It was Commonwealth Day on Monday, a fact that passed me by completely. It's not the done thing these days to celebrate Empire.
However, the Huddersfield Examiner's Emma Davidson marked the occasion with some commentary from Huddersfield's own Dr Andrew Mycock:
Mr Mycock said: "Some countries do celebrate the day, particularly in schools, but there isn't really a common framework and people associate different meanings with the Commonwealth so different countries celebrate in different ways.
"For example, some African countries see it as a celebration of their independence from Britain. They see the Commonwealth as something founded on equality, while the Empire was founded on hierarchy.
"For some the focus is on cultural diversity and democracy and shared values.
"But while the Queen will give a formal Commonwealth Day message, the rest of our country will just carry on.
"When Empire Day was first introduced it was better celebrated, it was seen as a confirmation of the superiority of the British.
"But the Commonwealth was never really marked in the same way, because it was associated with the end of Empire and people were more reluctant to celebrate something that was seen to have failed.
"The legacy of the Empire is also so contentious. It has positive connotations like modern industry and democracy, but then the negative connotations like exploitation and slavery and the less edifying moments of the British Empire, so people tend to avoid it."
He said there was awareness of the Commonwealth in schools, but he felt people in Kirklees were more likely to find days like St George's Day and its celebration of Britishness more relevant.
Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 8th March, 2010
I'm sorry. Dr Mycock specialises in Britishness, so surely he of all people knows that St George's Day is not a celebration of Britishness. If anything its growing popularity is a reaction to Britishness.
Sympathy for the Dragon?: Englishness and St George’s Day
A study conducted by Dr Andrew Mycock and Professor Jim McAuley in April highlighted that opinion concerning St George’s Day remains divided, though a majority of respondents to a survey of staff and students at the University indicated they would like to, or were going to, celebrate it in 2009. The research suggests that not only is there a growing recognition of St George’s Day and a preparedness to celebrate it, but that a more diverse and sophisticated conception of Englishness is emerging as debates about identity and citizenship develop in the UK.
The English language and literature, food and drink, landscape, music and history were cited to express a distinct sense of Englishness, though binge-drinking, racism and bad weather were also identified. However, many respondents felt it difficult or were unable to distinguish between English and British national identity, with many of the cultural and political values associated with Englishness overlapping. Conceptions of Britishness were articulated by the Government and others. This suggests that for many there was pride in being English and British, but with the lack of a separate British national day, St George’s Day is viewed as an opportunity to celebrate both identities.
Hmmm...Does it really suggest that, I wonder?
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