The new BBC documentary on Cornwall by Simon Reeve which started this week is a thoughtful project which could bring to life some of the broader challenges and issues that Cornwall faces, but also to show the rest country some of our unique characteristics. Beautiful though our coastline is, there is more to Cornwall than beaches and the programme has the opportunity to explore these.
Camborne featured quite heavily in the first episode with the charitable work of Don Gardner being rightly recognised and with a tour of South Crofty mine and the potential for it being reopened also explored. My family have lived in this area for some 400 years and have lived through the changing fortunes of my home towns. At the peak of the tin mining era, Redruth was one of the wealthiest towns in the country and you can still see today in the beautiful Victorian architecture around the town the legacy of that wealth. In Camborne, Holmans developed into a world-beating engineering company exporting its technology around the world employing thousands. It was still a major employer when I was growing up in the late 70s and early 80s and when it finally closed it was a blow to the fortunes of our town. There were other successful local companies like the Tyacks Group, which my grandfather was involved with.
The loss of Holmans was a bitter blow and did lead to some deprivation and initially high unemployment. However, there has also been great resilience in our community. Many of the apprentices who worked at Holmans went on to set up their own businesses. Today we have some new, world-beating engineering firms like Large Diameter Drilling (LDD) at Tolvaddon and DP Engineering which continue the tradition of precision engineering and drilling technology while great local companies like Teagle continue to do well. We have also seen a new computer software industry develop in a cluster around Pool with companies like BlueFruit and Headforwards Software growing exponentially and with the computer software sector now employing about 500 people on good salaries in our area. We have a new Cornwall Archive on the site of the old Redruth Brewery and the regeneration of Hayle Harbour now fully underway and unemployment is actually below the national average.
In common with many other areas around the country, we have pockets of deprivation and we need to address that by continuing to increase the National Living Wage to help those on the lowest incomes, attract new industries and better-paid jobs and also support the excellent schools we have locally who at raising aspirations so that young people growing up in our area today can take those new jobs.
However, while recognising some of the challenges we must not undermine the self-confidence of our area. Once again, Pengegon was singled out for coverage in the documentary. I remember Claire Arymar, a community co-ordinator in Pengegon, telling me those who lived there often felt patronised by people constantly going there to talk about poverty when actually they were a community who looked out for one another and had resilience; not everyone wanted to go to the beach, and it wasn’t always helpful to tell them they should. We have a history to be proud of and great ability and expertise still to draw upon, and it is very important that we instil the confidence in the next generation to fulfil their potential.