As the first Principal Librarian of the Cornish Studies Library I was blessed with an opportunity to spend my working life doing a little to gather and preserve the printed and published records of our particular history and culture for future generations. At the time I could take some pride in being employed by a local authority which, through a lack of irrelevant, time-wasting, costly and counter-productive central government diktats, using modest local expenditures coupled with an element of trust, gradually enhanced the facilities it could offer to those who had a love for Cornwall's heritage. However, although the protestations of support for heritage and culture from the present Unitary Authority have grown more strident, right now one can only feel shame as a Cornishman that it is jeopardising the very existence of much of what has been achieved by its predecessor authorities. Is this 'our' local authority? I believe that it is time that we who care for our culture and heritage, stated unequivocally that 'enough is enough'.
On the back of the dubious results of the aforementioned survey, a superb team of archaeologists painstakingly assembled over many years, resulting in not only one of the finest such services in Britain (including one of the best databases of historic and archaeological sites and monuments to be found anywhere, and the achievement of World Heritage Site status for much of Cornwall) is being diminished, and a number of the most experienced and loyal-to-Cornwall staff have already left. The annual funding of the Royal Cornwall Museum was also savaged, resulting in extensive job-losses there, and an inevitable loss of expertise from Cornwall. Reductions in staffing numbers have already occurred at the Cornwall Record Office and Kresenn Kernow, disguised to a degree by short-term relief staff contracts. Does all this truly have the support of the people of Cornwall?
This is the self-same authority which proudly boasts of making a bid for Cornwall to be the 2013 'UK City of Culture', justifiably highlighting its contemporary creative strengths, but also its heritage of scheduled ancient monuments, listed buildings etc. Unfortunately it neatly sidesteps the matter of Cornwall's historic culture, preserved as an inspiration for its future development at Kresenn Kernow, the Cornwall Record Office and the Royal Cornwall Museum. Apparently the hard documentary evidence and the surviving artefacts of Cornwall's traditional culture are of no significance.
There is a fundamental difficulty with local government finances inasmuch as funds from one department cannot be shuffled to one more needy. So, the £20,000 salary just found by a clearly well-off section to pay for an officer to protect the Olympic flame on its especially hazardous passage through Cornwall, cannot unfortunately support an existing service with a good track record. £80,000 is pocket-money for the well-funded services to find, but it is a crucial amount for the smaller services.
At the Open Cornish Gorsedd in Helston recently, the Grand Bard spoke in complimentary vein of the recently-aired proposal by Cornwall Council to create a 'National Library of Cornwall'. In the light of this, it seems perverse in the extreme to reduce the service it already has to its bare bones.
Details of the proposed cuts are also available on the Cornwall Centre / Kresenn Kernow website - www.cornwall.gov.uk/CornwallCentre , and the Cornwall Record Office's - www.cornwall.gov.uk/cro . If you wish to simply comment, as I hope you will, you can email the services on firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com respectively. I leave it to you to decide if you simply wish to respond to their choice of how to make the £80,000 cut, or if you feel strongly enough about it to protest about the Council's cavalier attitude to financing its heritage and culture services.