Saturday, 29 April 2017

What is Flora Day?

I have always struggled to find the right words to explain Helston's Flora Day and what it means to us Helstonians. When people who have never experienced it have asked me to describe the day, I don't know where to start. So I have decided to take the time to write a chronological account of my typical Flora Day. So next time somebody asks, I can just send them the link and save myself hyperventilating with excitement, desperately trying to explain it all at 100mph.

6am - Rise and Shine! - If you're anything like me, you'll be fresh as a daisy and springing out of bed easier than a child on Christmas morning. That is, of course, providing you haven't peaked too early by hitting Flora Eve way too hard. In that case, wake yourself up with a pint. You're going to have to push through it.

6.45am - The quiet but slowly increasing chatter of town as people gather awaiting the first dance. There is an ever-building sense of excitement as our town awakens on the best day of the year. Friends and families are beginning to meet and gather. Folk are walking through town with a passing "Morning!" or "Alright?" with more of a smile and a spring in their step than any other day of the year. The pubs in town are beginning to open their doors and people are gazing at the sky, commenting about the weather with optimism.

7am - THE FIRST BANG of the Big Bass Drum. Hell! You know you're a Helstonian if even the thought of that first bang gives you tingles in your stomach and stirs something within your soul that you'll never be able to fully explain to outsiders. This opens the first dance. Mainly Helston-born locals, some who have danced pretty much every Flora Day since they were 7 years old in school. You will find me watching with all of my family, waving to all the familiar faces in the dance as they smile back, sometimes a little soggy and sleepy, but always with an evident sense of pride, beaming through.

8.30am - Hal-An-Tow - this ancient tradition will probably seem the strangest to anyone who has never experienced it before. First of all you will hear it coming. Shouting, whistling, banging of sticks and yells that may remind you of an angry mob. Don't be alarmed. This is how Helston welcomes in the summer. Just go with it. What does "Jolly rumble-o" mean anyway?

9am - Children's Dance - The longest and arguably cutest dance of the day. Children from all 3 of Helston's primaries dance through the streets wearing white and their respective flowers that represent their school. As well as Helston's secondary school dancers, proud teenagers representing, every single one wearing their lily of the valley.

12pm - Midday Dance - This is main dance of the day. Expect ladies and gentlemen in ball-gowns and morning suits. Beautiful to watch and a true Helstonian's #lifegoals to have the privilege of taking part in.

THE FAIR - Are you even from Helston if you don't get a surge of excitement in your gut the first time you see the fair lorries lined up in the lay-by a few days before the big day? But going to the fair on Flora Day afternoon can easily be the worst or best decision of your day. Yes, the "Thriller" ride may have been a great idea 7 beers ago. Expect to leave the fair feeling sick, with a bag of candy floss in one hand and a bag with a goldfish in the other, being uncertain of which one you regret the most. This blog is dedicated to my late goldfish Steve, pictured below, who I may have won from a Flora Day fair, but who in turn won my heart.

5PM - LAST DANCE - For me, this can be one of the most memorable times of the day. All the same familiar faces from the first dance are now suitably beered right up! Their dancing might be slightly sloppier but their smiles are even wider and they will answer your cheers with a "yeeeewww" or a "right onnn!". 

By this stage everyone has been considerably drunk for a good few hours. I will always try and catch the dance as it comes to an end outside the town hall. I will try and get as close to the band as possible and surround myself with as many friends who are as suitably inebriated as myself. With pint in one hand and other arm clinging on to closest one of said friends, this is the moment where you take a look around at the crowd of hundreds, maybe thousands you are standing in and realise we are all feeling the same thing as the band plays the final verse and chorus. Connected by the love of Flora Day and the unspoken promise that we will try our best to never miss one and wherever we may go, we will always come home. 

Within a sea of swaying people and pints raised up in the air, the band finishes the last chorus and draws to a stirring end. "MORE!" the whole of Helston will shout and then begins the encore. The same few bars that we have been hearing repeatedly since 7am this morning and every year since before we can remember, yet all we want is to hear it one last time. We just don't want it to end. But when it does, when the band can finally rest and the dancers can relax, you will hear a lone voice coming from somewhere in the crowd. A voice that will be deep and loud and strong and proud. A voice that will bellow at the top of its lungs. "OGGY OGGY OGGY!" and I don't think I need to tell you how the whole of Helston will triumphantly reply. 

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Kernewek + Tinder = #Kernder

I have recently been having a lot of fun on Tinder. Probably not the type of fun you would expect from a dating app. In fact, I have discovered that many men in the area will give the Cornish language a go if there is something on offer in exchange. I may have suggested on my profile that I would be very impressed with someone who could have a conversation with me in Kernewek. I mean, very impressed...

It sounds bad, I know. But I feel like I am doing my bit for Kernewek, which in my eyes can only be a good thing!

So after updating my bio, here are the sort of responses I got:

Do you want to dance with me?

Think he wants me to "send nudes" ...

That's encouraging!

That's not so encouraging...

Good effort!

This is probably the closest to a full Kernewek conversation I, or anyone for that matter, has had on Tinder.

So as there is no Cornish option on Google translate, some men must have been searching online for Cornish phrases for the first time. That's great! I'm not even sorry.

Kernewek is being spoken more and more on social media, so why not stretch this to dating apps? I would encourage all you single Cornish boys and maids to try it out. #Kernder 

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Was Cornish language funding cut because it was too successful?

In April 2014 the Cornish were granted national minority status. This was supposed to include the same protection that the government allows the Welsh, Irish and Scottish. This was also supposed to include government departments and public bodies taking Cornwall's views into account when making decisions. Finally, this was also supposed to include combating discrimination and preserving the culture and identity of Cornwall. Hmmmm. Read more here.

Lo and behold! April 2016 and the decision was made to cut Cornish language funding. I'm not making it up.

So setting aside the argument that this decision may in fact be illegal (good one, government!) let's look at what happened in the 2 years between 2014 and 2016 to warrant this decision being made. 

Before the funding was cut, Cornwall was receiving a mere £150k a year for the Cornish language. Let's compare that figure to some others. The UK government has a total of £30 million available for museums until 2018. The UK government is also creating a new £30 million cultural protection fund to support the protection of cultural heritage in global conflict zones overseas. That's great - but then why stamp down on Cornwall's cultural heritage?

Does £150k a year still seem like such a huge "waste of tax payers' money" to you? Let's break that down to the number of people in Cornwall, around 536,000. That's 28p per person... per year!

But despite the lack of it, what was Cornwall able to achieve with this money? Here's some examples of what was achieved by MAGA (Cornish language partnership of Cornwall Council along with a team of volunteers) in a 5 year period before the funding was cut, solely relating to education.

1. Instigated and run a successful intensive course. First held in 2009, this residential course near Falmouth has been over-subscribed and lead to additional courses being held at Truro High School and St Austell. 

2. Developed and run Say Something in Cornish. This fantastic online facility is totally free! Complete beginners to the Cornish language can learn the basics at their own pace with these fun and easy-going lessons.

3. Developed and run Learn Cornish Now. This site acts as a platform for people wanting to begin learning Cornish, offering help and advice as well as information about available classes and courses. 

4. Developed and maintained an open virtual learning environment for online learners. A free resource, hosted by Cornwall College, containing a variety of MAGA courses. 

5. Given out resources to schools. Pocket guides, children's stories and St Piran's Day themed packs to give teachers ideas for activities and stimulate enquiries and interest in Cornish language. 

6. Developed Early Years Practitioners training.

7. Directly taught in over 30% of primary and 50% of secondary schools in Cornwall, supported teachers developing their own abilities to teach Cornish and provided material and guidance for language activists to visit schools independently.

8. Regularly contacted every school within the Cornwall Local Education Authorities over a two year period.

9. Petitioned Teacher Training organisations.

10. Worked with a number of Higher Education Institutions and language organisations to raise the profile of Cornish and the work of the language movement.

11. Worked in partnership with a variety of quangos and organisations to teach Cornish and develop Cornish based resources.

12. Developed and run bespoke corporate courses for Tesco stores and Cornwall Council.

13. Developed and produced a variety of resources in the Standard Written Form of Cornish.

14. Created a website and structural frame work for a Cornish Language teaching association.

15. Developed a partnership agreement with the WJEC to provide an alternative for the now withdrawn Asset Languages assessments. Providing a nationally recognised qualification framework for Cornish Language exams.

16. Annually run sessions on Cornish language teachers training days.

17. Provided technical assistance to community groups recording and editing audio files.

18. Supported MAGA run stalls at major events such as Royal Cornwall Show, Head teachers’ conferences and Flora Day.

.... and then in April 2016 the funding was cut.

There are plenty of people passionate enough about learning Cornish and with a little bit of funding for resources, the language seemed to be beginning to thrive again. So why now, when more and more people are interested in learning Cornish has the funding been cut? 

It's as if our government doesn't want Cornwall's unique identity and culture to survive, let alone thrive. But thanks for the "National Minority Status" all the same...

Friday, 25 November 2016

Are Cornish people victims of acceptable racism?

It is not a taboo subject to discriminate against the Cornish people as it is to discriminate against other ethnic minorities. Is Cornish-hating considered by the majority as acceptable?

I was shocked at the response to my previous blog post "Why so much hate for the Cornish?". I expected those who have experienced this sort of behaviour first-hand to relate and those who hadn't to be saddened by it. What I didn't expect was so many people to fiercely deny the very existence of this issue. To deny the existence of this type of hate is allowing it to happen; letting it slip under the radar, slowly eroding the Cornish spirit away.

I decided to gather some evidence. Granted, social media is not exactly "real life", but it is the easiest way to find and capture black-on-white proof of what should be recognised as hate speech. 

Now these are just a few examples I found on the internet one afternoon. I will apologise in advance for the absolute filth you are about to read. I would not draw attention to this if were not something I felt strongly about. 

First example; some recent comments from a Facebook page on this photo.

Do you see this as a personal attack on English people? They seem to take it that way...

Here's some examples of a generalisation or stereotype of Cornish people being "stupid", which would be considered racist if the Cornish were recognised by society as an ethnic minority.

Anyone else getting tired of being told to get over yourself? 

Then of course, there's the good old "inbred" sneer...

Now this part is important: 

Nobody is saying that this is the only type of discrimination. There are horrible people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, sexualities, nationalities and indeed BOTH sides of the Tamar. I live in hope that these people are in the minority. But that doesn't mean to say that Cornish hating doesn't exist. I expect most of these people wouldn't dream of using such language against other ethnic minorities.... or not so publicly, anyway!

Why do I feel this is so important? Why can't we just ignore these idiots? Yes of course we could... and we do! But the continued, niggling abuse of a nation, will inevitably over time have an effect.  

I believe that many Cornish people over the years may have chosen an easier life by avoiding confrontation that a "Cornish pride" attracts. How many times can a person defend their corner before being beaten into submission? I believe that people would not be so freely hateful towards the Cornish if Cornwall had the same recognition as other ethnic minorities. Yes, we were granted a "minority status", how much has that been worth? Well, that's another blog post entirely... 

Please report hate crime of any kind at all here.