Last weekend I attended the annual Pasty Festival in Redruth, where we celebrated the international home of the Cornish Pasty. Luckily the weather remained warm and sunny and it was great to see a large number of people at the event.
The Cornish pasty is recognised across the world. When Cornish miners fanned out across the world, they took the pasty with them. I remember a former colleague from Australia telling me about the Cornish festivals that used to take place in the town where he grew up. We have also developed great links with Real Del Monte in Mexico. I have met representatives of the town on several occasions, including local pasty makers. Hundreds of Cornish miners ended their lives in the area and many are to be found in one of the local cemeteries, apparently facing home to Cornwall which was a common request at the time.
Today the Cornish heritage is evident in some of their architecture and in their love of pasties (or pastes). Last Saturday, like many others, joined in the festivities and made a pasty of my own. Apparently, my attempt was not bad for a beginner and my pasty actually looked like a pasty you would buy from the shop!
When I first became an MP, the Government announced that it would put VAT on freshly baked pasties. The traditional exemption from VAT was what civil servants described as an “anomaly”. Along with my fellow Cornish MPs, I battled to ensure this didn’t happen. Thankfully, common sense prevailed. It was partly this debacle that led to the idea of a pasty festival in Redruth.
Last week I also visited Moseley Museum at Tumblydown Farm in redruth. They have a really good museum at the Farm that showcases Cornwall’s mining heritage and has a variety of attractions for both children and grownups alike. From model train layouts, to exhibits about the mining experience, outdoor train rides and even a tea room, there is plenty for all the family to do.
Cornwall has a unique culture and an industrial heritage to be proud of, with Redruth playing a particularly important role as one of the birthplaces of the industrial revolution and as the centre of the Cornish diaspora across the world. In its prime, Redruth was at the heart of the tin mining industry and there were many feats of engineering developed in Cornwall at that time.
After the decline in the fortunes of tin mining in the late nineteenth century, there was a huge exodus to the new world with Cornish tin miners founding the industry in Australia, California, South Africa, South America and Mexico. As a result, today there are some six to eight million people making up a worldwide Cornish diaspora and the vast majority of them can trace their family roots back to Redruth.
Across Cornwall we are lucky to have a number of reminders that point us back towards our heritage. From our mining heritage commemorated at the new Redruth Town Archives to our pasties and international connections. In such a fast moving world it is often refreshing to be able to pause for a moment and remember all that has gone before us.