This is a back’long episode from the with-out-a-doubt, ‘hilarious’ public schoolboy, David Mitchell’s, BBC funded ‘David Mitchell’s Soapbox’.
This series was a chance for the floppy-fringed posh boy to spout exactly what he’d been brought up to think, in a ‘funny way’!
In this episode he takes on Gaelic but within ridicules the Cornish language in the most disgusting fashion.
The uninformed buffoon’s tirade includes the idea that “campaigning to put it (Cornish) on road signs is completely lunatic”, apparently unaware that the majority of our place-names are actually Cornish!
There is a Cornwall Council policy of making English road signs bilingual – so unfortunately for Mr Mitchell and although it has nothing to do with him, it is at no extra cost to the Cornish tax-payer and these signs are only replaced as needed.
Mitchell’s drivel is smug, Victorian in thinking and at best, slightly fascistic.
Oh, those days at school when he went to Latinland to hear those Latins speaking Latin. He must remember them well…
Mitchell might do well to remember that in a time when Cornish (not English) was spoken by virtually the entire population of Cornwall, three Cornishmen were saving the English language (such as it was) from extinction. But for they, David Mitchell would be speaking Norman French and probably wouldn’t be called ‘David Mitchell’ either.
To be honest, I’ve never found this clown funny (nor, for that matter, his mine-shaft nosed counter-part) and this just confirmed my conviction.
Lying in bed this morning with the window open and listening to the voices of some of the people in my street, going off to work, it struck me as very depressing. Depressing in the sense that I heard not a single Cornish accent in the tiny cobbled street of the village I live in, in West Penwith. Where once the streets of the village would be ringing with Cornish accents, they now grow fewer and fewer. What has happened? Well obviously the influx of up-country people is in-part to blame. Of the eleven houses in the bottom half of my street, only four house Cornish folk. Two, (the biggest) don’t house anyone but for a few days a year. But it’s more than just that and it’s apparent all over Cornwall.
That most fantastic of Cornish writers, the late Nick Darke, once said, “A community that loses its past is in danger of losing its way.” While masses is happening in the Duchy to preserve our language, old customs etc. the one thing on the way out, it seems, is our beautiful accent. For years, any ‘rural’ accent has denoted the speaker as ‘stupid’ and therefore a disadvantage. So people have started to lose their accents to avoid being tarred with that condescending brush. Today we are bombarded with southern accents; RP or home counties through television and radio. Things changed a little in the nineties, when more ‘regional’ accents were heard but these tended to be a mix of north country, Scots and the ever present home counties. You can’t even hear a local accent on local radio or television anymore. I know of schools in Cornwall whose pupils have been told to stop speaking with a Cornish accent by the teacher. Little wonder then, some of our young folk talk nothing like us.
Renowned Cornish film maker Mark Jenkin: “I haven’t got a Cornish accent because when I went to school, it was thought the Cornish accent was not a very good thing to have. So you were kind of told, not directly but it was certainly coaxed out of you, the Cornish accent. People are beginning to be proud of their Cornish accents again now but when I was growing up it was a thing to be ashamed of and that’s because of these depictions we have. If you want to have a stupid character in a TV programme, give them a Cornish accent. So what does that do to kids who are growing up? They sit down and watch ‘good-old, respectable BBC’ and they show somebody who’s an idiot speaking the way they speak. So what do they do? They change the way they speak. And it’s a beautiful accent. We need somebody for Cornish people to look up to, who’s Cornish, who’s got a Cornish accent, to start redressing that balance, so in my films, characters will have Cornish accents and the cooler the character, then the stronger their fucking accent as far as I’m concerned!”
Luckily Mark’s not alone. Pockets of young people all over the Duchy are producing work that revels in being Cornish, having an accent and speaking Kernewek. Young people need to be proud of who they are and hold on to precious things like their accents.
So does accent matter? Bleddy right it does! Dialect is vitally important as well. Without it we become drones. Borg-like nobodies. I don’t want to sound like people who live hundreds of miles away, a people with whom I have no connection. I want to sound like my Father, like my grand-parents and their parents did. Like the old boys I work with. Like a Cornishman!
Accent underpins who we are as a people, along with our dialect, our language and our history.
Today I have decided to lighten the mood. Below are two links – one on the good news that The St. Piran Trust have been given a grant to be used for the prep work on excavating St Piran’s Oratory in Perranporth. The other, a link to the brilliant Skynt: The Musical. This was the winner of the Govyn Kernewek 2010 award, which allows filmmakers a budget of £5000 to make a film using the Cornish language.
In an article today, the This is Cornwall website reported, that the long-awaited second stab at getting Cornwall recognised as a national and cultural minority, within the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, was going ahead.
Previously we had been denied this status on account of not being, according to the EHRC, a ‘racial group’. In order to become such, we, the Cornish (an indigenous people), would have to be successful in bringing a prosecution of ‘Racial Discrimination’ to the courts. The EHRC would not countenance such cases brought to them and so the Cornish were in limbo. (Incidentally, the English have said status.)
Meanwhile other groups, such as Travellers were recognised by the UK Government, albeit having likewise, no racial discrimination case brought to court. Go fathom…
(John Angarrack’s book ‘Scat t’Larrups? – Resist and Survive’, details the whole experience.)
Yesterday, ‘The Cornish National Minority Report 2’ was launched, with Bert Biscoe at the helm. We can only hope, as clearly much work (again) has gone into this, that this time we won’t be sidelined/ignored by the UK Government, who also ignored the Council of Europe last time round.
Andrew ‘on the fence’ George and Dan ‘piss my pants’ Rogerson presented the report to the ‘Communities and Local Government’ minister Andrew Stunell at Westminster, which probably means that’ll be that, from their end.
Copies have also been handed to Alec Robertson’s old trough buddy Eric Pickles, as well as Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dumber – Cameron & Clegg…
We, the Cornish, however, will not and must not let this pass. In twelve years, things have changed. The fact you’re reading this is a testament to it, (the internet has brought a greater awareness and accessibilty to all things Cornish). Things can’t subtly slide, quylkyn-like under the rug (or silk tie) of Duchy Hall.
Copies of the report are available from Duchy Hall or by e-mailing Bert Biscoe: firstname.lastname@example.org
Driving past Flambards in Helston the other day, I was dismayed to see, at their new entrance, five flags flying in the wind. Dismayed because out of the five, only one was the flag of St. Piran. The others? Two Union flags and two St. George Cross.
What are Flambards trying to say? ‘Hello visitors, yes, you are in England but we’ll fly this funny little black and white flag to keep the locals happy.’
It’s just not good enough!
When a lot of work is being done to get Cornwall recognition; the language back into schools and everyday life; heritage and identity promoted etc. this, from a major visitor attraction is frankly, a disgrace.
It is tokenism incarnate.
Presumably those who run Flambards, (a place that has been served well by the people of Cornwall over the last thirty five years), are unaware that Cornwall was never a party to the Act of Union in 1707 and has NEVER been a part of England.
It is hard enough to battle through the day-to-day drivel of ‘you’re English, Cornwall’s a part of England’ etc, without local businesses reinforcing the idea. The fact that that they have the Cornish flag flying in the middle, makes them seem even more confused!
To my mind there is absolutely no reason fly the Cross of St. George. Not only is it offensive to Cornish folk, it is as ridiculous as flying the French or the USA’s flag.
People understand we’re part of Britain, so the Union flag I can just about get my head ’round (I’d still rather not see it but hey!)
Other attractions around the Duchy fly the Cornish flag loud and proud, Geevor Tin Mine for example, flies St Piran’s flag all over its site and its staff!
Come on Flambards, show you’re proud to be Cornish, do away with the Butcher’s Apron and make being Cornish part of who you are because at £20 a throw, people don’t need brainwashing on top of wallet-rinsing!