Stephen Moss in the Guardian adopts the least analytical approach imaginable to the identity thing, a random journey. It’s like an intro to a report that that doesn’t actually appear. A bit like Britishness itself maybe? Quite unlike our own passions. Might uncertainty and toleration be its saving graces?
As I stood in freezing temperatures in Bradford’s Centenary Square trying unsuccessfully to get twentysomething Muslim women to tell me how they lived their lives, I started to have doubts about the exercise. Belfast was even colder, and with security concerns still a worry – there were two bombs in Derry the day I arrived – some people were wary of talking about Britishness. For that reason, two of the identities of my Northern Irish interviewees are not disclosed: a sixtysomething Catholic who served in the army and was proud to be British, and a young Catholic in his 30s who thought Sinn Féin had sold out and still saw the country as being occupied by the British. Those two are the only ones whose names and photographs are suppressed.
There aren’t four Britains. There are 40.
Then came Northern Ireland, probably the most eye-opening part of the journey.