Monday, 12 September 2016

Poldark, the Sunday Express and Cornwall's dysfunctional housing market

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian uses a recent piece in the Sunday Express as my source material. Enjoy ... it will be as follows:

The return of Poldark to our television screens has certainly brought Cornwall back into the homes of millions and millions of people across the UK and the wider world.

The extent and variety of newspaper reports into the series is also quite remarkable though, as a former farm worker, I have decided not to enter into the ongoing technical discussion about the scything undertaken by a bare-chested Aiden Turner / Ross Poldark in series one.

And it is undeniable that the drama has showcased much of Cornwall’s beautiful countryside, though it saddens me that it is being linked to reports in the property pages of Sunday newspapers which frankly distort the reality of modern Cornwall.

I saw one recent article from the Sunday Express that even renamed our homeland as “Poldark land” and went on to wax lyrically about Cornwall’s “golden beaches,” “rugged cliffs” and how the sea was of the “bluest-greenest perfection.”

But everyone quoted in the piece seemed to be an estate agent and these men only wanted to talk about places such as the Camel Estuary, Feock, Mylor, Restronguet Point, St Mawes and Truro – along with expensive restaurants and “other foodie outlets,” properties with sought-after “sea or estuary views,” the lifestyle choices of the affluent and the inevitable boosts to the “second home market.”

From my perspective, the Cornwall imagined by the metropolitan writers of the Sunday Express is very different from the Cornwall in which I live.

The newspaper did acknowledge that Cornwall was also “one of the UK’s poorest regions.” But it was only a tokenistic mention, followed by the less-than-thoughtful comment of “and it’s not always sunny.”

It all reminds me of so many similar articles including one from the Sunday Times in 2013. You may remember that one claimed Cornwall was a “playground for the super-rich,” and it had a lot to say about celebrities, helipads, polo on the beach” and hotel rooms with “the scent of fig electronically pumped into the air.” 

They also renamed Cornwall. Not as “Poldark land” but as the “Champagne Coast,” adding that “with the drive down from London taking just three hours in a Porsche, Cornwall is becoming something of a millionaire’s paradise.”

I refuse to recognise this almost mythical “lifestyle Cornwall.” And I want to see more properly-researched articles from the mainstream media about what Dr Bernard Deacon once described as “life-struggle Cornwall,” the reality in which local people struggle to make ends meet and access affordable housing in a low-wage area that has an economic performance which is only 70% of the UK average.

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