This year marks Albion's fifth anniversary since we began in 2004, and to celebrate the occasion we are publishing two special editions: this one and the summer edition.
I would like to warmly thank all the Albion writers, whose dedication, talent and enthusiasm have made running the magazine such tremendous fun, and kept the project bubbling along for five years. A special vote of thanks must go to James Turner, who has been there from the very start with his shrewd Yorkshire sensibility and passion for English folk and popular music.
With this edition, we welcome three new writers. Fantasy writer Peter Higgins' piece on Nikolaus Pevsner, J R R Tolkien and Alfred Wainwright is reflective and poignant, while two young Northerners, Jennifer Hodgson and Joe Kennedy, contribute some perceptive literary analysis. Jennifer's engrossing feature article about French influences on mid-twentieth-century England takes in both popular culture and the literary avant garde. She is also a photographer, and her atmospheric picture of Scarborough Spa graces this edition's homepage.
Billy Bragg has been a source of inspiration to all those concerned with modern Englishness, and has just released the aptly-titled album Mr Love and Justice. We were delighted that he agreed to an interview as one of our fifth anniversary special features, and the result is both moving and thought-provoking.
Over the years we have often mentioned books that seem to form an unofficial 'canon' of Englishness, so for our fifth anniversary we've decided to focus on them in a Classics of Englishness special feature. The reviews are arranged according to general theme, though I have stretched a point a little by putting Fred Donnelly's insightful feature on an E. P. Thompson article alongside Jennifer's review of Raymond Williams' Culture and Society. I was faced with a similar dilemma over whether to put Peter Higgins' Pevsner article in the Art section or in Classics of Englishness, and plumped for the latter, since it goes so well with Paul Flux's lyrical appreciation of Cowper Powys' Weymouth Sands. There can be no doubt that Flora Thompson's Lark Rise to Candleford is a good companion to Cider with Rosie, sensitively reviewed here by Alex Betts, that Hanif Kureishi's The Buddha of Suburbia and Zadie Smith's White Teeth complement each other, or that Joe Kennedy's elegant examinations of mid-century novels by Patrick Hamilton (The Slaves of Solitude) and Henry Green (Back) are a natural pair. The second instalment of the Classics of Englishness feature will be published in our summer edition and will contain many more reviews, so if your particular favourite is missing, there is a good chance that we will get to it. In our reviews of more recent books, Imran Javaid Butt applies his postmodernist analytical skill to a book about the subversiveness of Victorian Imperial literature, in order to enquire into Englishness itself during that period. I am enthralled by the CPRE's beautiful Icons of England, and we are honoured to publish a review by Professor Roger Ebbatson (author of An Imaginary England) of a new study of landscape and vision in nineteenth-century English literature.
In the Art section, Paul Flux reviews a book on Henry VIII's use of art as a propaganda tool, looking particularly at Holbein's Whitehall mural. As ever, Em Marshall provides a wealth of classical music reviews, from Handel to Lionel Monckton, while James Turner looks at folk and rock releases including Simon Care and Lindisfarne. For those who want a little frivolity, the Diversions page contains some thoughts on the Temperance Seven and other bands from the 1960s who seemed determined to revive the 1920s.
To me, the tender films of Humphrey Jennings capture the best elements of Englishness, and some of them feature in the marvellous new set from the BFI, Land of Promise, reviewed in our cinema section. From pre-war depression to post-war reconstruction, the set depicts a pivotal era in English history. Nobody with an interest in today's England should be without it. --TheEditor.