Thursday, 25 August 2011

Be brave … Cornwall is a nation

This morning I attended a meeting of Cornwall Council’s Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and took part in the debate on a Culture White Paper.

I asked a provocative question about how the Council perceived Cornwall in terms of its culture and territorial status. I even challenged the members to “be brave” and to refer to Cornwall as a nation.

In terms of the document, on page 5, it referred to both the Cornish and international communities, but prefixed Cornish with “local.” On the same page, the vision referred to Cornwall as an “international rural region.” A bit confused here … if we are truly “international” that reflects Cornwall’s nationhood, not some concept of regionality or indeed localness.

On page 15, I was delighted to see reference to a “National Archive for Cornwall” – not a local or regional archive, but a National Archive! Fantastic stuff.

However, lower down the same page, another project was described. This was the “International Theatre of Cornwall” based on the “successful National Theatres of Scotland and Wales – although this time people were, for some unfathomable reason, scared to describe ours as a National Theatre!

Leading council officers have asked to discuss this issue further with me, but in the meantime they will continue to describe Cornwall as (please delete as appropriate) (i) a locality / (ii) a region / (iii) a nation / (iv) all three descriptions, sometimes (v) something else!


Alex said...

Nationalism is definitely a slippery thing to define. Would you mind explaining what you think constitutes a nation, since I'm having trouble getting on board with the idea of Cornish as a national identity...

Chris said...

Well Alex, let us go to that not Cornwall friendly source, Wikipedia, where it paraphrases World Book thus:

"Broadly speaking a nation may refer to a 'community of people' who share a 'common territory' and government; and who often share a 'common language', 'ethnic group', descent, and/or 'history'".

Most of that seems to fit very well.

Alex said...

Well, the notions of common territory and community are of little use when distinguishing a nation from a region.

Government? No Cornish Assembly and forgive me if I'm wrong, but no overwhelming movement from the Cornish people to secure one.

Common language? How many people speak it? I was informed that Cornish has been reclassified as 'endangered' having previously been described as 'extinct' by Unesco, but still, it hardly strengthens the claims of Cornish nationhood.

Ethnic group? Cornwall is a such a mix of people, I'm not sure I can get on board with that. Sure, you still have a fair number of people whose names start with 'Tre', but not to such an extent that Cornwall stands out clearly as a separate nation on the island of Britain.

All mere opinions, of course. And I like Cornwall, FWIW. But efforts to rekindle feelings of Cornish nationhood retrospectively seem...I don't mere fantasy, really.