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23.9.08

Cornwall a region of culture, but whose culture?

Following the Independent article -The Big Question: Is there really a Cornish culture, and does it deserve promotion?- I would like to hand over to a friend for comment.

Telemachus writes:

I cannot let the announcement and the subsequent Independent Big Question piece go without serious comment and question, for what comes over is a further denial of true Cornish cultural values and heritage in favour of a concocted [and funded] version being promoted by non-Cornish incomers for the benefit of their own kind. How else are we supposed to interpret the piece's listing of Cornwall's cultural icons? John Opie apart, every one is non-Cornish. Where are Rowse and Causley?; where is Robert Stephen Hawker?; where are Peter Lanyon and George Lloyd?; where are John Harris and Thomas Merritt?; where is Q, a far greater literary figure than Daphne du Maurier and a noted former County Councillor?; where are Cornish wrestling, hurling and gig racing?; where is our great carol tradition?; where is the Cornish Gorsedh and all it stands for? These are just a few of Cornwall's TRUE cultural icons, but significantly they receive no mention. Instead we are told the funding may help to attract new artists and performers, but from where are these seen as coming? If it is meant that support will be given to our own varied and dynamic initiatives then fine. But - noting the quoted icons and other factors - I have a sneaking feeling that the attraction will be aimed at candidates from over the Tamar.

Other factors? Some of us have not forgotten the New Cornish Carol competition, promoted by similar newcomers to celebrate the success of the World Heritage Site bid. Here we were told that an object was to "reintroduce" [sic!] carol singing in Cormish choirs and that this would be done by workshops set up by an imported professional group called Black Voices. Additionally we were told that the St Day Carol was part of the Davies Gilbert collection, which it's not, and most astonishingly of all, that the carol tradition stems from that of wassailing, which emphatically it does not. Utter rubbish, and the authors displayed not only a total ignorance of the Cornish musical scene but also that of the global carol tradition. I have the proposals in writing, as issued by the WHS office - they got into the hands of the press and were later dropped. But the fact that they were made at all speaks volumes, and people were paid to produce them. Meantime those who know about our traditions, and who understand and love them and who could advise if asked, are ignored and left to work on with inadequate resources or no resources at all, acting as they do in the spirit of dedication and service, and with an idealism that is probably incomprehensible to the present-day marketeers.

And why all this emphasis on the value of Cornwall to outsiders? Surely it is the intrinsic importance of our traditions to Cornish people - the Sense of Place - that should matter and be supported? Or are we to become those "Fragments of forgotten peoples" mentioned by Tennyson, when speaking of Cornwall in the Idylls? A tourist attraction so that we can be paraded as curiosities like the Hairy Aineu? Sometimes I do wonder!

Who I wonder is going to benefit from this £350000? Thinking back to Objective One and all its promises, if any comes in the direction of our organisation I'll fall off my chair in astonishment or - like Q's King Jamie "eat ma guid hat-band". Nevertheless you will see I have written what amounts to a tongue-in-cheek note to Ms Bird, to see what happens, and copied it widely to flag up a position. Depending on her reply - and if we are not satisfied, which is the probability - other actions will have to considered, and these may include consultations with yourself and others about appropriate ways forward. I for one am not prepared to go on laying foundations for others who then use our work to seek benefits and advantages for themselves, with no acknowledgement or consideration for those who have done the initial and often patient, time-consuming and expensive work. It would not be so bad if there were indications that the nature and scope of the TRUE Cornish cultural scene was known and understood, but the account as published in the Independent is disgraceful and an insult to Cornish people, seemingly by nouveau arrivestes who appear to have made little or no attempt to explore or grasp the realities of subjects on which they seek to pronounce.

Reverting to the Independent piece, are we to assume that all native Cornish people who care for Cornwall and its future are lumped together as nationalists? Because I for one object very strongly indeed to being placed on the same level as that of the Cornish National Liberation Army [and take great exception to such a statement] but how else are we to interpret the statement that a "host" [sic] of organistions have [sic] sprung up to promote Cornish independence? Who are the members of this "host", and are we included in them? And why all this talk of "independence" anyway? I thought the object was a form of devolution and meaningful REGIONAL government within the United Kingdom and Europe, in a pattern that would recognise and respect Cornwall's unique status and the contribution Cornwall can make to the wider scene AS CORNWALL. The Ms Birds of this world and their hysteria would never get away with such statements in Wales or Scotland, so why should they be allowed to do so here?

And have these people never read the passages relating to Cornwall in the Kilbrandon Royal Commission's Report on the Constitution? Or our own petition to the European Parliament and what it says, for that matter?


_*Further brief thoughts on the article
*_Cornish is a recognised minority language, reecognised by the UK
Government under the terms of the Council of Europe's Charter for
Regional or Minority Languges. Hence the Cornish Language office in
County Hall. Seemingly they can't get even that right.

South Crofty did indeed close a few years back. But it is in process of
reopening and hopes to be producing tin again by next year. And this
despite the furious opposition of the Regional Development Authority.
Three cheers for us!

The fact that businesses are said to be "cashing in" on the popularity
of Cornish says it all and epitomises the nature of a thoughly shallow
and uneducated approach.

John Betjeman was a special case among the imported "icons" because he
saw what was here and recgnised it, and not least the essential
Celticness of Cornwall. It seemed typical that the poem mentioned
related to a golf course but I suggest instead a reading of the highly
perceptive Delectable Duchy:

"Where yonder villa hogs the sea /Was open cliff to you and me. /The
many-coloured cara's fill/ The salty marsh to Shilla Mill......./Now, as
we near the ocean roar,/A smell of deep-fry haunts the shore....../And
on the sand the surf-line lisps /With wrappings of potato
crisps....../And lichened spears of blackthorn glitter/With harvest of
the August litter....../Here in the late October light/See Cornwall, a
pathetic sight, /Raddled and put upon and tired/And looking somewhat
over-hired, /Remembering in the autumn air/The years when she was young
and fair........" Bet the marketeers won't quote THAT one!

Put me very firmly in the quoted "No" lobby.

I could say much more, but time and current circumstances don't permit.
I do suggest most strongly however that the Independent piece - Big
Question: Is there really a Cornish culture and does it deserve
promotion? [Simon Usborne/Miranda Bird, Tuesday 16 September 2008] -
should be read by all who care for Cornwall and Cornish values, with
hopefully many letters to the editor. And, thinking of what we have to
face and its glittering falseness: "I would rather have your plain
russet-coated captain, who knows what he's fighting for and loves what
he knows".

Sorry and all that. Normally I'm a peaceable sort of chap, but............

T.

1 comment:

Andy Phillips said...

What an amazing blog!

I shall be a frequent visitor from now on now I have found it.

Chons da ha grassyans dhys a cothman FLB!