Thursday, 7 April 2011

Past and future brilliance

Last Friday I went along to a second evening of nostalgia at Camborne School led by the Holman-Climax Choir with a slide show of old photographs. The evening was a celebration of Camborne’s extraordinary industrial past and draws a big audience. Last year, the event was oversubscribed and, this year, there is such demand that David Oates has had to organise a second showing set for this Friday.

The fabulous architecture in Camborne stands out in the old photographs but, sadly, many of the buildings have since been lost. The efforts of Jean Charman and others to preserve the last remaining Holman building at Trevu Road has come a step closer which is welcome news. I have always believed that the best way to preserve beautiful architecture is to find a modern use for it. Camborne, Redruth and Hayle have amazing architecture from their industrial past which is frequently underappreciated. We should use it or lose it.

Last Friday’s event left me with two strong impressions. First, the pride and self confidence which surrounded Holmans was striking. You can see it in the old photographs and archive footage. This was a world beating team with high standards.

The second thing that struck me was the resilience of the community that had grown up around Holmans. There last Friday was Agnes James who has played the piano for the choir for the last forty years. That’s tenacity and commitment for you, and the packed audience proved to me that the will to succeed in this part of Cornwall is as strong as ever. We can’t bring Holmans back, but we can rekindle the pride, confidence and can-do attitude that it was built on in the first place.

Rekindling pride and confidence starts with the next generation and there have been some really important steps forward in our local schools. Last week, both Pool and Camborne Schools were granted Academy status along with numerous local primary schools. These will now become fully independent and free to drive up standards in the way they see fit.

I also visited Redruth School where the new Head Teacher, Craig Martin, has made a brilliant start. As well as a new emphasis on reading and homework, the students at the school are currently selecting the design of a new school uniform with traditional blazer and tie. Just as was the case at Camborne School last year, this is a move not just supported by the pupils, but led by them. It might seem a small thing but I think it is an incredibly positive sign because it shows a commitment to raising standards and an aspiration to be the best which is the very culture that created places like Holmans in the first place. It bodes well for the future.