28 Apr 2008

St George's Day should be a national holiday?

St George's Day should be a national holiday in England? Here are some words from human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. He said: "We should celebrate St George as a symbol of freedom, dissent and multiculturalism. It is time we ditched the myths surrounding St George and celebrated the reality of his courageous life. He doesn't belong to the far right. He represents multiculturalism and rebellion against tyranny. St George wasn't white or English. He was a rebel from the Middle East. His father was Turkish and his mother probably Palestinian. He rebelled against the Roman Emperor Diocletian and was executed for opposing the persecution of Christians by the Romans. An early defender human rights, he is a heroic symbol of protest and the right to freedom of belief and expression. St George's parentage embodies multiculturalism and his life expresses the values of English liberalism and dissent."

Picture: Saint George oil painting by Raphael

Great stuff if we really can get that message across - last night I saw the DVD of the award winning 2006 film "This is England" - a look back at the early eighties of British working-class life through the eyes of young Shaun and his new gang, and dealing with the bitterness of outside influences such as racism and xenophobia, of mass unemployment and the fall out of the Falkland's War - Thatcher's Britain - great acting but heavy stuff - dealing with the appeal of gangs and the National Front - indeed in the past this historical linking of the 'English flag' with racism has made me reluctant to show support for a St George's Day holiday - it is shocking that the BNP are standing locally in Nailsworth in this weeks elections - see my comment yesterday here - but the good news is that times are changing - Lancaster University's Susan Condor commenting on the recent upsurge in flying of the flag at sports events said it "is reappropriating it and stripping it of political associations."

It is clear however problems still persist - in Bradford a St George's Day march was canceled on police advice - I'm not sure that was the best way to handle the event. Then again in many areas I wonder how many people are really interested in celebrating? There is a campaign website to make St George's day a holiday - see here - a holiday is hardly something people will vote against! See also the comment in Guardian here from Ian Williams. In contrast to that view English Heritage have launched a campaign to dispel apathy - see here - and a guide on how to celebrate the day....

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