Celebrations come and go and some stay constant with each passing year, and Gorsedh Kernow has seen out another twelve months with a healthy mix of both. We enjoyed our quiet time during the dark days of winter although event planning was already underway for what would turn out to be a year to remember.
The people of St Austell played the part of host for 2015 with great enthusiasm, respect and efficiency, not only for the Proclamation in April, but also for the main Esedhvos Festival and Bardic ceremony in September. Their support was essential for the smooth running of these important events in the Gorsedh calendar. Our Awen ceremony, still in its comparative infancy, was truly at home at the newly restored Carwynnen Quoit, near Troon, magnificent in its splendid isolation. Bards supported their local Old Cornwall Societies midsummer bonfires, Crying the Neck ceremonies and the summer and winter Festivals.
The Grand Bard Maureen Fuller, Steren Mor, strengthened overseas friendships with a visit to the Copper Triangle in Australia and with other Celtic nations by attending the Breton and Welsh Gorseddau. She stood down in September and we welcomed our new Deputy Grand Bard Elizabeth Carne, Melennek and Grand Bard Merv Davey, Telynor an Weryn, who picked up and positively ran with the new challenge of office. The Cornish language demanded our attention from the start of the year with new proposals and the uncertainty of a prospective new national Government. On recommendation of the Welsh Language Board, the Grand Bard was to become Chair of the new Cornish Language Forum. Eucharist services in Cornish were introduced for the first time in Truro Cathedral. Gorsedh Kernow was represented at commemorations and celebrations throughout Cornwall.
Further challenges were faced with advertising campaigns laying dubious claims to Cornish history and the prospect of historic granite bridges swept away by floods and wear being replaced by potentially unsuitable structures.
The “Gorsedh Kernow ‘Do Something for Cornwall’ Challenge 2015” was launched by Grand Bard Maureen Fuller, Steren Mor, on St Piran’s Day 5th March to encourage all comers to promote our distinctive Cornish culture. We had stories about processions, gatherings with words, music, song and dance, flag raising and lowering, flag waving, face painting, mini plays and countless cries of Oggy! Oggy! Oggy! Launceston probably stole the show with the lowering of the Cornish flag on Launceston Castle to the singing of Trelawny – a “lump in the throat”moment.
Early April heralded the start of year long celebrations for the Cornwall Youth Brass Band, marking their 60th Diamond Anniversary year with a four day course, exhibition, reunion and Open Day as well as the commissioning of a major new piece of music, “The Mermaid of Zennor”. Secretary and bard Phillip Hunt, Lef a Vrest, kept us informed.
The first anniversary of the granting of Minority Status – Dydh Aswonnans or Recognition Day 24th April – was marked the length and breadth of Cornwall. Members of An Kylgh Kernewek – The Cornish Circle, including bards Vanessa Beeman, Gwenenen, Peter Harvey, Godhonyth an Nor, Rael Harvey, Myrgh Mydroilyn, Roger Tackley, Baner Du, Esme Tackley, Davasyk Ell, Pat Parry, Gwylan Gernow and Gareth Parry, Mab Meliner Gwlan held a special yeth an werin at the New Inn in Mabe, while The St Ives Twinning Association held a Cornish & Breton evening at the St Ives Arts Club with food and wine, art displays, short films, Cornish and Breton music and dance with Tir ha Tavas and the Dancing Baguettes including bard Delia Brotherton, Myrghwyn Melynor. Sarah Tresidder, Palores Tavosek delivered a spirited address in the Cornish language to open a well attended meeting in her village about protecting the local area.
45 choirs, of which 9 were from overseas, descended on Cornwall in late April to a warm welcome from the 25 Cornish choirs taking part in the Cornwall International Male Voice Choral Festival, the biggest of its kind in Europe, announced bard David Peters, Broder yn Can, Vice President of the Festival, alongside more than 16 fellow bards, many of whom are themselves leaders of choirs.
At the end of April more than 300 pupils from different Cornish schools filled the Plen an Gwari in St Just to take part in an hour-long performance of live theatre. The event, watched by teachers, parents, supporters and intrigued onlookers was the climax of an educational programme led by bard Will Coleman, Pednithan, who had been researching Cornish Plenys an Gwari, or playing places, to celebrate Cornwall’s theatrical heritage.
In May Mark Dungey, Donsyor Lanust, told us about an exciting collaboration between Cornish dance group Ros Keltek and the London based Dream Team Theatre Company who wanted to use authentic Cornish dances in their London production of Origo Mundi, one of three miracle plays of the Ordinalia Cycle which was written at Glasney College, Penryn.
Later that month came “Glasney Visions” – a series of events for Penryn Arts Week designed to awaken the 750 years old iconic invisible building of Glasney College which lay tantalisingly beneath the green grass of Glasney College Field. Several bards of Gorsedh Kernow –Delia Brotherton, Myrghwyn Melynor, Vanessa Beeman, Gwenenen, Shelagh Garrard, Cares Jyndwyros and Esme Davasyk Ell and Roger An Baner Du Tackley – took part with others in a special “relay reading” on Glasney College Field by reading aloud, in Cornish and English, from Origo Mundi.
In July a new exhibition, at Falmouth Art Gallery, gave bard Esme Tackley, Davasyk Ell, a further opportunity to highlight the Cornish language. An amazing wall mounted automaton featuring Dolly Pentreath was surrounded by things associated with Cornwall – mines, fishing, lighthouses and small boats and Esme provided the voice-over for Dolly who spoke as the handle on the automaton was turned!
Late July saw the climax of months of work by bards and supporters of the Holyer an Gof Publishers Awards, which attracted a record number of entries for the honour of being presented with a prize at the Awards ceremony at Waterstones in Truro.
In early August Eve Coomber and a group of community minded locals decided to “Do Something for Cornwall” and mark the retirement of the vicar of St Cleer, the Rev Keith Lanyon-Jones by holding a Cornish evening in the vicarage’s Pilgrimage Gardens, raising much needed funds for St Cleer Church.
Songs sung partly in the Cornish language by Ladock and Probus church choirs were a highight of Ladock Church Flower Festival, also held in August, with guidance from bards Hilary Keam, Degar Hwarth and Valerie Willcox, Ylewyth Trevorva, who also conducted the joint choir.
In September bard Pat Tremain, Gevelles Lyskerrys, an enthusiastic member of the British Caving Association, recently explored far underneath Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink near Priddy in the Mendips in order to display a St Piran’s flag after a long, low, narrow crawl that clearly demonstrated the lengths some people will go to in order to “Do Something for Cornwall”!
The Eden Project’s “My Tree, My Community” initiative, which ran during November and into early December, gave schoolchildren, teachers and workshop leaders at eight local schools the chance to meet and work alongside five bards of Gorsedh Kernow – Jo Tagney Donsyores Derow, Clarinda Canores Porthysak and Keith Caner Plu Golom Truscott, Alison Corolyores and Merv Telynor an Weryn Davey. They engaged with over 400 schoolchildren and shared a little bit of Cornish language, dance, song and storytelling to help inspire the creation of eight lit and decorated Christmas trees which were on display at the Eden Project for the Christmas season.
We rounded off our “Do Something” year in a very special way with Cornwall Youth Brass Band celebrating the end of their 60th Diamond Anniversary year with a Christmas course and Open Day. The 60 young musicians of the CYBB spent four days of their Christmas holidays, from Saturday 27th to Wednesday 30th December, rehearsing and studying under the baton of a guest conductor. Secretary and bard Phillip Hunt, Lef a Vrest, says that they repeated the successful open rehearsal and audition on the Sunday and that the Band gave a Gala Concert at St Michael’s Church in Newquay on the final Wednesday.
… and 2016 is just round the corner. Bledhen Nowydh Da dhewgh hwi Oll – A Happy New Year to you All! Here’s to a good one.