Celtic Studies Publications: Aberystwyth.

McCarthy, J. & Hague, E. (2004): ‘Race, Nation and Nature: The Cultural Politics of ‘Celtic’ Identification in the American West’ in Annals of the Association of American Geographers Vol. 94 No. 2.

MacKinnon, K. (2002): ‘Cornish At Its Millennium: An Independent Study of the Language Undertaken In 2000’: in Payton, P. (ed): ‘Cornish Studies Ten: University of Exeter Press: Exeter.

MacKinnon, K. (2004): ‘As Cornish As Possible – Not an Outcast Anymore: Speakers’ and Learners’ Opinions on Cornish’: in Payton, P. (ed): ‘Cornish Studies Twelve: University of Exeter Press: Exeter.

Mills, J. (1999): ‘Reconstructive Phonology & Contrastive Lexicology: Problems With the Gerlyver Kernewek Kemmyn’: in Payton, P. (ed): ‘Cornish Studies Seven: University of Exeter Press: Exeter.

Morgan, P. (1983): ‘From a Death to a View: The Hunt for the Welsh Past in the Romantic Period’ in Hobsbawm, E & Ranger, T (eds): ‘The Invention of Tradition’: Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

O’Neill, D. & Texier, M. (2005): ‘The Case of Breton/Brezhoneg’: in O’Neill, D (ed): ‘Rebuilding the Celtic Languages: Reversing Language Shift in the Celtic Countries: Y Lolfa Cyf: Talybont.

Parry, J.J. (1946): ‘The Revival of Cornish: An Dasserghyans Kernewek’: in ‘Publications of the Modern Language Association of America’: Vol. 61 No. 1.

Payton, P: (2004): ‘Cornwall: A History’: Cornwall Editions: Fowey.

Polwhele, R. (1806a): ‘The Civil and Military History of Cornwall’: Trewman & Son: London. Accessed online at https://ia801406.us.archive.org/28/items/historycornwall00polwgoog/historycornwall00polwgoog.pdf on 4th November 2016.

Rowe, W.C.H. & Nute, E.R. (1996): ‘Cornwall: One of the Four Nations of Britain’: Cornish Stannary Publications: Camborne.

Rowse, A.L. (1941): ‘Tudor Cornwall’: Jonathan Cape: London.

Spriggs, M. (2005): ‘William Scawen (1600-1689) – A Neglected Cornish Patriot and Father of the Cornish Language Revival’: in Payton, P. (ed): ‘Cornish Studies Thirteen: University of Exeter Press: Exeter.

Weatherhill, C. (2016): ‘County, Duchy, Nation or Country?: The Case for Cornwall’: Downloaded from http://www.transceltic.com/cornish/county-duchy-nation-or-country-case-cornwall Accessed on 26th September 2016.

Williams, N.J.A. (1996): ‘Linguistically Sound Principles: The Case Against Kernewek Kemmyn’ in Payton, P. (ed): ‘Cornish Studies Four: University of Exeter Press: Exeter.

Williams, N.J.A. (2001): ‘A Modern and Scholarly Cornish-English Dictionary: Ken George’s Gerlyver Kernewek Kemmyn’: in Payton, P. (ed): ‘Cornish Studies Nine: University of Exeter Press: Exeter.

http://www.ons.gov.uk/census/2011census/2011censusdata – Office of National Statistics 2011 census data homepage – accessed on 21st May 2016.

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.