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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, August 09, 2008
    Resisting attrition by administration

    I was a bit nervous at first, of The Friends of Real Lancashire, when I came across their display at a Festival of the Coast today. Any group keen to maintain borders, fly flags, etc I tend to approach with caution.

    But then I looked at these maps and read what they were saying about them, and it's quite simple; that the regional administrative areas created over the past forty years have eaten away at the cultural identity of a county which in every respect - legally, even postally - still exists.

    Lancashire still stretches from the Duddon to the Mersey, from Hawkshead to Hale, North Walney to Todmorden. It's just that our awareness of the ancient area in which our culture is rooted, has been eroded by all these structural reorganisations. This is happening everywhere, of course (I'm reminded of Nick Papadimitriou's very pertinent Middlesex County Council project). The Friends of Real Lancashire are affiliated to the Association of British Counties, and as that group says in its mission statement,
    The Counties are an important part of the culture, geography and heritage of Great Britain.... Britain needs a fixed popular geography, one divorced from the ever changing names and areas of local government but, instead, one rooted in history, public understanding and commonly held notions of cultural identity.
    We Scousers are notoriously separatist, of course, another reason for my initial suspicion. The accent has been a key weapon in our siege armoury in recent years. But as the academic book The Mersey Sound and that wonderful BBC documentary Morning in the Streets each demonstrate, Liverpool people were accented Lancastrians as recently as 1959, and many of us still are.

    As long as it's not focussed on clogs and pie-eating, or chauvinist exclusionary (and it doesn't appear to be), there's something appealing about campaigning for the geographical integrity of the traditional County of Lancashire. And something usefully political too: inasmuch as urging unity across the towns, cities and parishes of the ancient region serves to counteract the culture of competitiveness which is an integral tool of injurious regeneration. Divide and rule means trouble at t'mill.