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:

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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.

 

 

 

So, Who Is Going To Stand Up For Cornwall?

The recently published book ‘The Alternative’, is a publication edited by Labour MP Lisa Nandy, Green MP & co-leader Caroline Lucas and Lib Dem candidate Chris Bowers. It contains chapters by politicians from their parties, plus The SNP, Plaid Cymru and other progressive campaigners. It examines areas where cross-party co-operation could “reinvigorate politics and inspire a credible alternative to the Conservatives.”

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It is a book which suggests potential solutions to various issues which dog Cornwall as well as other parts of the United Kingdom at present, such as Social Security, Regeneration, Movement of People and Devolution. The authors of the pieces all have one thing in common – they are either already MPs of opposition parties, or they are actively campaigning for an alternative to the present Conservative policies.

One particularly impressive chapter in the book is entitled ‘Regeneration With Imagination’, by Jonathan Edwards, the Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr. Edwards has held the seat since 2010, presently with a majority of 5,599. He has also been a staunch supporter of Cornish issues, tabling an Early Day Motion in January 2012 calling for a Cornish Assembly, which was supported by his fellow Plaid Cymru MPs Hywel Williams and Elfyn Lloyd, along with Labour’s Paul Flynn.

 

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Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards

 

Edwards’ paper centres around his anger at the unequal social society that Britain has become. His arguments focus on Government plans for regeneration centring around large cities or other urban areas whilst seriously deprived parts of Wales (and, for that matter, Cornwall), continue to be ignored by Westminster. He calls for Government to look at existing skill sets among the populations of these deprived areas and trying to match them with investment in these fields. He points to arts projects in struggling parts of Bristol which have used existing skills of unemployed people to regenerate the dock area in a socially inclusive way. Edwards also cites Preston (where the council have “made it a central pillar of their local environment strategy to study where the money it spends flows to, and whether it can keep it flowing locally for longer”).

For Edwards, it is vital that the Government also looks abroad for ideas – to Germany where, he argues, “the state deliberately pursues a policy of reducing wealth inequalities.” He also calls for a UK Convergence Fund, which would do similar work to the EU in funding areas of the UK who are in poverty, and for revenue from Corporation Tax to be spent locally. He ends by quoting the Welsh Economist Professor Edward Nevin: “The Welsh economy is drifting not because the crew are fast asleep, but because the boat has no engine and the navigator no map.” Whither Cornwall?

Clearly Edwards, and many of the other writers in the book – notably Mhari Black – are deeply passionate about the areas they represent and are full of energy devoted to putting right the real societal issues that plague their constituencies and local areas. Yet none of Cornwall’s Conservative MPs feel able to do this. Who can possibly do it for Cornwall?

At the present time, it is arguable that, due to the amount national media attention they have gained, the role of campaign groups such as Kernow Matters To Us have taken over from Mebyon Kernow as the voice of the indigenous Cornish people. Yet in order for the Cornish voice to be seriously heard, it needs to have a solid presence at Westminster until the day that anything like a Senedh Kernow comes into existence. We presently have the patently absurd situation of Plaid Cymru and SNP MPs standing up for Cornish issues such as an Assembly, language cuts and Devonwall whilst the territory’s MPs maintain either a silence, or worse still, are actively supporting the language cuts and Devonwall plan.

We are rapidly running out of time before the next General Election for that voice to come through. Should the opposition parties in Cornwall consider coming together and fielding fewer candidates in the next Westminster election in a bid to avoid splitting the anti-Conservative vote? Yes – but only if the candidates that eventually stand can show some of the Cornwall first and real understanding of their local issues that many of the writers in ‘The Alternative’ do.

 

 

Is This A Concerted Attack On Cornwall From Westminster?

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After the protest against the proposed Devonwall Constituency recently at Polson Bridge, this week, people throughout Cornwall mobilised once again in what is felt to be a concerted attack on the territory from the Conservative government in Westminster – which crucially includes Cornwall’s own MPs.

 

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Above: The proposed ‘Devonwall Constituency’ – the Cornwall/Devon border is marked by the black line.

 

The Boundary Commission consultation on the plan to impose a cross-border Parliamentary Constituency was held on Thursday and Friday this week at Lys Kernow, Truro. Holding such an important hearing during the working week, thus limiting those that could attend to speak is highly controversial to say the very least. However, over two days, many people stood before Anita Bickerdike, Lead Assistant Commissioner for the Boundary Commission for England – South West to make clear how the plan is contrary to the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe that the government signed Cornwall up to when recognising their right to National Minority Status, and goes against years of history in Cornwall – and the fact that the territory has never been legally adopted into shire England. What was particularly interesting to note from following events over the past two days was the fact that it was not just those who may be termed ‘Cornish Nationalists’ who spoke passionately about why this plan cannot be imposed, but also those who would identify themselves as English not Cornish – one telling quote relayed from the hearings being: “I am an English woman and I can tell you that what you are doing to Cornwall is wrong”.

In an address to the hearing, Craig Weatherhill, archaeologist, historian, author and Bard of the Gorsedh Kernow highlighted further examples of the problems that the Boundary Commission seem to have conveniently ignored in putting this proposal forward: “One half will be administered by Cornwall Unitary Council which has certain devolved powers; the other by North Devon District Council, which has no such devolved powers. In rural Parliamentary elections, the Returning Officer is the High Sheriff but, in this case, which one would be chosen and be given precedence over the other? Will it be Devon’s High Sheriff, appointed by the Crown? Or will it be Cornwall’s who – uniquely in the UK – is appointed by the Duchy of Cornwall. Whose jurisdiction will then intrude into the other’s in direct breach of constitutional law? This has all the potential of creating yet another legal dispute between Crown and Duchy”.

A key aspect which also seems not to have been considered by the Boundary Commission is the fact that Cornwall’s National Minority status is supposed to afford the Cornish the same protection that Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish people gain. Yet, there are no plans for cross border constituencies between England, Wales and Scotland.

Given the fact that Cornwall’s six Conservative MPs have consistently refused to back the campaign, it has led to former Cornish MPs to join the campaign prominently. Respected former MP for St. Ives, Andrew George recently stated: “The notion of equalising constituencies sounds like a plausible explanation, until you realise that they’re using a method which will massively favour the Tories.” To be fair, whichever government in power always tends to aim for a Boundary Review which favours their party – Labour have been equally guilty in the past.

The next stage in the Devonwall Protest will come at the Mebyon Kernow Conference at Lys Kernow, Truro next Saturday (19th November) – at the event, there will not only be guidance about how to make representations against the Boundary Commission’s plan – but also a renewed row which broke yesterday with the Government’s response to a petition against the ending of funding for the Cornish language.

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Yesterday (11th November), the official response from the Department for Communities and Local Government stated: “The Government has provided Cornwall Council with substantial spending power to allocate resources to their local priorities, including the Cornish language. The Government has always been clear that its funding of some £650,000 since 2010 to support the development of the Cornish language was time-limited, and that the Council should seek alternative sources in order to place it on a more sustainable basis. Cornwall Council has a core spending power of £1.7 billion over four years from which they can allocate the necessary resources to local priorities, including the development the Cornish language, if they wish.” It is fair to say that this response is disingenuous at best, as Councillor Loveday Jenkin rightly responded on Social Media: “Apparently they (the government) give Cornwall Council money to support the language (not!). No recognition of State responsibility for supporting the language under the Charter and the FCPNM both signed by the UK state in respect of Cornwall.”

This, and the recent comments by Savid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which derided those who state that Cornwall has a separate identity from the rest of what he terms “the South-West region” – means that Cornwall and the Cornish people are feeling more and more under threat from the government. This is a situation that Human and Social Geographers need to be aware of and one that they must join in and support this movement in Cornwall.

 

Devonwall Constituency Protest Gathers Pace

 

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‘Crossing The Tamar’ – Donald Macleod’s painting of the 1497 march of the Cornish Army to London led by An Gof and Flamank

 

This weekend will see a well planned public protest against the Boundary Commission’s suggestion to make one of Cornwall’s Parliamentary Constituencies a cross border, or ‘Devonwall’ seat.

The protest takes place on Sunday at the symbolic location of Polson Bridge, just outside Launceston which marks the River Tamar boundary between Cornwall and Devon, used by the Cornish Army led by Michael Joseph An Gof and Thomas Flamank in 1497 during the uprising against English taxes.  Those of you ‘up-country’ with no immediate links to Cornwall may be wondering what all the fuss is about. It’s history, it’s a record of a separate Cornish nation, and presence of a separate language and completely different indigenous cultures. This boils down to a simple fact that Cornwall has a separate identity and separate needs that make a cross border constituency both politically, historically and (since Cornwall came covered by the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention), legally questionable.

Sunday’s event sees many people and Cornish groups coming together. Among those centrally involved are ‘Kernow Matters To Us’. In their recent actions to promote awareness of the ‘Devonwall plan, they wrote to the Clerks of all 213 City, Town and Parish Councils and Meetings in Cornwall with an appeal to join the growing campaign against the proposed Constituency which would be known as Bideford, Bude and Launceston.

Ahead of a Boundary Commission Public Consultation at Lys Kernow, Truro on 10-11th November at which many members of the public are planning on speaking out, Cornwall Council have already announced their strong opposition to the Boundary Commission’s plan. The Council, led by the Independent John Pollard, have appointed a QC to offer legal advice on how to resist the proposal.

Sunday’s peaceful protest at Polson Bridge starts at 11:00am with an hour of communal singing of traditional Cornish songs before an hour of speeches by politicians from different parties supporting the Devonwall protest – (the Conservatives who hold all the seats in Cornwall at present are noticeably absent) with Dan Rogerson (Lib Dem), Gill Brown (Labour), The Green Party and Mebyon Kernow leader Dick Cole all speaking, along with Gorsedh Kernow Grand Bard Merv Davey. There will also be further Cornish music, poetry, singing and piping throughout.

Mebyon Kernow’s Annual Conference for 2016 will also feature the Devonwall protest prominently when it is held at Lys Kernow on 19th November. MK have been working with other Celtic political parties to spread word of the protest in Westminster, with Plaid Cymru tabling an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons on the Party for Cornwall’s behalf.