Cornwall, much more than Tin and Tourism

By Drew Aspinwall

Arguably, not since the solar eclipse of 1999 has Cornwall been this much in the spotlight as world leaders and its media descend on the county for the G7 in Carbis Bay.

The leader’s travel methods, including those of Prime Minister Johnson, have questionable environmental credentials which sit juxtaposed to the G7 UK Twitter feed proclamation that: “Climate is at the heart of the G7 Summit.” Whilst “Global leaders will show their commitment to fighting climate change and protecting our planet for future generations, renewable energy; future technology; net zero carbon emissions” at the summit but what does the event mean for Cornwall?

As a Devon resident, we usually visit Cornwall out of high season and fully appreciate the uniqueness  of this special place. Tourism and business leaders are always keen to showcase everything that the county has to offer and to promote Cornwall as a location for major international events.  That said, without a major conference centre it has often been regarded as an unsuitable location for major political events such as party conferences.

So, the G7, with its relatively small number of high-profile ‘delegates’, dwarfed by over 6,500 police and security services who have been drafted to the far south west to support the event, make Cornwall well suited to host the summit. 

Initially, I felt that Cornwall was an unusual choice of location for the G7, less so if David Cameron had been PM as he was regular summer visitor, along with the ‘giant shark spotted off the Cornish coast’ media headline each July. But strategically and from a security perspective, it does make sense. Surrounded by sea with only small number of entry / exit points by rail and road on the Devon border – I would suggest the security team’s assessment made it the perfect choice. 

The level of secondary spend, crucial to the local economy (especially now) from the G7 will be nothing compared to Cornwall’s Eden Project, whose economic benefit is now universally acknowledged and exceeded the expectations of many of those who did not ‘get’ Tim Smit’s vision for the former China clay quarry outside St Austell at the time he was originally touting the project in the nineties.

What the Eden Project and the G7 do have in common though, is that it gives the county a platform to showcase and challenge the pre-conceptions that exist, namely a legacy of tin and tourism, as to what the county and its proud citizens excel at.

It is unlikely that the G7 leaders will hear much about the pockets of hidden deprivation in the county, with fears that there could be a little as £1.8million from the UK Government made available to replace its current EU funding but I do hope they will hear about the innovative spirit and clusters of excellence that will see the counties fortunes rally in the future.

These include how the Cornwall leads the world in wave power research; how Spaceport Cornwall is set to start launching satellites into space in spring 2022; how Cornwall is fast becoming the location of choice for tech innovation in the digital sector; and how, as previous world leader in mining, tungsten, lithium and other minerals could soon be extracted in Cornwall and help drive the economic recovery. 

I for one will be watching with interest how, after the international TV satellite trucks have re-crossed the Tamar, Cornwall promotes itself on the world stage having successfully hosted world leaders at Carbis Bay.