This is my last column as Grand Bard of Gorsedh Kernow. At our September ceremony I pass the crown on to my successor Elizabeth Carne. Grand Bards serve a three year term and what an amazing experience it has been for me. Gorsedh Kernow holds three ceremonies a year in locations that connect with Cornwall’s history and distinct identity. The Grand Bard leads these ceremonies and I have found myself officiating at exotic locations like Launceston Castle, Warbstow Bury (in the pouring rain) and the haunting Ballowall Barrow, in west Penwith. On 1 September 2018 we will be holding our ceremony at the Barrowfields in Newquay with their panoramic view of the North Cornish Coast.
There is also a civic role for the Grand Bard in representing Cornwall and Cornish tradition. When the Queen visited Cornwall I was invited to join her for lunch at St Michael’s Mount, definitely one of life’s experiences! This contrasts with an invitation to participate in the Furry Dance through the town of Moonta in South Australia during Kernewek Lowender. This is a massive, bi-annual, festival held in the Copper triangle of Yorke Peninsula which celebrates the traditions brought to the area by the Cornish Miners in the early nineteenth century. The Grand Bard also represents Cornwall each year at the Breton Gorsedh and at the Welsh Eistedfodd.
The role of the Grand Bard is also a campaigning one to assert Cornwall’s distinct Celtic identity and the implications of the recognition of Cornish National Minority status in 2014. This has involved some interesting meetings with English Heritage around the interpretation of Cornish properties it manages and a wonderful tour of the new archaeological excavations at Tintagel. I also found myself engaged with the boundary commission and the ongoing debate about incorporating part of Cornwall into Devon for the parliamentary constituencies.
My favourite moments as Grand Bard are nevertheless sharing the excitement of the St Piran’s day events with Children on 5 March each year when we celebrate our patron saint and the distinctive Cornwall he represents. Of course this is something that will not stop as I move on from the role of Grand Bard! I look forward to sharing stories and information about Cornwall in a different persona in future Cornwall Life columns but in the meantime Kernow Bys Vykken (Cornwall Forever)!
‘Grand Bards serve a three year term and what an amazing experience it has been for me’
Merv Davey continues his column as Dr Folk in our October issue. Folkgorsedhkernow.org.uk @GorsedhKernow
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