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.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Why so much hate for the Cornish?

I would not trade my Cornish upbringing for any other in the world. Growing up in a tiny village, there was a sense of safety and community that without a doubt shaped my open-armed, trusting character of today. Perhaps this is the reason I am so naive to certain behaviors.

My mother recently organised a protest at the Cornish border in Launceston (Google 'Devonwall Protest' if you're interested). During this peaceful protest, songs were sung, speeches were made and many cars passed, beeping and cheering in support. Cornish people are proud to be Cornish! I was handing out leaflets to cars that stopped and was received warmly by the vast majority. What happened then I can only describe as vulgar at best and discrimination at worst. A young couple, about my age, slowed down as they drove past the crowds of Cornish flags and tartan. I approached the vehicle with leaflet in hand and smile on face, as I had done with several cars prior to theirs. As my eyes met with the young woman's sat inside the car, she gave me such a look of disdain before aggressively sticking her middle finger up at me, never breaking eye contact, before speeding away.

But this is not the first incident of 'Cornish hating' I have experienced. My skin has grown thick to the jibes of some acquaintances who only really reveal their own ignorance by proudly declaring "You're English, get over it!". I've had friends from over the Tamar, jovially calling me "Inbred" or a "cone-head" (whatever the hell that may mean...). This doesn't bother me. I'm big and ugly enough now to know my own identity without being swayed by the opinions of others. But when did this jibing begin? Why?

You don't have to scroll through a Cornish Facebook page for very long before finding an argument erupted in the comments, started by someone who won't accept the fact that Cornwall has it's own identity. But why all the hate?

A direct quote from MP Sajid Javid in October 2016: "Some in Cornwall see their 'county' as distinct from the rest of their 'region', a special case that should be handled separately from everywhere east of the Tamar. If we're going to make a success of the 'South West', that whole attitude has to change." Well, I'm sorry Mr Javid, but I think YOUR attitude needs to change. If you knew the first thing about Cornwall, you would know that we are different from everywhere east of the Tamar. Have you ever taken the time to learn about Cornwall's history or even visit? No, Newquay for a stag weekend does not count, Mr Javid.

So.... why all the hate?

Is it denial? "They talk our language now, they look like us, we love their pasties and their beaches. They must be part of England."

Is there an underlying imperialism bred into all English people? A pre-programmed need to come, see and conquer all that they come and see?!

Is it xenophobia? A fear that 'foreign' people are living on this increasingly English island. Anything different must be bad!

I love English people. More specifically, I love an English man, from Wigan and I'd like to think he loves me! So why all the hate for Cornwall, England? We have our own language, we have beautiful songs, we have cultural events that could stir your soul and ancient villages that you thought only existed in BBC period dramas. If you won't allow us funding or political support for these things, at least just let us be. Drop the hate and let us be what we are. Cornish.