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Icon Artists

by | 7th, June 2004

‘MAYBE we should ask the Portuguese in a couple of weeks’ time what cultural symbols they associate with England. A smashed window? A thrown chair? A broken bottle?

Mrs Jones shows her neighbours round her living room

Maybe we should ask the police after a busy Saturday night trying to keep order in the centre of towns up and down the country what cultural symbols they associate with England.

A pool of vomit? A vandalised bus shelter? Blood pouring from a gashed head?

Maybe we should ask the ambulance service what cultural symbols they associate with England after they have ferried its latest victims to Casualty.

A stomach pump? A discarded syringe? A smashed skull?

Or maybe we should ask the Government, which has launched a £1m project to identify the country’s most important cultural symbols and define what makes our culture great.

And, according to the Independent, there will be no place for a beaten-up pensioner on the list or a group of lager-swilling boneheads on a Club 18-30 pub crawl.

Instead, it will be a genteel affair, with pride of place going to that great British institution – the cup of tea.

‘It will take us from the Rosetta Stone to the Routemaster bus,’ a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport explained.

‘It’s a debate about what culture is and what it means to be English. The cup of tea is itself an icon. It has a lot of cultural associations.’

It is of course ironic that the Routemaster bus should be included at a time when it is being phased out of service.

Likewise, that endangered species, the red telephone box, is likely to be included on the website called Icons, along with the obsolete Morris Traveller and the recently retired police helmet.

While we are celebrating all that was once good about Britain, we will also celebrate our rapacious history, with the Elgin Marbles (which the Greek government insists was stolen from the Parthenon) being considered for inclusion alongside the Rosetta Stone (which was removed to the British Museum from what is now Egypt).

The aim of the £1m project is, says the Indy, to make culture more accessible to the public through new technology like the internet.

Anyone who is not online can also take part – just collect 120 of the bricks thrown through your window of a weekend and recreate Carl Andre’s ground-breaking Pile Of Bricks installation in your living room.’

Posted: 7th, June 2004 | In: Broadsheets Comment | TrackBack | Permalink