“Launceston has a proud place in Cornwall’s story. It is the historic capital of Cornwall and the castle was built by Brian of Brittany, the Breton knight who became the first Earl of Cornwall following the Norman Conquest. The creation of this earldom recognised Cornwall’s historic integrity and laid the foundations for the constitutional differences that make modern Cornwall distinct from England.
“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.
“Launceston has played a part in every aspect of our distinctive Cornish culture from the carvings that immortalise the music of the Minstrels of St Marys on the East wall of the church to Charles Causley, Morvarth, fellow bard of Gorsedh Kernow and poet laureate of our own time. It has also made its mark on the Cornish Diaspora and we must not forget Phillip Gidley King, the Launceston boy who became the Governor of New South Wales and had a settlement in Tasmania, Launceston, named in his honour.
“Launceston is a bastion of Cornishness on the banks of the Tamar, our border with England and its predecessors and has been for more than a millennium. A border that may come under threat again in the future despite rumours of the Boundary Commission consultation on proposals for a Devonwall constituency being kicked in to the long grass.
“However, despite this possible climbdown in the face of such fierce opposition 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 Council of Europe was certainly critical in its report on the UK Government’s progress with Cornish National Minority status. We must not let these issues that are dear to our hearts be totally lost in the clamour of electioneering. The Council of Europe is quite different from the European Union, it was set up after the Second World War to protect minority cultures.
“In some parts of the media this was framed slightly mockingly as the UK Government’s oppression of Cornwall. Had those parts of the media joined us for our recent St Piran’s Tide celebrations they would have concluded that we are far too confident in our identity and energetically engaged with our culture to feel oppressed. We celebrated the largest number of events and enjoyed the biggest turnout to date. The lack of coverage on BBC TV’s Spotlight was fairly marked but we view this as distance and indifference, not oppression.
“Indeed it is indifference and negative stereotypes that plague us both with the BBC and the wider media. Such negativity encourages those who think it’s OK to express views online in terms that are intolerant and, quite frankly in some cases, border on racism. We must all be active in challenging negative perceptions of Cornwall and of those who love and respect Cornwall. When the press or the BBC get it wrong or unreasonably omit coverage of Cornwall, as did Spotlight with St Piran’s Day, then we must use our recourse to the Press Complaints Council.
“Being positive about our culture and sharing it is equally and perhaps even more important. Whether Cornish born or Cornish of heart we should all be out there embracing and enjoying what Cornwall has to offer. It is not just St Piran’s Tide, we have a calendar full of Cornish cultural activity. Our Proclamation today is to accept the kind invitation of the Mayor and townspeople of Launceston for the Gorsedh Kernow bardic ceremony to be held here in September and there will be a warm welcome for one and all at the events of the Esedhvos Festival of Cornish Culture leading up to this as well as the ceremony itself. In the immediate future of course we shall be celebrating the arrival of May the length and breadth of Cornwall. Kernow, ha Kala Me , Bys Vykken.”
Merv Davey, Telynyor an Weryn
Bardh Meur Kernow / Grand Bard of Cornwall