Well done to everyone involved with the wonderful “Man Engine” project, which is at the very heart of activities marking the tenth anniversary of the Cornish mining landscape being added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Like thousands of others, I felt very fortunate to be able to see the UK’s largest-ever mechanical puppet rise up and transform into a very real, but also deeply symbolic, representation of Cornwall, its mining heritage and the ingenuity of its people, both past and present.
Each time that I have seen the “Man Engine” come to life, I have found the whole spectacle to be truly inspirational – a positive, inclusive and unashamed celebration of this very important part of Cornwall’s unique and distinctive identity.
I was also delighted to see how the project used Cornwall’s national language with great pride, showing it to be a vital and living part of our present.
Indeed, here in Cornwall, there is so much of which we should be proud. And it is my hope that many people will have been inspired by this project and will be encouraged to do more to celebrate our identity – whether it is through the study of history and archaeology, taking part in the local music scene, learning Cornish, supporting all manner of artistic endeavours, or indeed becoming more actively involved in politics.
It should surprise no-one that I consider our cultural distinctiveness to be extremely important and also of great economic benefit.
Even the Government claims this is the case in its so-called “Devolution Deal.” It says that it recognises “Cornwall’s rich and unique heritage” and its “historic revived language,” adding that “this cultural distinctiveness is an important factor” for our economy.
It has encouraged the unitary authority to commence the production of a “study of the cultural distinctiveness of Cornwall's historic environment” and supported the formation of a Cornish Heritage Forum.
In the “Devolution Deal,” it even referenced the 2014 recognition of the Cornish as a “national minority” through the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention, though it then talked about our “local” heritage rather than our national identity.
I find it saddening that central government has yet to live up to its words in any meaningful way and I think it was especially galling that they have gone back on promises to support the Cornish language with funding.
But at this time, let us be positive and follow the example of the men and women behind the “Man Engine,” and think what we can do, as individuals, to raise the bar in celebration of all things Cornish.