Lowender Peran is a registered Charity set up to encourage recognition of Cornwall`s heritage and Celtic links as a vibrant, living tradition that people of all ages and backgrounds can participate in and enjoy. To recognise and value your own and roots and identity is an essential first step in recognising valuing and respecting other peoples. If Cornwall is to survive as a distinct entity in the future then each generation must show the next that our culture has something to offer them that is worth carrying forward into the future. Lowender Peran provides the ideal medium through which to do this.
History of the festival
Whether it was by rebelling against one of the most powerful medieval Kings in Europe, by cradling the industrial revolution or by a unique interpretation of Wesley’s preaching, Cornwall and the Cornish have a long history of expressing a distinctive identity.
From the latter part of the 19th Century there was a steadily increasing recognition and promotion of a Celtic dimension to Cornish identity stemming initially from the linguistic links between Cornish and the other Celtic languages but later moving on to a wider cultural base represented by Cornwall’s acceptance into the Celtic Congress in 1904 and the establishment of the Cornish Gorsedh in 1928.
The banner of Celtic Cornwall was picked up by succeeding generations a there was an annual Celtic festival held in St Ives in the early fifties and by the seventies Cornish folk singer pioneer Brenda Wooton found herself acting as Cornwall’s ambassador in the growing number of Celtic festivals.
The Betty Fest
The Pan Celtic Festival, then held in Killarney, was particularly supportive of the Cornish and encouraged performers to attend and take part in the competitions.
Con O’Connell, the executive director of the festival made frequent visits to Cornwall to drum up support and found an ardent enthusiast in Betty Pitman of Perranporth who lead a party of Cornish to the festival throughout the 70s.
Encouraged by the successful entry of Kemysk in the Celtic Singing competitions in 1978 Betty was determined that Cornwall should have it’s own Celtic festival and by October of that year it did. There was a weeklong festival of what Betty deemed as Celtic activities which included a variety of water sports, tug of war teams and wrestling as well as music and dance. A short while after the first festival Betty booked up the dates and venues for the next year and called a meeting of interested parties, committed them to running the event and then promptly resigned!
The festival was named In recognition of Peran and Lowender Peran was born. Cornish Dance Folk dancing and dance displays were, and are, a key feature of the Celtic festivals as they provide the opportunity for pageant and colour as well as the expression of identity through costume and tradition.
The Cornish group visiting the festival in 1999, inspired by references to the “lancers” being done at troyls held in the fish cellars at Newquay, had adapted parts of the Royal Cornwall Quadrilles from Godolphin House as folk dances to provide a display of dance from Cornwall during the festival. What they had not appreciated was the extent to which the popular “Kerry sets” had also been influenced by the quadrilles of the country houses and that the Cornish quadrilles. There was also much interest in the traditional Cornish step and furry dances but one festival organiser in particular, Ian O’Leary, provided a great deal of encouragement was given to continuing research into Cornish dance tradition.
The dances collected in Cornwall during this period provided a core of material which encouraged the development of Cornish dance display groups and an increasing use of Cornish dances for troyls / barn dances.
Cam Kernewek formed late in 1979 and were quickly followed by Ros Keltek in early 1980 so that Cornish dance displays and troyls were a feature of the 1980 festival and have remained a core part of the festival since that time. Cornish Music Whilst main stage concerts are enjoyed by all and our own bands are regularly joined by well known performers from the Celtic Diaspora, the opportunity to participate has been a key feature of Lowender Peran from the outset.
From the informal sessions that spring up throughout the festival to the opportunity for a spot on the acoustic stage or the Droll Adro story tellers tale swop this continues to be a part of the culture of Lowender Peran. Celebrating a wider Cornish heritage The cover 20th anniversary programme for Lowender Peran depicted a fish wife in work wear costume and marked a move in emphasis towards the celebration of a wider Cornish heritage.
This shift in emphasis eventually lead to the launch of the “An Daras Cornish Folk Arts Project” in 2003 and the regular inclusion of events involving, dialect, verbal arts, costume and Cornish history and folklore as well as an extended range of crafts in the “Celtic Market”. Cornish performers, Lowender Peran 1978 – 2000 The list of Cornish performers at Lowender Peran provides an interesting musical history.
Performers are listed in approximate date order from when they first appear in the programmes:
Fal Folk, Kemysk, Quylkyn Tew, Celtic Pipe Band, Bucca, Mordros, Mo and Ern Keast, Gwesper, Breder Richards, Kenysy Kernow, Brian Webb, John Bolitho, Loveny Choir, Four Lanes Choir, Bodmin Childrens Choir, Cam Kernewek, Ros Keltek, An Tryskell, Heva, Angus and Des, Jon Mills, Brenda Wooton, Bagas Byghan, Myrghes Morwenna, Goonvrea Choir, Port Isaac Singers, Peswar Den, Carnon Vale Choir, Knee High Theatre, A39 Theatre, Trev Lawrence, Joy Stephenson, Mudansa, Gwaryoryon, Last Orders, Anao Atao, Blue Ticket, Eia, Gaja, Tamar Troylers, Lapyor Tom, Newquay Band, John and Frances Webb, Bedlam, Stampede, Penglas, Myrghes Lowen a Vythyan, Ryb an Gwella , Otta Nye Moaz, Graham Sandercock and James Hawken, Bert Bisco, Ragamuffin, Free Fall, Poll Pri, Pyba, Blues Ticket, Bolingey Troyl Band, Myrghes an Vro, White Noise, Sue Allen, Can an Ethen, Juggins Lugger, Scarlets Well, Berdh Arnowydh Kernewek, Calstock Singers. Captain Kernow and the Jack and Jenny Band, Asteveryn, Kana Kara, Tan Ha Dowr, Pete Berryman, Hubbadillia, Mike O’Connor, Blossom the Clown, Sowena, Zabuloe, Dew Varth, Tan Ha Dowr, Rosie Fierek, Calstock Singers, Mo Keast, Tregajorran Troylers, Skwardya, Spit, Ebren Vras, Cornwall Songwriters, Clay Players, Davey/Webb, Konteth Karrek,, Kescanna, Dalla, Naked Feet, Aveladenn, Perraners, Ahanan, Geof Tredinnick, BIM, Chris and Mary Humphries, Kerensa, Joy Stephenson, Krenna, Lowender Peran Dancers, Pentorr, Ray and Becky Delf, Scoot, Bagas Crowd, Kerens, We Be, Julie Elwin, Samba Celtica, Caracana, Camelford Friends Playford Group, Laura Divall, Horners, Pengizers, Red Army, Riff Raff, Alan Woolard, Bagas Porthia, Troyl and Error, Kekezza, Cape Cornwall Singers, Cornwall Fiddle Orchestra, Tros An Treys, Dee and Dave Brotherton, Hedra, Trev and Jacki Lawrence, Cowetha, Gwydh Donsya.
Come along and see us...
Modern Cornwall was born in the first millennium. Archaeology points towards a golden age of trade and communication in Cornwall not only between the Celtic communities of the Atlantic Arc but extending as far as the Eastern Mediterranean. This is the era that gave us our Celtic crosses, our saints, the circular “forts” on our hill tops and our holy wells, all of which continue to mark our landscape as distinctively Cornish. This is the era in which the Brythonic languages of Welsh, Cornish and Breton divided into separate entities but retained their family relationships. Look out for our Levow Brythonnek / Brythonic Voices concert on Saturday night!
Towards the end of the first millennium, circa 930, the Wye was set as the border between England and the “Northern Britons” i.e. the Welsh and the Tamar as the border with the “Western Britons” i.e. the Cornish and Cornwall as we know it today was born. Cornwall’s position on the sea lanes ensured that communications and trade with the Celtic world were maintained into the modern period even if that meant dabbling in a spot of smuggling!
The identity of modern Cornwall is also defined by its role at the forefront of the industrial revolution and mining technology. As well as the ubiquitous engine houses, and a rather romantic image of mining and the culture that went with it, this has left Cornwall with a large and very Cornish global Diaspora. It is a matter of some irony that it was the collapse of the mining industry that triggered Cornwall’s reconnection with its Celtic roots. Cornish self confidence and sense of identity suffered a blow at the loss of its industrial prowess. This was the point at which the Celtic revivalists campaigned to reassert a sense of Celtic identity in Cornwall.
Cornwall was accepted as member of the Pan Celtic League (later to become Celtic Congress) in 1904. The first Old Cornwall Societies formed in the 1920s and lead this directly to collaboration with the Welsh and Breton Gorsedds to revive Gorsedh Kernow and an inaugural ceremony in 1928. It also lead to collaboration with the Celtic Congress to hold a wider Celtic festival in Cornwall. An inter-Celtic festival planned for the early 1930s fell foul of a national rail strike and the second planned for 1939 was cancelled due to the outbreak of war. In 1949 the first Cornish inter-Celtic festival was finally held in St Ives and boasted Irish and Cornish dance workshops as well as events and concerts involving the Celtic languages.
20 years later the advent of the popular music festivals like Woodstock and Glastonbury inspired parallel
festivals across the Celtic world including the Festival Interceltique in Brittany and the Irish Pan Celtic
Competitions. Cornwall was invited to participate in these festivals from the outset and they were
instrumental in continuing the momentum created by the earlier Celtic revivalists. Representatives from these festivals, Polig Montjerrat from Brittany and Con O’Connel from Ireland encouraged performers and Cornish activists generally create their own inter-Celtic festival which they did in 1978 with the formative Lowender Peran.
The history of Cornwall over the past 40 years is mirrored in the history of Lowender Peran. Perhaps the most momentous change during that period has been the formal recognition of Cornwall and its culture by both the Council of Europe and the U.K. Government. The Council of Europe is quite separate and distinct from the European Union! It was set up under the leadership of Churchill in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War with the intention of protecting and indeed celebrating national minority groups as part of the essential cultural fabric of modern Europe. In 2003 the Cornish Language was recognised by the Council of Europe and in 2014 the Cornish themselves were recognised as a national minority with their own distinctive culture alongside of the Welsh and the Scottish peoples.
The U.K. Government has formally acknowledged these recognitions and this has provided a great boost for Cornwall’s sense of a distinct cultural identity. This has impacted both on local government’s approach to Cornish cultural identity and upon the way it has been embraced by Cornish industries. Look out for the Cornish Beers at the festival and try some Cornish Gin tasting on Saturday evening! From Lowender Peran’s perspective it is the development of Cornwall Council’s Cornish Language office that has been a major support for us. Not only in terms of financial help but also practical support towards incorporating the
Cornish language as a living part of the festival. The Language office has also been instrumental in our ability to put together events like the Cornish Shanty singing and our outreach programme to schools across Cornwall.
So what will the next 40 years bring? Well for starters next year we are going to feature Cornish Guizing traditions. These are the dance drama customs that acted as a medium throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for much of the Cornish traditional culture we enjoy today. 2020 marks a series of anniversaries for the Celtic revival including the 100th anniversary of the Old Cornwall Societies and the 50th anniversary of the Festival Interceltique. So you can be sure that we will be pushing the boat out on that one!
Lowender Peran Bys Vykken!