Celebrating Britishness

While we’re waiting for not-the-Executive to meet or whatever, I feel it’s my duty to bring you up to date with the latest in the Britishness debate from immigration minister Liam Byrne – now hold on, this isn’t about neo-imperialism or DUP triumphalism. It would have been helpful if Gordon Brown the convenor of the debate had firmly ruled out any idea of “British Ulster” from the Stormont podium, but from what he has written he hasn’t given the first thought to the NI implications. An opportunity missed. Brown’s focus is now on raising the bar for citizenship. Irish citizens from NI are automatically included but so far he has said nothing about Lord Goldsmith’s foolish and unworkable proposal to exclude new Irish migrants to GB from the Republic . So, here’s a Slugger competition. Can you think of 27 better ways to celebrate British National Day? (details below the fold, for your enjoyment)Twenty-seven ways to celebrate a national day.
1 as a national event, celebrated in local areas 2 with a good cross-section of society on the organising committee;lots of small community events; have a particular theme –different theme each year, set by organising committee.
3 by using TV to inform about British history; a speech by the Queen; TV link-ups around country. 4 in the form of a remembrance day celebrating the bravery of veterans. 5 by encouraging young people to visit or help older people; celebrate voluntary work. 6 through school involvement – teach history, choirs singing. 7 through daytime activities to involve whole community, and evening for partying. 8 by holding street parties and neighbourhood get-together; would work as a street party – exchanging food and culture. 9 as a carnival similar to the Notting Hill Carnival; big procession
similar to St Paul’s Carnival; fireworks. 10 through music – British or world music; concerts like Live Aid;British music; play local music; local dress.
11 through dance – British dancers; Morris dancing; folk dancing. 12 through food – British and other cultures; regional food; different cultures’ foods

13 through drinking!!

14 through art; involve theatre; free film viewings on history of Britain. 15 by having a sports theme – all nationalities can take part; football
16 by celebrating different cultural dress 17 by holding community discussions; meetings in town halls 18 by promoting posters of iconic figures, eg fallen heroes, Winston Churchill. 19 by holding a ceremony to remember the good things over the past year 20 by appreciating the country; weather; enjoyment
21 cheaply so people get involved. 22 by holding free events around the city. 23 by incorporating countries that used to be part of the Empire
24 by making it about integration. 25 by using publicity to ensure people get involved – like Children in Need 26 by emphasising the theme of British life, immigration, remembrance; cost should be met locally as shows that putting into the local community helps to get something good back.
27 in an understated but firm way, without fuss; show good and bad aspects of living in Britain (and how bad aspects are being addressed) – give honest picture.”

“Members of the public felt that the following people should be involved:· the whole community · the Queen and the Royal family · politicians, the Prime Minister, politicians, MPs.”

“The UK would be tragically diminished if Scotland sued
for divorce. And within a torn UK, our sense of England – our
past and our future – would shrink. And the implication of this
must surely be that more English, Welsh and Irish politicians
and civic leaders need to find space and time to make the
argument for the Union.”

Do we feel that covers it?

  • Ann

    We could have a soccer hooligan day, complete with beer bellies tattoos and shaved heads.

    Lets face it being British = aggressive behaviour rather than stiff upper lip now-a-days, it needs a complete PR revamp imo.

  • Steve

    Stick your “Britishness” Day, £ngland doesnt want the Northern irish EU Region.

    Have a “Irishness/Northern Irishness Day” and celebrate that Islands contributions to the world.

    Guninness
    Terrorism
    Religious backwardness
    Green plastic hats

  • Jer

    For those of you who have a strong sense of Britishness do you feel that these laboured celebrations of identity will just diminish it even further. Can civil service inspired plans build identity in such a manner or will they just corrode it even further by their very unnaturalness

  • Ann

    Local dress? What would that be in Bradford?

    British dancers? Is there a British dance?

    But c’mon Brian, sure I’m only pulling yer aul brit leg 🙂

    Even after listing all those suggestions, there isn’t really any agreement on what Britishness is or indeed if there is such a thing?

  • Dewi

    “Can you think of 27 better ways to celebrate British National Day?”

    I can think of one – Have a “Destroy Britain” day instead

    Byrne’s paper probably the most banal piece of English nationalism described as Britishness I’ve read for yonks:

    Morris Dancing…ramming the English language down everyone’s throat…celebrating Britishness day on …the Queen’s birthday?…or on St George’s day?? (I jest not).

    The structural problem is that England is just too big for the rest of us – it dominates the cultural landscape in an inevitable way. So let’s move on – It’s time (to coin a phrase).

  • neil

    Why don’t you just lump in with the twelfth. That’s sufficient celebration of Britishness for the approaching half the population that aren’t British. We have to put up with it for the majority of the summer, or if you live in Stoneyford all year round. Last thing we need is a new celebration with all the inevetable flags and jingoism for a country we’d rather not be in.

    What they should do is hold a twelfth day in England Wales and Scotland, that way we don’t need to do anything and those mainland brits can have a party and bask in their britishness. You could have sattellite link ups and all that.

  • abc

    Brian Walker “It would have been helpful if Gordon Brown the convenor of the debate had firmly ruled out any idea of “British Ulster” from the Stormont podium”.

    Yes it would have been helpful but only to Provisional Sinn Fein-IRA. Are you trying to tell us something? Most people in NI want to celebrate their Ulster-British culture. Are you saying that they don’t matter?

    Perhaps you should take up a hobby instead of constantly pushing your wishy washy agenda on Slugger.

  • neil

    Most people in NI want to celebrate their Ulster-British culture

    And you do. More so than any other region. So quit whingeing. Poor downtrodden prods, ground under the heel of the imperialist Irish Nationalists for these past centuries. How horribly oppresseed you are.

  • Pete

    Eugh!

    I find the whole notion of a British day rather horrific. Staged patriotism/nationalism is an unedifying sight.

    I celebrate my citizenship of the UK everday in enjoying hitherto unparalelled freedoms that we in a C21st liberal democracy have evolved, and this is quite enough for me.

    Let us please not go down the route of the USA.

  • Ann

    ramming the English language down everyone’s throat…

    dewi is english the language of the oppressor?? 🙂

    Interestingly enough I think the brits should celebrate britishness, especially accross the way in their own country…..trouble is it could be deemed as offensive to most of the population there.

    Like Lear they can go and have a howl on the moor because they gave away the roof over their head to the multiculturalists……perhaps they could celebrate britishness that way…

    hooowwllll

  • Ann

    Can I be an anorak now?

    Please. 🙂

  • Dewi

    Can I be an anorak now?

    Who won mid Ulster in 1955?

  • Animus

    The 4th of July in America is usually characterised by: flags, beer and fireworks. We already have a Guy Fawkes night in England.

    Local dress is intriguing. For some parts, I guess that would be pyjamas, but does that celebrate something peculiarly British?

    By appreciating the weather? For all ‘Britain’ has going for it, the weather is high up there is it? Let’s celebrate with brollies! Woooooohooooo.

  • Dewi

    “I find the whole notion of a British day rather horrific. Staged patriotism/nationalism is an unedifying sight.”

    I actually agree 100% with a sentence of yours Pete.

  • Rory

    A good idea would be to hold an annual England vs.Germany football match which, recalling the spirit of Dunkirk, Germany would of course win again…and again…and again…

    That “British dance” has been puzzling me as well. I wondered what on earth the author had in mind and then it clicked! He wants us all to dress up, the men in 19th century officers’ dress uniform and the women as “their ladies” in Empire line dresses and then we all do our stuff in The Lancers and finish off with The Galloping Major (which would finish me off for sure).

    Maybe Dewi and his mates could pop down to Tottenham and we could recreate the Battle of Rorke’s Drift on the Green.

  • Dewi,

    Who won mid Ulster in 1955?

    There was no such constituency in 1955.

    I confess it – I am an anorak. I need help.

  • Dammit. I’m a bad anorak (a scruffy one?). Mid-Ulster was actually created earlier than I thought, in 1949. Sorry Dewi.

    The answer, of course, is Thomas Mitchell (Sinn Féin), twice!

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/dmu.htm

    [my validation word is again appropriate: ‘poor’!]

  • Dewi

    There was Horseman – quite a famous couple of elections for a number of reasons…..(gnaws his arm off…)

  • DK

    The food idea might work as there is enough regional variation there to keep all the various bits and pieces of the UK happy – we could even let Ireland join in for the Guinness and Oysters (although maybe not the stew and boxty).

    Let’s see…. North to south…
    Haggis, Stovies, Rollmops, Cumberland Sausage, Yorkshire Pud, Lancashire hotpot, Birmingham Madras, Welsh rarebit, Jellied eels, sampire, and for us – the Ulster Fry!!!!

  • Dewi

    Chicken Balti

  • Pete

    Dewi,

    I’ll accept how that reflects on what you think of the rest of my post lol.

  • Dublin voter

    “Irish citizens from NI are automatically included but so far he has said nothing about Lord Goldsmith’s foolish and unworkable proposal to exclude new Irish migrants to GB from the Republic.”

    Goldsmith’s proposal is to take away the right to vote in UK elections, which is currently available to people from the Republic when they move to live in the UK.
    But that’s not the same thing as citizenship, is it? I won’t be automatically a UK citizen if I move to live in London, will I? Surely, I’d have to apply for British citizenship, fill in a form, swear allegiance or something?

    Reminds me of my old uncle who has lived in Canada for 50plus years now. There was an election coming up over there about 15 years ago and my da asked him what way he was going to vote. “I don’t have a vote”, says the uncle. “Why not?”, says the da. “I’ll never swear allegiance to any British queen.”

  • wasting time

    How about public reenactments of Monty Python sketches?
    Or how about a day dedicated to watching the hitler channel, sorry the history channel, where you can revel in long past glories.

  • OC

    Everybody can smile and show off bad teeth together.

  • Happypaddy

    “Celebrating Britishness” i think u might be missing the point Britain is the big island to the east of Ireland. So surely if u want to celebrate Britishness you would live on that island.

  • Brian Walker

    horesman, there were 2 Mid Ulster elections in 1955, one GE and the other a byelection, both won by Tom Mitchell of the SF of the day, ” a convicted felon”,who had raided Omagh barracks the previous year. He was disqualified in May, stood again in the by-election in October and again disqualified, having won knife-edge majorities. The Unionist was declared elected but later disqualified becuase he “held an office of profit under the Crown”i.e. a National Insurance tribunal – an obvious ruse to encourage a legal nationalist candidacy. But Mitchell came back again but was defeated in May56 when the former Nationalist MP opposed to the rural IRA campaign split the vote and allowed in George Forrest Ind later UU who held it until Bernadette in 1970 (Don’t all shout at once!).

    abc “….instead of constantly pushing your wishy washy agenda on Slugger.” Britishness whatever it is exactly, does not correspondent with unionist celebrations, not that I wish to deny you these provided they don’t oppress others. My political objections to “British Ulster” is that it sells the state and its people badly short. The Britishness agenda is inclusive.You say “wishy washy” Spot on, that’s its appeal. You have to be tough-minded to be wishy washy and I’ve had years of practice.

  • Dewi

    Ok Brian…under what banner did Phelim O’Neill stand in 1970 in this seat?

  • Brian Walker

    dublin voter, Irish citizens from the Republic have the right to vote in UK elections under the 1949 Ireland Act passed to declare Ireland not foreign in English law after it cut last links with the Commonwealth. Not the same as citizenship but important because Goldsmith wanted to define citizenship largely by the right to vote.

  • Dewi

    I can’t really be the same Phelim O’neill as the expelled Orangeman on reflection.

  • Realist

    ““Celebrating Britishness” i think u might be missing the point Britain is the big island to the east of Ireland. So surely if u want to celebrate Britishness you would live on that island”

    Rich – from the people who take pride in the Irish diaspora.

    Newsflash: St Patricks Day celebrations, anywhere other than in Ireland, are cancelled forthwith.

  • Oilifear

    I think “British dance” says it all.

    I’m sorry, Brian (and as a non-UK citizen or resident, I may not have a right to contribute to this discussion) but each and every one of your suggestions above sounds as contrived and banal as an EU national day.

    I’m a committed European. I’m a unionist, too, in that sense. I don’t need manufactured holidays to remind myself of that union or my intimacy with it.

    If I was you, I’d be more worried about your need to concoct a day to celebrate your union, before exposing the fraud in such a day by fretting over you would do for it.

  • Pete

    Although…

    If I had to think of one day that in part is a celebration of Britishness and somewhat inclusive… I thoroughly enjoyed the Last Night of the Proms on Saturday just past.

    Not to everyones taste granted, but i’d rather extend events like this and embrace a greater range of views and communities than constuct a new celebration.

    On a side note and a moment of naive idealism perhaps, it annoyed me that in Hyde Park and the Albert Hall, we saw Irish Tricolours flying proudly, yet in Belfast not one alongside the red hand and the Union flag. That to me would be a sign that Northern Ireland was becoming a country confident in itself.

  • Brian Walker

    oilifear. The 27 are immigration minister Liam Byrne’s not mine – if you click on the Liam Byrne hyperlink you will see.. And just to labour the point, I had my tongue in my cheek..

  • Oilifear

    My apologies, Brian. The link originally didn’t open for me (but does now).

  • Ann

    So Brian is an anorak? 🙂

  • Dewi

    So Brian is an anorak?

    Not quite sure yet – there are a few tests to pass – the Committee will let you and him know in due course….

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    It would have to be admitted by all and sundry that the most ‘British’ people within the UK (but who are not actually living on the island of Britain) are indeed the Ulster Unionists. Proud of their heritage and culture, they work hard at it and it pays off! For everyone is well aware of their unique ‘Britishness.’ Why, they are even more ‘British’ than the Queen herself?

  • Dewi

    So Brian is an anorak?

    Not quite sure yet – there are a few tests to pass – the Committee will let you and him know in due course….

    …But he’s failed the IRB test…

  • PeaceandJustice

    Pete – “it annoyed me that in Hyde Park and the Albert Hall, we saw Irish Tricolours flying proudly, yet in Belfast not one alongside the red hand and the Union flag. That to me would be a sign that Northern Ireland was becoming a country confident in itself.”

    The difference is that in London, the flag of Eire is only one of a large number of foreign flags representing people from many different countries – all enjoying a very British occasion. In the Northern Ireland context it would be rightly seen as a divisive symbol at such an event. You only have to look at Eire which has now a large minority from many different countries. Yet, there are still complaints when the UK flag is flown on official occasions e.g the visit of John Major to Cork and during an international competition in Letterkenny. I look forward to the day when Eire is confident enough to fly the Union flag – just as the flag of Eire is flown in many places in England.

  • Jack Cade

    Really big guns. I’m not joking. I saw the Bastile day in Paris a few years ago. Everyone, but everyone rejoices in the sight of thousands of tanks. That’s something everyone can enjoy.

  • Pete

    PeaceandJustice,

    I agree entirely with what you say and it’s why I said it was a bit naive, but nonetheless I look forward to the day when it can happen. (If it ever does)

  • fionn

    PeaceandJustice -“The difference is that in London, the flag of Eire is only one of a large number of foreign flags representing people from many different countries” –

    Eire is not the offical name of the state of the Republic of Ireland (Goverment of Ireland Act 1948). It is simply Gaelic for Ireland; meaning the Island of Ireland …

    oops 🙂

  • ggn

    fionn,

    Hmmm.

    Peace and Justice is connecting the tricolour with the whole island rather the the southern state. Strange for a unionist of course, but very interesting.

  • janeymac

    P & J
    “I look forward to the day when Eire is confident enough to fly the Union flag – just as the flag of Eire is flown in many places in England”

    I look forward to the day when a celebration of Britishness does not entail the burning of an Irish Tricolour on a bonfire! Mind you, a few flag making businesses in China will probably collapse!

  • Briso

    “The UK would be tragically diminished if Scotland sued for divorce. And within a torn UK, our sense of England – our past and our future – would shrink.”

    This is the only remotely interesting line in the whole blog entry. Any English on here want to agree that English cannot stand without Scotland in the UK? If you want to understand this whole charade, it’s contained in the implications of that quote. There is no ‘British’ culture, but there is an English one, and as someone who has lived for a considerable time there, and returns every so often, it can be magnificent and requires no apology.

  • susan

    Briso, that’s precisely line that struck me full force yesterday. My first reaction was that if it is true that for the English that without Scotland, their sense of England, their past and future, would “shrink”, wouldn’t advocates of an independent Scotland respond just as sincerely that freed from the UK, their sense of Scotland — their past and their future — would expand?

    Of course, I don’t know if the line is true. Or what percentage of Scots want a completely separate state outside the UK.

    “You say you want a devolution, well, you know…”

  • Dewi

    “The UK would be tragically diminished if Scotland sued for divorce. And within a torn UK, our sense of England – our past and our future – would shrink.”

    Exactly Briso – it’s all about Englishness – which is absolutely fine and dandy – but let’s not pretend that it’s anything other than that.

    Siwsan – find me a video….

  • susan

    Bore da, Dewi. Here’s one for ye with Billie Bragg and the Proclaimers.

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=9U9zy9WpuUY

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    “I look forward to the day when Eire is confident enough to fly the Union flag – just as the flag of Eire is flown in many places in England.”

    BTW, Peace and Justice, We had the annual international showjumping event at the RDS (Royal Dublin Society) this year and the British team won. ‘God Save the Queen’ was duly played as well as the Union flag flown. This was in Dublin, EIRE.
    Sure you have never set foot over the ‘border’ into the ‘foreign country’ of ‘Eire’ so how would you know anything about the place, but only what you read in your right wing tabloids.

    Good to see you use the ‘cupla focal as Gaeilge’ by refering to the Repuplic of Ireland as EIRE. Your use of the Irish language is coming along well! 🙂

  • Dewi

    Brilliant Susan – Diolch!

  • Dewi

    THe below was poted on then Glasgow Herald site. Moving truly.

    “you are echoing the sentiments of a rapidly growing number of Scots. Stuff the economic arguments. Stuff the “divorce is messy ” nonsense. Stuff the Union flag where the sun don’t shine.

    I would rather live like a Scottish lion for a day than grovel like a north british sheep for a lifetime.

    Put another way, if I had a hundred days left to live, I would surrender 98 of the them to live in an independent Scotland for just two days and one night. To rest my head on a pillow knowing my countrymen and women had got off their knees would give me the best sleep ever, happy in the knowledge that I would wake up in a free country.

    And when I woke up on that last morning, I would be content knowing that generations unborn will thank our generation for starting this ancient and proud land on a new path towards re-joining the world from which we have been excluded for three centuries.

    Compare those sentiments with Jackie Smith’s, “What matters to me when I get up in the morning is thinking what am I going to do today to help the British people feel safer on the streets. And the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have been focusing quite rightly on the ways to help people going through a difficult economic time .””

  • Good to see you use the ‘cupla focal as Gaeilge’ by refering to the Repuplic of Ireland as EIRE. Your use of the Irish language is coming along well! 🙂
    Posted by Greagoir O’ Frainclin on Sep 19, 2008 @ 11:22 AM

    Very funny Greagoir, always enjoyable to put that redneck bigot back into his little bosca. Those unionists up there have one fucked up way of looking at things. Generational paranoia and insecurities travels through their blood.

  • Nathan

    Please can something be done to make it easier for Irish citizens to obtain a British passport, not interested in the oath of allegiance bit though

  • POL

    Hey they could re-colonise the colonies,could even get the natives to play their part by allowing themselves to be flogged, raped and butchered. Mmmm dont ya just miss the good old days.

  • PeaceandJustice

    fionn – “Eire is not the offical name of the state of the Republic of Ireland (Goverment of Ireland Act 1948)”

    The Irish Constitution states the name of the country as Eire. The 1948 act says that the description of the state should be the Republic of Ireland. Note the difference.

    I assume you have a foreign passport from the RoI and if you care to look you’ll see Eire listed first of all. And of course Eire is listed on postage stamps etc.

    The very people who claim to be champions of the Irish Language don’t seem to like the term Eire – they like to create the illusion that the RoI is in control of the whole island and hence use the term “Ireland”. And to G O’F – I have no problem with the Irish Language. But I do have a problem with it being used politically by extreme members of the Pan-Nationalist Front in NI.

  • Niall

    Please can something be done to make it easier for Irish citizens to obtain a British passport, not interested in the oath of allegiance bit though
    Posted by Nathan on Sep 19, 2008 @ 08:04 PM

    Get onto to the MPs in Westminster if You want something changed.

    Otherwise, as stated before on slugger, apply to your nearest British embassy to see if you qualify.

  • Diomedes
  • Paul O’Toole

    The problem is that there is no single definition of what it means to be British. For some it is about being white, about your family having come from the UK and about hating anyone who is different, for others it is about having somewhere safe to live after awful experiences in their own country, for some it is about their little part of the UK staying part of the UK and for others it is about their little part of Ireland being forced to be part of the UK.

    How do you celebrate all of that, or do you celebrate a definition of Britishness that the government wants to portray and very few people actually associate with?

    Forcing Britishness down peoples’ throats will only serve to further alienate those who consider themselves as primarily either English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh.

  • Colm

    The single most defining characteristic of being British is that you don’t feel the need to make a point of celebrating being British -particularly not on an officialy designated faux national day , designed purely to show that “we can do a St Paddy’s day too you know “