Cornish Distinctiveness

How can we contribute to keeping Cornwall Cornish?

Cornwall is different, distinctive. Its remarkable heritage reflects how Cornwall’s society, culture and economy has been and still is unusually richly diverse.

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  • A Celtic language, and a Cornish way with the English language: both still spoken and both visible every day in the names of places, from tre to splat, chy to row and in dialect, from loustering to schemying.
  • A uniquely diverse rural, industrial, urban and marine economy, much of it characterised by a particularly Cornish resourcefulness and innovation, adapting to conditions and taking opportunities.
    • mixed and moorland farming
    • wool, cloth and leather-making, in towns and in the rural valleys
    • tin, copper, lead, silver, zinc and manganese mining and in local towns the ancillary processing, engineering and other ancillary industries, now quiescent, but once dominant
    • granite, elvan and slate quarrying, and china-clay and china-stone working,
    • fishing, boatbuilding, victualling and defending
    • tourism, art, music, and entertainment , and sport
    • forests, managed woodlands, coppices and willow gardens; cherry, apple and plum orchards,
    • growing strawbs, taties and caulis, flower-growing
    • brewing and cider-making,
    • renewable energy
  • Distinctively Cornish ways of living in and working with a beautiful, rugged and exciting natural topography:
    • The Atlantic and the two Channels, one day all agitation and fierce power, the next flat as a millpond
    • An extraordinary coastline, loved by millions, from exposed, sheer cliffs to sheltered sandy or shelly beaches, shingly coves and wild towans (dunes)
    • Sinuous, wooded rias, the sunken estuaries of the Cornwall’s main rivers
    • Their winding valleys, steep-sided, requiring effort to leave and breaking Cornwall into separate parts, local Cornwalls within Cornwall
    • Rounded downlands rising on the granite to tor-topped nearly mountains
    • Geology that is sedimentary and igneous, metalliferously mineralised, and exploitable in many ways
  • Equally distinctively Cornish ways of adapting a natural environment that reflects that diverse topography, especially its flora and fauna. And Cornish ways of adapting to that natural environment, living closely and respectfully with nature, and also introducing a distinctively Cornish suite of non-native plants and animals.
  • And the distinctive Cornish identity and spirit, Onen hag Oll, One and All, the ways we have of relating to place, to each other, to our culture and that of others. From maintaining customs to gathering for ceremonies, festivals, feastings and pleasures, partaking in rituals and religious practices, engaging in raucous and more disciplined sports, composing and retelling stories, creating art and literature, making music and dancing wildly; all these contribute tangibly and intangibly to what it is that makes Cornwall distinctive.

All places within Cornwall, while different or distinct from each other, and whether ancient or modern, are distinctively Cornish. They have been made so in the past, and they can be made so in the future.

Caring for this distinctiveness when making decisions that will affect Cornwall in the future will help our economy, society and individual people in many ways.

  • It will reduce or halt the gradual diminishment in recent years of Cornwall’s distinctiveness, which to many is its principal asset, the basis of its brand, a major contributor to the beauty and the interest of its places
  • It will ensure that Cornwall’s landscape, towns and sites continue to be a major part of Cornwall’s draw for visitors, contributing greatly to a tourism economy that is worth nearly £2 billion a year to Cornwall’s economy, supporting jobs and giving pleasure to people from all over the world
  • It will help make Cornwall a better place to be, a more attractive place to work and live in, and to relax and play in. This will increase people’s sense of well-being and encourage them to be more active and healthier
  • It will inspire people to learn about and engage more actively with the places they know and love, and get more involved in deciding their future
  • This will contribute to Cornwall’s sustainability and resilience and ensure that future generations can continue draw on the cultural and heritage capital that distinctiveness contributes to. Additionally it will encourage younger people to get involved now in doing whatever they can to understand, celebrate and maintain Cornwall.

Ertach Kernow (Heritage Kernow), a forum of bodies with interests in Cornwall’s heritage, set up as part of the Devolution Deal between Government and Cornwall, that followed the recognition in 2015 of the Cornish as a National Minority under the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, has commissioned work on how to use and sustain the significance of Cornish Distinctiveness when considering change in any part of Cornwall.

 

Cornish Distinctiveness will be threaded through all future heritage work in Cornwall. This will be set out in the Heritage Strategy that Ertach Kernow has also commissioned

The ‘Distinctively Cornish’ booklet was prepared for the project’s launch at the Conference of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities held at Falmouth in July 2019.

There are also several supporting documents available.