I have always hated the way some people talk down my home towns. Camborne, Redruth and Hayle have undoubtedly had their share of knocks in recent decades but this is also the part of Cornwall where the work gets done and where stuff gets made. There is real talent here, we can hold our own against any other urban centre in the country and we have an amazing industrial heritage to be proud of.
So I was very annoyed to read a recent article written for the Guardian newspaper by an academic who basically set out to trash our area and claim, extraordinarily, that there was a lack of small local charities. What makes it especially irritating is that I met the author, James Mumford, a year ago because he contacted me about his project. I gave him a whole list of excellent charitable organisations all doing their bit and encouraged him to see their work.
The community at Pengegon he cited is rightly proud of what has been achieved in recent years with antisocial behaviour down dramatically and a strong community spirit. I attended the community fun day last August organised by Claire Arymar and the atmosphere was great. Andy Richards, the local PCSO not only polices the area but runs football and basketball teams for younger residents in his spare time and he and the other members of the neighbourhood policing team have become highly respected.
If he had taken my advice, the author could have visited groups like Home Start, where volunteers offer practical support in the home for struggling parents. He could have visited WILD which supports girls trying to cope with the responsibilities of motherhood. He could have visited Young Mums Will Achieve which raises aspiration among single mothers. He could have visited charities like CN4C, the Redruth North Partnership or the All Saints Community Centre at Tuckingmill which each in turn host many vibrant social enterprises and charities on the front line. He could have visited some of the food banks run by volunteers from our churches. He could have visited great charities like Penhaligon's Friends where volunteers support children who have suffered bereavement. Or he could have visited small youth groups like Searchlight where he would find local children, who haven't got much for themselves, regularly donating some of their modest pocket money to help less fortunate children in developing countries. This part of Cornwall doesn't need lectures on charity.
As for his comments about our schools, I have visited over thirty schools in the Camborne and Redruth area in the last couple of years. Many have opted to become academies and standards are rising with interventions to ensure primary school children learn to read and write and with new school uniforms and a renewed focus on maths, science and languages in all our secondary schools. We can be proud of our schools and the next generation coming through.
The main argument of the article was that small charities have an important role to play in helping to get communities back on their feet. I don't disagree with that. However, there is another factor that holds some parts of the country back: low self esteem. I want to see our towns get their confidence back because we can beat the best of the rest and what we don’t need are people only expressing defeatist and negative sentiments about our area.