Phew! Welcome to our second anniversary edition. When we started the magazine, back in 2004, we did not dare to hope that it would still be here and positively thriving two years later.
This edition is packed with highlights. To begin with, we have a PICTURE ON OUR HOME-PAGE! (Whoops. That was rather un-English. Pardon me.) Thanks to the talent of photographer Corinne Brown, who takes exquisite land- and cityscapes, you can expect to see many more such pictures in upcoming editions.
The wunderkind of English literature, Helen Oyeyemi, gave us an interview last summer about her debut novel The Icarus Girl. The books section also includes reviews of the latest books by Zadie Smith and Julian Barnes, and a number of non-fiction books concerned with Englishness and English culture, most notably The Magic Spring by Richard Lewis. We have a meditation on English architecture by Alexander Flux. From David Rattigan, there is a playful examination of class dynamics in Hammer horror films. I examine the publishing house Persephone Books, and Daniel Bowman takes a light-hearted look at his experiences of life abroad in Sweden and France. Film reviews include a look at some of the most interesting English films of 2005, including My Summer of Love and Millions, while the music section expands to include more popular music releases in addition to our usual folk coverage.
The rise in the awareness of English issues is also reflected in the Icons of England campaign, which is building up a list of icons which are supposed to represent various aspects of Englishness. I am grateful to reader Mr Yates for emailing to remind me of the list of icons when busyness might have made it slip my mind. The evocative list includes cultural institutions that range from the instantly recognisable (the cup of tea, Jerusalem) to the more obscure and far less emotive (the Dodgy Dossier). Some confusion about the distinction between Englishness and Britishness, the English and the British, seems to be in evidence (the English qualities of the BBC are obvious, but it is called the British Broadcasting Corporation, so whether it qualifies as an English icon is probably debatable). There is also the danger that, in making lists, we may accidentally come up with something that fixes Englishness in amber, or that the fragmentary nature of the project may create a sort of 'England-lite' that will appeal mainly to tourists and the heritage industry and fail to draw any deeper conclusions about English identity and culture. Nevertheless, the project is most certainly a step in the right direction. With photographs and humorous, delightfully-written blurbs, the site is bound to be a helpful starting-point for people wondering about what constitutes English culture and identity. It also gives a list of celebrities' favourite icons (Ken Livingstone's was The People of England, while Andrew Motion plumped for The Lyrical Ballads, the famous collection of the Romantic poets). This is perhaps the biggest and most important contribution to the public debate surrounding Englishness to date.
Another reader, Mr Day, kindly wrote to inform me of the 2nd Annual Englishness Conference at University College Worcester. Time constraints meant that I could not get to the conference, but the summary of its proceedings is fascinating. Topics included Orwell, Priestley, being an English Muslim, Russian and Spanish constructions of Englishness, and English eccentricity as reflected in the work of Vivian Stanshall. A collection of abstracts from the conference can be downloaded here.
Thank you for all your emails, and keep them coming. Happy reading.--The Editor