Australia, Bewnans Kernow, Copper Coast, Copper Mining, Cornish Culture Association, Cornwall, dance, Festivals, Heritage, History, Jay Weatherill, Kadina, Kernewek Lowender, Kernow, Kernow bys vykken, Moonta, music, Revived tradition, South Australia, Wallaroo, Yorke Peninsula
** Originally published in the Western Morning News 20/5/17 **
Cornish Australian Sally Bell travels from her home in the South West to her childhood home Down Under for Kernewek Lowender – the world’s biggest festival of Cornish culture.
The world’s largest Cornish festival, Kernewek Lowender, began yesterday in Australia’s “Little Cornwall” on the Copper Coast in South Australia. The festival, which is expected to draw 50,000 people over three days, has been held biennially in the towns of Moonta, Wallaroo and Kadina since 1973.
The opening day drew huge crowds in Moonta, which became a Cornish community in the 1860s after the discovery of copper. Cornish miners and their families created close-knit communities and Cornish heritage and culture is a part of everyday living in this part of South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, two hours north west of Adelaide.
Moonta was a sea of Cornish tartan with adults and children dressed in traditional costume. The autumn sun shone for the first event of the day, a procession through the streets of Moonta, with floats with children from local schools and representatives of local business and Cornish associations of Australia. The Grand Bard of Gorsedh Kernow, Merv Davey, who is the guest of honour, processed through the street with the group playing Cornish double-chantered bagpipes.
The most contentious event of the day was the Pasty Bake-Off, where members of the local community and the Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill, were challenged to make the best pasty from scratch. Judged on the quality of their pastry, how finely their veg was cut and how good their crimp was.
Attention then turned to the maypole dancing with numerous May poles erected along the main street of Moonta, and children from all schools dancing proudly. The Furry dance followed, and again the children excelled themselves to the delight of the watching crowds.
The formal proceedings began with a Welcome to Country by a local school child, then there were addresses from the Festival officials. The Festival was officially opened by Premier Jay Weatherill who made mention of the recent news that the South Australian Cornish mining towns of Burra and Moonta have been added to the National Heritage List, paving the way for these areas to apply for recognition which would put them on the same level as the Cornish Mining World Heritage areas.
Premier Weatherill went on to add,
“Though many are aware of the significance of the Cornish, I’d like to see their contribution receive greater prominence. The classification of the two mines means they’re connected to the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape on the World Heritage List. Also, it means that – in a general way – they enjoy a stronger sense of identity and are even more outward-looking in their orientation to the world. This new status is something that we – together – can use to further project this region to the world, and to share our unique history and culture. Very few immigrant communities have been more influential – more enterprising and full of conviction – than the “Cousin Jacks” and “Cousin Jennies” of South Australia. They’re part of our State’s social, political and economic “DNA”. And in 2017 they continue to make this – in every way possible – a decent, buoyant and optimistic place to live.”
The Grand Bard of Gorsedh Kernow, Merv Davey, who is also the guest of honour, then addressed the crowd in Kernewek and English.
On Friday evening there was a traditional Chapel tea with Cornish music; on Saturday the festival will bring the town of Kadina to life with more Maypole and Furry Dancing, Cousin Jack and Jenny Dress up Competition, markets and plenty of entertainment. The traditional ceremony Gathering of the Bards of Gorsedh Kernow will be held in Wallaroo in the afternoon which will see bards from across the globe come together for this unique ceremony spoken entirely in Cornish.
On Sunday there will be a traditional “Blessing of the Waters” at the Wallaroo foreshore which remembers the hardships of previous generations of Cornish families. This will be followed by a Classic cavalcade of cars and motor cycles from Moonta to Kadina and a Voices in the Ecumenical Heritage Church Service which is expected to fill the 1200 person capacity historic Moonta Mines Uniting Church.
Kernewek Lowender provides a direct economic benefit to the local community of AU$8 million and an indirect benefit of AU$30 million to tourism across the State of South Australia. It is hoped that with increased support from the local community and the State government this will be the best Festival in its proud 44-year history.
(C) Sally Bell 2017