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The past has now passed

Voices | Published:

By Rob Duhamel

(23005110)

THE orangutan is a native of the Borneo and Sumatran rainforest. The aye-aye is found in the wild only upon the island of Madagascar. Both these species are now under significant threat and receive at least some protection through the good work done at Durrell. The zoo established by Gerald Durrell in 1959 has developed a strong identity with the conservation work of its founder guiding all its activities to the current day.

When the young naturalist arrived in Jersey, having been turned down by councils in Poole and Bournemouth, he would have found a picturesque island with an economy based largely on farming and tourism. The population stood at about 60,000 and had changed little over the previous century. The cultural identity of Jersey was based on centuries of tradition in the middle of the twentieth century. Farmers still collected vraic for the fields and housewives cooked up pigs trotters and dried beans to make an unctuous bean jar. The older generation conversed in Jerriais and small farms dotted the countryside.

Much of that historic identity has been swept away over the last 60 years. Finance has replaced tourism and tomatoes. Shop assistants speaking Polish and Portuguese are more likely to be heard on the streets of St Helier than farm workers speaking French. Some old traditions have been lost but new ones are established.

The agricultural shows no longer pull in the crowds to see a prize bull but the new tradition of national food fairs and seaside festivals attracts large numbers of visitors.

The round the island walk and the swimarathon are supported by thousands of people every year, raising money for local good causes. Other traditions have stood the test of time – the Battle of Flowers is still going strong after well over one hundred years; young and old still spend long evenings stirring black butter.

For a community to thrive, it must move with the times. It is important to remember the past but equally important to recognise opportunities and embrace new customs and traditions. Cultural identity in Jersey is often bandied around by politicians without a full understanding of the breadth of cultural influences that make up the Island today.

Jersey does have a unique identity, principally distilled from its history, geography and climate but our culture today is shaped by the 105,000 people who have chosen to make this beautiful Island their home.

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