It was announced last month that the 2021 G7 Summit will be held in Carbis Bay, Cornwall. Is the county welcoming the announcement or treating it with trepidation?
At about three hours into the six-hour train journey from London Paddington to Carbis Bay, it becomes apparent that your destination is different to the rest of England.
The suburbs of London and Reading have long disappeared. The tracks run parallel to the sea. On a stormy day, you almost flinch out of fear that the waves will crash over you.
As the First Great Western train creeps over the Tamar Bridge and becomes camouflaged amongst a tunnel of trees, the final bars of phone signal disappear. Cornwall’s clean, crisp air starts to creep into the carriages. The remaining passengers breathe a collective sigh of relief to be almost home.
Between the 11th and 13th of June, the small village of Carbis Bay will welcome world leaders such as Joe Biden, Angela Merkel and Yoshihide Suga. Discussing a global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will be top of the agenda, while also working towards a greener future.
These are pressing issues for England’s most southern county. Economic recovery from the pandemic is a top priority. Speaking to the BBC, Malcolm Bell, the head of Visit Cornwall, explained it has been predicted that Cornwall’s tourist industry will have lost £1 billion by April 2021.
Gareth Edwards, a long-time artist in resident at St Ives’ Porthmeor Studios, hopes that the Summit will bring a much-needed financial boost to Cornwall. Gareth says, “It brings focus and attention to the South-West which is a pre-requisite requirement for its financial survival.”
Many hotels have sold out for the Summit weekend and have been able to increase their prices due to a rise in demand. In January, the booking site, Cornwall Direct, reported that reservations were up to 20% higher than the previous year.
The environmental agenda is also of importance to locals. Cornwall’s 300 beaches are a constant reminder of the plastic and rubbish polluting our oceans. The beaches may be deserted of people on a February morning, but a close look at the sand will reveal swathes of weathered plastic and old fishing nets.
Pat Smith is one of Cornwall’s eco-activists who is fighting the war on plastic. In the summer of 2017, she founded The Final Straw Cornwall. The organisation encourages businesses across the county to ditch plastic straws. So far, 430 Cornish businesses are no longer offering plastic straws.
Pat hopes that Cornwall’s landscape will remind the world leaders of what is at stake. She says, “I hope that holding the meeting at Carbis Bay with a spectacular view of mighty waves rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean, will inspire delegates to agree on meaningful initiatives to protect the one life sustaining beautiful planet that we call home.”
However, the Summit is also facing criticism. Despite Boris Johnson claiming his pride to be “probably the first half-Cornish Prime Minister”, there are feelings that he has lost touch with his roots and queries surrounding his choice of location.
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By Hannah Lingard: Political Columnist.
“It brings focus and attention to the South-West which is a pre-requisite requirement for its financial survival.”
Alice Nicholson, who has lived in Cornwall her whole life, questions whether Carbis Bay is the right village to host the Summit. She says, “A lot of locals don’t live there and it’s quite empty most of the year. It is more like a destination than having it in actual Cornwall.”
Many locals do not live in Carbis Bay because properties are out of their price range. The average house in the village costs £351,706. But the county’s average salary is £28,800 per year; this is almost £10,000 below the U.K. average. It is not widely known, but Cornwall is the second poorest region in northern Europe.
Martin Tucker, the principal of Cornwall’s Ofsted Outstanding Truro and Penwith College, believes it is important the Summit’s attendees see this side of Cornwall as well the beautiful beaches. He says, “While Cornwall’s emerging status as a future-focussed peninsula needs to be recognised, it is also essential that this damning legacy of our previous career revolution isn’t kept behind closed doors.”
Martin continues, “The world leaders would do well to spend some time understanding and experiencing some of the causes of socio-economic deprived areas like Penzance, Bodmin, Camborne and Redruth.”
Penzance is 8.5 miles from Carbis Bay. It is also a seaside town, but misses out on much of the tourist attention. Social deprivation is a major problem for Penzance. Treneere, a housing estate just over a mile from Penzance’s seafront, is within the 3% most deprived areas in England.
For Kate Reeve-Edwards, who lives in Penzance’s neighbouring town Newlyn, the Summit could have provided an opportunity to showcase a part of Cornwall that the tourist trail often misses. Kate says, “It would be better if it was in Penzance, seeing as they’ve just done up the prom. They are trying to really generate a tourism area around there.”
Despite differences in opinions, there are shared laughs about the idea of the U.S. Presidential Motorcade, which comprises of up to 50 vehicles, travelling through Cornwall’s narrow, country lanes. Feelings about the Summit may vary, but the people of Cornwall are united in their humour.
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