I want to explore what it means to be of Devon, whether that’s being born and raised here, moving here, or having family here.
Does being “of Devon” change your outlook, the way you do things? Is the experience much different to that of someone in Cornwall, Dorset or Somerset?
I was born and raised in Devon. I say I carry it with me in my blood, but actually, I’m not even sure how much of my DNA is from here. With that in mind, is my Devon-ness something else, something less tangible, more experiential? Or is it more about attitude?
I want to look beyond the cliches, and try to understand if a Devonian identity exists, and what it might be. What do I share with all those people who don’t fit the mould of someone from Devon?¹
Take food, for example. There must be more to Devonian food than pasties, cream teas and fish and chips, but it can’t simply be a venue saying their food is “made with local ingredients”.
Consider the flag. St Petroc’s cross didn’t exist 20 years ago, but in that time the people have adopted it like no other county flag. It’s everywhere (examples in footnotes), which suggests that the people of Devon crave an identity. I’ve never met anyone able to say exactly what it is.
Has identity changed now we live in a world of impermanence, of instant communication and of fluid borders? What have we lost since my grandparents grew up here? What have we gained?
And what about inclusion and diversity? What does it mean to be from a different ethnic background? What aspects of other cultures have been incorporated into Devon life? What is the gay, transgender or queer experience like here?
As I start a family, what does it mean to grow up in Devon? What will my daughter carry with her as her identity?
So join me as I explore what it means for me to be from Devon and the Westcountry. And please let me know what you think: If you are from or live in Devon, what defines your identity? If you have no relationship with the county, what is your external view?
¹ the farmer or the fisherman, the surfer or the hiker, the restauranter or the hotelier, and so on…