Answers Sought Over the Future of Cornish Language Provision

The Celtic League were represented at a meeting of Cornish language groups this afternoon (Sunday 5th July) who came together to discuss changes to the structure of the way Cornwall Council manages its Cornish language provision.
Concern was expressed by representatives about the new structure, which has seen the dissolution of the Cornish Language Partnership recently and the uncertain future of Maga itself.
It seems likely that the new structure will see Cornish language provision managed under a Cultural Department that will include the World Heritage department and archives.
In what can only be described as a cost saving development, it looks likely that the various current Cornish language officer roles – Cornish Language Manager, Education Officer and Marketing Role – will be dissolved over the coming months to be replaced by a ‘Cornish Language Lead’ role, with limited administrative support and a part time business-development officer role, who will also work in other capacities within the department.
The individuals at the meeting, representative of a large section of the voluntary groups that have been the backbone of the Cornish revival for many years, expressed dismay about how the new structure will affect the development of the language in the coming years.
In particular, concerns were expressed about the lack of clarity of whether the work that Maga currently does will be outsourced through the commissioning process as Service Level Agreements or something else, whether the strong network that has been built up over the last decade will be dismantled and whether the new structure will lead to the fragmentation of the partnerships that have been sensitively developed between groups will be put in jeopardy, as groups try to bid against each other for Council contracts to undertake work.
An additional concern was the apparent lack of educational provision built into the new structure and representatives wondered where this had been allocated.
After productive discussion and various suggestions about how the forum should proceed, it was decided that several members should be selected to meet with Council representatives to ask for some answers to the various questions that had been raised.
General Secretary of the League, Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, said:
“The Cornish language is something special that cannot be treated in the same way as other types of service the Council provides.
The Cornish language is critically endangered and the work that needs to be done for it to continue its slow and painful growth back to a healthy state cannot be put out to tender in the hope that those groups who are best suited to help revive the language will be able to put together the kind of professional bids that only organisations with paid staff can produce.
Most of the people who have the deepest experience and understanding of language revival in Cornwall are volunteers and work for organisations that are community led, but the new structure does not seem to take this into consideration.
There is a real concern that the kind of groups who win contracts in the future, if work is commissioned out, will not the be the type of organisations who are best suited to do the job properly and it is the language that will suffer as a consequence.
Once a language starts to decline it is extremely difficult to reverse that shift and once it’s gone it is gone for good. Cornish has bucked the trend with its revival once, but the chances of it happening again are unbelievably slim.
With so much of what it means to be Cornish dependent on the existence of the language, the promotion of Cornish is tantamount to ‘Cornishness’ itself.”
News item prepared by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League
The Celtic League was established in 1961and has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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