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Sunday, 28 August 2011

How Cornish do you feel?


There always in life, seems to be something that makes the wheels come off. Yesterday a guy posted on the “Kernow Branch of the Celtic Leagues” FB page, an e-mail response from someone that has contact with an MP, who is fighting for Minority Status. To summarize that e-mail, the petition I started to “Recognise Cornwall as a National Minority”, is “worded incorrectly” and is “premature.”

He also suggests that there is “cautious optimism” in regard to the Cornish achieving “Minority Status” and that the Minister in charge is currently considering the cause.
The fact of the matter is that the Govt. is preparing yet another draft for the United Kingdom’s “National Minority Status” groups, to present to the Council of Europe.  According to the Cornish Ethnicity Data Tracking Group, the recent draft that was released three weeks ago seemed to go backwards in terms of clearly defining what Minority Status means and what effect it will have on each group.

http://www.minelres.lv/reports/uk/UK_Cedtag_2009.pdf  This is the report by CEDTG and it clearly sets out the issues that there are with the Govt. and its handling of “Minority Status.”
The UK Government has admitted to signing the Convention not to protect minorities but to “underline its commitment to tackle racial discrimination.” 
This one statement alone makes the whole issue become clouded. What is the govt. trying to achieve with Minority Status??
I am slowly but surely beginning to believe that “Minority Status” may well be granted to the “Cornish” but why is it I get this feeling that as part of that step Cornwall will remain part of England. A kind of, “We’ll give you Minority Status but Cornwall stays English!” A nice pacifier for the Cornish.

So what now?
I think the first thing that needs to be done is that some kind of classification needs to be created, as to what it is exactly the people of Cornwall want. From my own experience, it depends very much on what part of Cornwall you come from. I was born in Helston and lived in Falmouth from the age of 9, my mother is from Camborne and my Father lived in Penzance. Generally speaking there is a far greater Nationalist outlook in Camborne, Penzance and Helston than there is in Falmouth. I had many friends in school who were born in Cornwall but whose parents were not Cornish. Can you expect incomers to have the same passion for devolution or independence as a proper Cornish “Born and Bred” person?
I noticed that on some forums discussing the petition that there was a sense that the people of Cornwall should have a vote on the subject. I also noticed that the automatic assumption of a lot of people looking into this debate is that it is another cause initiated by the “Whining Nationalists.”

Redefinition is needed!
I feel that we can very basically split the Cornish debate into four categories which roughly encompass everybody but certainly not all.

1.    1.   No change. Those that believe Cornwall is part of England and that there is no need for any change.

2.     2.  Unionists--Cornish not English. Those that are quite happy that Cornwall is part of Great Britain and happy that Cornwall is part of the UK but would love to see Cornwall separated from England.

3.    3.   Devolutionists. Basically all that is in 2 (probably wouldn’t describe themselves as Unionists). But would also welcome some kind of Assembly in Cornwall.

4.     4.   Nationalists.  Want full independence from England and the United Kingdom.

This is a very rough breakdown and most people might be unable to categories their feelings into these simple boundaries. The key here is that we need to discover just how “Cornish” the people of Cornwall consider themselves. Any change to the status of Cornwall or its people needs to happen with a consensus of opinion. There must be a mandate that is supported by the majority for change to be successful.
I personally fall into category 2. I consider myself a Unionist, but want separation from England. The term “Unionist” is an expression that, as far as I can see, is one that is not used in Cornwall to categories people. Maybe it is about time it should! I have no statistics to back up this claim but I would hazard a guess that a very large chunk of people in Cornwall would fall into this category.

The waiting game.
There is certainly a groundswell of Cornish opinion that would like to see at the very least a separation from England. This is the approach everyone who is not a category 1. person in Cornwall should take. I get this strong gut feeling that Minority Status will only give us a status as a minority group but Cornwall itself will still remain part of England. Will that not serve to enrage us yet further? There is nearly a year before the Minority Status e-petition runs out and it gives us time to get the message out there that change is needed. Certainly from my own point of view, I have networked with like-minded people and I will be promoting the Unionist approach.

Cheering for Cornwall!
For me, and I believe for a lot of young people and moderates, separation from England opens the door for our sporting teams to represent our fine Duchy on the International stage. I’ve started a FB page “Cornish Pride, Cornish Recognition” and will be trying hard to branch out to the disenfranchised masses in Cornwall and get them interested in a separate Cornwall through non-political methods.
Please help me spread the word especially to those who don’t seem bothered by Cornish history.

Devils Advocate!
I’m already aware that my opinions have annoyed some Cornish Campaigners, believe me my heart says that I should fight strongly on the Nationalist front. However, my head tells me to achieve what we all desire first, separation from England, then we simply must attempt to involve more Cornish people, who ordinarily are turned off by those very things that makes Cornwall what it is.

Thanks especially to Rob @Cernyw for his support.  http://robscornishblog.blogspot.com/
Let’s keep up the good work!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Cornwall draw England in World Cup Qualifier Group..

Jubilation went around the Duchy yesterday as the draw for the group stage of the World Cup qualifiers was made in Switzerland. With Recognition of Cornwall as a Nation achieved early last year and acceptance into FIFA and UEFA following shortly after, the new kids on the international block and their army of followers have eagerly awaited the draw, as it would determine who the Cornish would play in their first competitive international football match Ever.

Top seeded team England fell into Group 6 and when Cornwall’s number came out of pot 5 and matched us up with Terry, Rooney and co. a huge cheer went up from the Cornish contingent at the ceremony. The Vice President of the Cornish National Football Council said “It is like a fairy tale! They’ll hear the roar from The Cornwall Stadium in London, when they come down!” A sentiment echoed across the Cornish media and social networking sites in the last 18 hours.

Business leaders in the Duchy have predicted a huge financial benefit to the local economy from being finally recognised as a nation and with this added bonus of being in England’s group for the World Cup Qualifiers, expect an even bigger influx of tourists to visit the Duchy.

As for the chances of Cornwall in the group! Well there is no doubt Cornwall will struggle to get out the group stage but I certainly think our home games will give the team 12 men and well you never know. Northern Ireland upset the form books a few years ago by beating England 1-0 in a qualifier. With a guaranteed capacity house of 10,000 the tickets are going to be in hot demand. Early indications are that 500 tickets will be allocated to the English FA but there is likely to be a spattering of English fans in amongst the Cornish. 

Nigel Martyn, Helston born former England goalkeeper has been quoted as saying that the game is likely to be similar to the F.A. Cup finals in the 80s between Liverpool and Everton. Certainly the atmosphere will be friendly and electric and here’s hoping that Cornwall Captain Matty Etherington and co. can pull off a shock result.

Well I am a fantasy writer!

This might not be the truth as it stands at the moment. BUT it IS something that could very certainly happen in the future, if the Cornish are ever given the recognition they deserve.
I started campaigning for the recognition Cornwall as a nation of the United Kingdom over 20 years ago and to be honest I got totally disillusioned with the attitude of my Cornish brothers and sisters. A total sense of apathy was the overriding feeling I got, an attitude of “I don’t care” was the main sentiment.

Why the Apathy?
Playing Devil’s Advocate..

Theram ow Labma!
This will upset some of the best campaigners for Cornish recognition but the Cornish language itself is one of the biggest turn offs for young Cornish people. The vast majority of people I’ve spoken too about the Cornish language are completely disassociated with it. Unfortunately the assimilation of the Cornish into English culture was so ruthless, so successful, that to most, learning the Cornish language is unnecessary and as alien to them as learning Lithuanian.  Now that’s not to say that the language has no place in Cornish culture, it is the reborn proof that the Cornish people were invaded, marginalised and assimilated. It is believed that the language died in just five generations, the last person to only speak Cornish died in 1777 (Dolly Pentreath)and John Davey of Boswednack (1812-1891), was 'the last to possess any considerable traditional knowledge of the Cornish Language'. Now It is seen very much as a rural passion and put simply, the townies just aren’t bothered. The same way the vast majority of English speaking Welsh people aren’t bothered about their language. Very sad but unfortunately true! I’m quite sure that the Cornish Language will continue to grow organically and when we achieve Recognition there will be a boost in young people interested in learning.

Vote for Me
Politics is another sure fire way of hitting the standby button in most young people’s brains. Most young people really aren’t bothered, Fact! So mention to them Mebyon Kernow and you might as well start a conversation with them about the Kurdish people. I am a life member of MK but unfortunately “The Party for Cornwall” is seen by many as a one policy party. Politicians full stop; don’t carry much appeal with the young. Which again, will annoy the dozen or so councillors, we have representing Cornish tradition throughout the duchy but it really isn’t going to help us gain mass support.


Engaging the young.
The big question is, what is it that makes us feel Cornish, what is it that gives us that gush of national pride?
I can only draw on my own experience. Yes we have our own language, yes we are a Celtic nation but there was one pivotal moment for me that hammered home my sense of being and feeling Cornish. Namely the County Championship Rugby finals of the late 80s and early 90s. 3 out 4 years, Cornwall reached the Final and quite literally Trelawney’s army descended upon London.  For anyone fortunate enough to have attended any of the 3 finals, you could not have left London without an overwhelming sense of national pride and a feeling that a County Championship Final simply wasn’t enough. I wanted more; I wanted Cornwall playing in the then 5 nations. We could fill the millennium stadium if it was in Cornwall!!
I believe that sport is the only thing that will bring about a mass change in the attitude of the Cornish people in regard to our Nation status, especially with the young.

The Way Forward
Luckily we have seen a massive leap forward for our two most prominent sporting teams in the last few years.
The Cornish Pirates (formerly PZ & Newlyn RFC) who had a great chance to qualify to enter the top flight on merit (although the Pirates would have been prevented from going into the Premiership on ground criteria) but fell at the last hurdle.
 And our major football team Truro City FC who have started strongly in their current bid to enter the national leagues. Plans are afoot for a National Stadium near Truro which will benefit both and you can be assured that there will be enough bums on seat for both teams because both give the Cornish a sense of identity and a sense of representation.

This is the angle of approach that should be taken by all Cornish people who crave Recognition, Devolution and/or Independence when it comes to raising awareness. Minority status is a European idea that may become irrelevant to the argument anyway, seeing as the Government seem to be able to base their categorisation of Minorities on the Race Relations act of 1977. If they keep moving the goal posts, what chance do we have!

The Numbers Game
Obtaining 100,000 signatures’ is unlikely without the media getting involved. If the papers, tv and radio do not inform the public in Cornwall that such a petition exists, then how will it ever muster 20% of the population to its cause. Gaining support through social networking only goes so far and it’s easy to be dismissed as a spammer and get blocked or frozen out by the providers, something I’ve experienced first-hand.

BUT

That doesn’t mean we just quit. We need to keep slowly spreading the word.

We need to write letters, the old fashioned type, to editors, producers, and anyone else that has some kind of platform in Cornwall.

We need to keep reminding the powers that be in Europe. We have received a lot of help and gained many allies in Brussels.

We need to throw ourselves behind our sports teams and promote the idea that one day Cornwall will have International teams and that it is not just a pipe dream, it is a reality!! Most people wanted to play for their country when they were a kid, whatever sport it may have been. We need to let kids know that playing international sport for Cornwall is possible and that their chances of being an international increase 100 times if Cornwall has Nation Recognition.

Finally we need to accept that it is not about not supporting England. If England went to the World Cup and Cornwall did not, I’d be there cheering on Stevie G and Jack Wilshire. In the same way I watched Gary Linekar grab the golden boot, Owen score a Hat-trick in Munich, Wilkinson drop goal, to stuff it up the Aussies and Strauss taking his boys to number 1 in the world.

We all want the same thing and to get to that destination, we literally need a fifth of Cornwall’s population to jump aboard. It’s a long bumpy road but if enough people desire something is there really anything a government can do to stop it? At the moment a fraction of the people needed for the government to sit up and take note support Recognition..
Fetch my quill!