Matthew Clarke: Defining The Cornish Identity Through Language and Music


Matthew Clarke: one of theleading voices of  Cornwall who continues to spread the cultural identity of his nation through music and language.

I stumbled upon his podcast by accident and out of that came the awareness of his talent as a musician. My interest in the culture of Cornwall started when I did a research about Celtic languages. Since then I was in touched with the culture through music. Dalla proved to be one of those bands  that embody the spirit of the nation. I listened to them and promoted their music. Craig Weatherhill (author) and Sue Aston (violinist) are among those I  have talked to in the past, when dealing with Cornish literature and music.

Here, Matthew shares with us his insights into things that he is passionate about. There is so much beauty in  Cornwall that people need to know and one of them is knowing its unique Celtic language as well as the music that continues to let itself be heard. Other than the setting for Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel Rebecca and later done into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock, Cornwall is so much more.

* You started kernowpods around July of 2011. It’s more than a year now. So far what are the challenges of this endeavor?

It is tough starting a business in these times but I have had a huge amount of support from Cornish business and organisations. One of the biggest helps was ‘Unlocking Cornish Potential’ who gave me training and financial support (from Europe) for the first year in business. The other main challenge was to explain exactly what I do – as there is no-one else in Cornwall with my business model. Essentially I was converting my broadcast skills to business. The podcasting element is the main tranche of this, and it is also the part of my business which developed out of producing ‘Radyo an Gernewegva‘ every week.

* What are the great things you gained having this show?

Essentially I began this podcast radio service because the Cornish language cause is/was not being supported to any serious extent by any other radio station in Cornwall. The BBC only produces 5 minutes a week! RanG started off as Nowodhow an Seythun (News of the week) several years ago… and then eventually mutated into a full music and magazine programme. I have gained a large worldwide audience for the language – people learning it in Cornish communities around the globe – as as a side advantage, created a place to play some of my own music in Cornish too.

*Your work is an asset to businesses as well as people who are into teaching. I am a product trainer for a private company. I dig what you are trying to say. When did you discover having this passion to teach?

I wouldnt actually say I have a passion to teach. I would say I NEED to teach because I prefer speaking in Cornish to English, and there aren’t enough Cornish speakers about. The only way I can rectify this is to provide services to help people reach fluency.

 * Cornwall is a place of huge Celtic heritage. I see you are passionate about the music and the language. What are the positive things you learned about reviving the language …the whole Cornish culture itself?

The positive points about reviving a language is that it is a steep slope that has been climbed once you realise it by looking back – at the moment in question it feels like you are banging your head against a brick wall. Essentially, I see no positives in the action of reviving a language as I see the positives in not letting a language be lost in the first places. It is unfortunate that we need to revive a language – one that should never have been let go in the first place.

The new anthem for the Cornish language written by Matthew Clarke, performed by Skwardya with additional help from: Elizabeth and Josephine Stewart; Phil Knight; James Dundon and Chris Cadwur James. From the Skwardya CD ‘An Eledhva’.

 *Can you give us list of music we need to check out?

Anyone wanting to check out Cornish language can have a tough time finding stuff – even in the modern digital era. So much is not available. Much was last available in the days of vinyl and cassette. This is why Radyo an Gernewegva is so important! Try and listen for the following artists (yes I have put myself in there??!!! and no this is not a chart with an order of importance):

1. Graham Sandercock
2. Brenda Wootton
3. Richard Gendall
4. Phillip Knight
5. Skwardya
6. Dalla
7. Brian Webb
8. Krena
9. Ragamuffin
10. Hanterhir

*With all the work you do, what are you trying to accomplish?

I am trying to make sure the language I feel at home with speaking is still there for future generations, and to make sure I have people to talk to! Yes, it is really THAT selfish!

* Radyo an Gernewgva is something I am familiar with! The site is also entirely in Cornish. Do you plan putting up English support for non native speakers? I however think that what you are trying to say about keeping the language alive makes a big sense. The language goes hand in hand with the music. I remember hearing Brenda Wootton singing in Cornish and I was shocked by the beauty of it all. Are there links you can give enthusiasts who are trying to learn the language?

There is no plan for English support to RanG – it takes enough barely funded time as it is to do what I’m doing (barely funded, not because The Cornish Language Partnership (Maga) doesn’t want to fund RanG more, but because it has not got much support from the Government) . If someone else wants to do that bit – all power to their elbow. This service is aimed at people who have learned a certain amount of Cornish and want to become fluent, or fluent speakers. It can be enjoyed for its music content if a listener has no knowledge of Cornish.
The best link to give for enthusiasts is – this is the Cornish Language Partnership and is a one stop shop for anything to do with the language.

* Been listening to your music with your project Skwardya. What are your plans for this band?

The band began in 1999 and finished playing gigs in 2002 when I moved to East Cornwall. I moved back a few years later and we began doing gigs again in 2006-2010. We stopped gigging again after the PanCeltic last year – though some recordings are still being made. We have released 4 CDs – all can be found on We have not produced a CD for a long time as it is expensive and it is tough marketing them. The only outlet for the music currently is on Radyo an Gernewegva. I have uploaded a few things to CDBaby – but this takes time and costs too – and the rewards arent that great.

* What would you suggest to musicians (Cornish and others) in order to push the music forward? I know the internet has been helpful as a tool to reach people around the globe but are there also other means that the musical culture can be spread?

I know there is … however, there is no organisation properly and professionally marketing Cornish music in the way that Sain does in Wales. Cornwall desperately needs a body to do this. The problem is that people’s lives are tough in just trying to make enough money to pay the mortgage or rent at the moment – and few people have the time or money to do this sort of thing effectively.

*Are there things you wish to finish in  terms of broadcasting and music before the year ends?

Radyo an Gernewegva needs a new backer as European money will start running out. It also needs more commitment from Cornish speakers. I cannot do all the work myself. Sometimes you will get someone offering a programme or some audio from something – but they end up (often) as unreliable. This programme goes out every week – I need to put it together every week. It cannot move forward until there is more professionalism in the approach to developing the language from its supporters.

Last question: What’s your message to your followers as well as people who like to blog about music?

My message is:

Govenek a’m beus hwi dhe omlowenhe an ilow ha skoedhyewgh an taves yn pub le pynag a vo chons dhywgh!

I hope you enjoy the music and support the language everywhere it may be possible for you to!


2 Replies to “Matthew Clarke: Defining The Cornish Identity Through Language and Music”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s