Научная работа «Культура Великобритании», Урок страноведения по английскому языку для 9-11 классов
Culture of Great Britain
Chapter 1. A sense of place……………………………………………………...6
Chapter 2. Culture and style: national self-expression……………………….....11
Chapter 3. Culture for the community ……………………………………….....17
Great Britain is the birthplace of Newton, Darwin, Shakespeare, the Beatles; home of the world's largest foreign exchange market, the world's richest football club - Manchester United, the inventor of the hovercraft, the JK Rowling and so on. From Scotland to Cornwall, Britain is full of customs and traditions. A lot of them have very long histories. Some are funny and some are strange. But they're all interesting and are all part of the British way of life1.
Artistic and cultural life in Britain is rather rich, like in most of the European countries. It has passed several main stages in its development.
The Saxon King Alfred encouraged the arts and culture. The chief debt owed to him by English literature is for his translations of and commentaries on Latin works. Art, culture and literature flourished during the Elizabethan age, during the reign of Elizabeth I; it was the period of English domination of the oceans and colonies, and, due to the strong political and economic position of the country, there were few obstacles in the way of the cultural development. This time is also famous for the fact that William Shakespeare lived and worked then.
The empire, which was very powerful under Queen Victoria, saw another cultural and artistic hey-day as a result of industrialisation and the expansion of international trade during the so-called industrial age.
However, German air raids caused much damage during the First World War and then during the Second World War. The madness of the wars briefly inhibited the development of British culture.
Immigrants who have arrived from all parts of the Commonwealth since 1945 have not only created a mixture of nations, but have also brought their cultures and habits with them. Monuments and traces of past greatness are everywhere. There are buildings of all styles and periods. A great number of museums and galleries display precious and interesting finds from all parts of the world and from all stage in the development of nature, man and art. London is one of the leading world centres for music, drama, opera and dance. Festivals held in towns and cities throughout the country attract much interest. Many British playwrights, composers, sculptors, painters, writers, actors, singers and dancers are known all over the world.
The main goals of our research are:
to analyse features of culture of Great Britain;
to study what influence have rendered historical events and geographical features of the country on formation of culture of contemporary Great Britain;
to study the issue of national identity of British and cultural distinctions between inhabitants of the Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland;
to touch upon the issue of cultural diversity:
and also to deal with a problem of so-called «the culture of violence».
There are three chapters in our research which cover a wide range of questions.
In Practical work there are there parts: Section analysis, Chapter analysis and discussion, Textual interpretation.
In the course of research have been studied books on culture of Great Britain (for ex.: «British culture: an introduction»2, «British Cultural Identities»3, «British language & culture»4), on the history of the country (for ex: «What’s it like? Life and culture in Britain today»5, «Britain in close-up»6) and modern British media sources of information such as web-site of BBC7, newspapers The Guardian, The Times and so on.
The culture of this country refers to the patterns of human activity and symbolism associated with the United Kingdom and the British people. It is informed by the UK's history as a developed island country, being a major power, and, its composition of four countries - England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They have preserved and distinct customs, cultures and symbolism.
As a direct result of the British Empire, British cultural influence (such as the English language) can be observed in the language and culture of a geographically wide assortment of countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, the United States, and the British overseas territories. These states are sometimes collectively known as the Anglosphere. As well as the British influence on its empire, the empire also influenced British culture, particularly British cuisine. Innovations and movements within the wider-culture of Europe have also changed the United Kingdom; Humanism, Protestantism, and representative democracy have developed from broader Western culture.
The Industrial Revolution, with its origins in the UK, brought about major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation, and had a profound effect on the socio-economic and cultural conditions of the world. The social structure of Britain during this period has also played a central cultural role. More recently, popular culture of the United Kingdom in the form of the British invasion, Britpop and British television broadcasting, and British cinema, British literature and British poetry is respected across the world.
Chapter 1. A sense of place
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to give it its formal title, is a highly centralised and unitary state, and its main component, England, has been so for almost a thousand years, longer than any other European country. As a political entity, however, Britain (as the United Kingdom is loosely called) is less than 300 years old, being the state which emerged from the union of the ancient kingdoms of Scotland and England in 1707.
It is widely assumed that the British are a relatively homogeneous society with a strong sense of identity, but it is an assumption that requires considerable qualification. Even after 300 years the terms 'British' and 'Britain' which are used for official purposes, can also seem very artificial. In his famous Dictionary of Modem English Usage, first published in 1926, Fowler wrote:
«It must be remembered that no Englishman, or perhaps no Scotsman, calls himself a Briton without a sneaking sense of the ludicrous, or hears himself referred to as a BRITISHER without squirming. How should an Englishman utter the words Great Britain with the glow of emotion that for him goes with England? His Sovereign may be Her Britannic Majesty to outsiders, but to him is Queen of England.»
For centuries it has been the idea of England (or Scotland), rather than of Britain, which has been charged with patriotic emotion. The idea of England is invoked at times of national crisis, for example at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, when Admiral Lord Nelson's famous order to the British fleet read, "England expects that every man will do his duty." In 1939 during Parliament's emergency debate on the eve of war, one Member of Parliament (MP) called across the chamber to another who was rising to speak: "Come on, Arthur, speak for England."
One should not be surprised, either, that Fowler wrote these words under 'England'. If you look up 'Britain', 'British' and 'Briton' you will find 'See England.' Most people call Britain 'England', and the British 'English', as if Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland were merely outer parts of England. Nothing, it should be said, infuriates a Scot more than ignorantly to be called English, or for all Britain to be referred to as England. Many Welsh and Northern Irish feel similarly about their identity.
The United Kingdom is a land of great diversity, partly in its landscape, but more importantly in the human sphere. There are four territorial divisions, and they all carry a special sense of identity which is strongly affected by the tension between their own distinctive history and tradition and centralised government from London. Yet even England has local identities, which tend to be stronger the further one travels from the south east. In Cornwall, in the far south west, there is still a sense of Celtic identity, and a romantic affinity with their cousins, the Celtic people of Brittany in north-west France, persists. In the north of England, in the words of one MP, people are "warm, friendly, quick-tempered and insular". Communities such as those in the mining villages of Durham are tightly knit, with a strong sense of loyalty. The people of Yorkshire and Lancashire, too, have a strong sense of community identity that can hardly be found in the south. As one moves closer to London, community loyalties are weaker and society is both more homogeneous and yet also more individualistic, the characteristics of a highly integrated modern society. The sense of local difference may be partly a matter of history, but it is also to do with the subtle changes in landscape, architecture or even the way English is spoken, from one county to another9.
It's also important to remember that people from all over the world - not just Africa, Asia and the Caribbean - have been immigrants to Britain in the past 50 years. The last Census shows, for instance, that more than 175,000 people living in Britain were born in Australia, New Zealand or Canada; 74,000 in Poland, 78,000 in Cyprus, 91,000 in Italy, 143,000 in the USA, 215,000 in Germany, and nearly 600,000 in the Republic of Ireland. Some have come to Britain as political refugees; others for economic or career opportunities. Every immigrant community has its own story, its own ways of adapting to the stresses and challenges of life in a new country10.
About 8,000 West Indians were based in Britain as soldiers during the Second World War. Some of them decided to return to Britain after the war because of poor economic prospects at home. They were citizens of the British Empire, with the right to hold British passports and live and work in Britain. In fact many of them considered England as their 'mother country'.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, Britain had a strong economy and needed more workers. Many young Indians and Pakistanis came to Britain, where they could easily get jobs. Unlike the West Indians, Pakistanis and Indians never thought that they were moving to a 'mother country'. They moved for economic reasons.
In 1962 Britain passed a law, the Commonwealth Immigration Act, which meant that people from countries like Canada, Australia, India, Pakistan and Jamaica could no longer go and live in Britain unless they had a job there. Then in 1968 Britain passed a new Act. Now only people whose fathers or grandfathers were born in Britain were allowed to live there.
In 1965, the first Race Relations Act made racial discrimination a criminal offence, but it didn't cover housing or employment. Stronger Race Relations Acts were passed in 1968 and 1976. 'No Coloureds' and 'Europeans Only' signs were now illegal. The third Race Relations Bill in 1976 was stronger and more extensive than previous ones. It set up the Commission for Racial Equality to look into cases of discrimination on racial grounds.
Despite the laws against discrimination, there are still many inequalities. In proportion to their numbers, members of ethnic minorities still do more unskilled jobs, and make up a bigger share of the unemployed, than the majority of the population. But in education they now generally do better than others, and there is a growing number of politicians, lawyers, actors, writers, academics, musicians, business people and sports stars who provide models of successful lives in a multi-ethnic society11.
How do these aspects of British society express themselves? Like any other society, the British like to create an agreeable picture of themselves. The majority like to think the important national values are things like tolerance, decency, moderation, consensus and compromise. They are uncomfortable with terms which polarise, such as: ideology, liberation, bourgeois, capitalist, collectivist. They like modesty and understatement, and they prefer practical common sense to pure logic. One writer, contrasting England with neighbouring France, says, "At times it seems that the French and English national characters could be expressed in a series of antitheses: wit/humour; logic/tradition; gallantry/courage; thrift/expenditure; taste/comfort; town/country; vanity/pride." Unlike elsewhere in Europe, someone described as an 'intellectual' usually feels embarrassed rather than flattered.
In spite of having been a centralised state for longer than most European countries, British society is also deeply individualistic in a way which is inseparable from ideas of liberty and localism. This has a long history. According to one sociologist, "Individualism is built into 'custom and practice', into local work places and community organisations."
There is a feeling that it is the ordinary people, standing up for their rights in spite of government, who safeguard freedom, in contrast with France where in theory it is the state which upholds liberty. According to Ralf Dahrendorf, "There is a fundamental liberty in Britain not easily found elsewhere."
This local response illustrates another longstanding characteristic of the British. They have a strong civic sense and participate in public affairs as their birthright. It is at the local level that British democracy is most meaningful. Writing eighty years ago, Elie Halevy, a French writer on Britain, spoke enthusiastically of Britain as "the country of voluntary obedience, of spontaneous organization". It is as true today.
The impulse to organise oneself and one's neighbours in some cause is a strong British tradition. William Beveridge, the wartime architect of Britain's welfare system, wrote at the time, "Vigour and abundance of Voluntary Action outside the home, individually and in association with other citizens, for bettering one's own life and that of one's fellows, are the distinguishing marks of a free society."
About seven million Britons are involved in some kind of voluntary activity, ranging from urban community action groups of the political left, to local preservation societies, associated with more traditionally-minded people. Choirs, local dramatic groups, shelters for homeless people, the provision of the lifeboat service around Britain's shores, and many other things besides, depend upon the voluntary impulse.
A picture of the British as both individualist and yet community-minded is a cosy one, and in many respects the British have a deep sense of cultural cohesion and unity. Yet, in the words of a leading educationist, "The trouble with the British is that they accept and enjoy the nice distinctions of social class. They love hierarchy and see nothing wrong in the deferential attitude that it breeds." Nowhere is this clearer than in the question of speech. For the way English is spoken gives away not only regional identity but to some extent class status too. It is, for one sociologist, "the snobbery which brands the tongue of every British child".
Since the days of Shakespeare, the English of south east England has been considered the 'standard', for no better reason than that the south east is the region of economic and political power. The emergence of an upper and upper-middle-class mode of speech, 'received pronunciation' (RP), was systematically established through the public (in fact private) school system attended by the boys of wealthier families. RP persists as the accepted dialect of the national elite.
Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of RP. One is 'unmarked' RP, which suggests no more than that the speaker is well-educated (although of course many equally well-educated people speak with a regional accent). This is the dialect of the BBC, and thus it has a kind of authority. Through radio and television unmarked RP is becoming a more widely spoken accent. Then there is 'marked' RP, which indicates high social class and is spoken, for example, by many army officers who come from upper-class families. At the time of the Falklands War, marked RP was very fashionable, since it suggested leadership and authority at a time of national crisis. Although spoken by less than 5 per cent of the population, RP has immense influence. Those who speak it enjoy a social authority that contradicts democratic ideals. As long as RP remains suggestive of authority, some job advertisements will demand 'well spokenness', and some ambitious politicians will hide their regional accents with RP.
Regional accents exist, in class status terms, below RP. But even they have a hierarchy. Scottish, Welsh and Irish are generally the more popular regional accents. Then come northern, Yorkshire and west country accents, and at the bottom of the list come the least popular ones of the great conurbations, London, Liverpool, Glasgow and the West Midlands. Significantly the television news is read by RP speakers, while the weather forecast following the news is often read by someone with a regional accent. Is there an implicit difference in the importance and status of news and weather?
Do dialect (a matter of grammar and vocabulary) and accent enrich or impoverish? This is a continuing matter for debate among linguists. Some argue that regional accents enhance the sense of local community, and that to abandon them is to give way to the accents of the ruling class. Others argue that regional dialects, given their class associations, are socially divisive. Dialect is unlikely to disappear and the debate is likely to continue12.
Chapter 2. Culture and style: national self-expression
The sense of unity and community is also disturbed by a gradual erosion of the consensus on acceptable social behavior. Society seems to be more openly violent. The urban riots of 1981 and 1985 and the violence of football crowds, which give British soccer fans such notoriety in continental Europe, are not the only evidence. Among poorer young people there has been growing anger at financially successful young professionals, or 'yuppies'.
Does this represent a new breakdown in social values? It is probably nearer the truth to recognize that the law and order achieved during the years 1900-60 was exceptional, and resulted from a stronger (and accepted) class system, the loss of many young men in war, and the hard grind of economic survival. We know that urban violence was a regular feature of nineteenth-century Britain.
Apart from the abuse of alcohol, the reasons for the present growth in violence may include: the widespread destruction of traditionally close-knit communities when the old slums were replaced by modem housing estates; the decline of the working-class cultural solidarity; the growth of the middle class, in which individualism is more important than community solidarity; and possibly most important of all, the vastly increased mobility of individuals who can no longer feel they are deeply rooted in one particular community.
Hooliganism may appear uncivilised and purposeless. Those who have studied football hooliganism, however, believe that it represents an attempt to find a group identity. Gangs find their identity through loyalty to a particular club, and controlling the area around the club stadium. "Our violence," one gang member explained, "is all about defending and invading territory."13
Although football hooliganism has been a cover for the demonstration of the 'hardness' expected of young men on rough public housing estates, it is not confined to any one social group. One researcher found a gang which included two solicitors' clerks, an insurance underwriter, a bank manager and some soldiers on leave. As a twenty-six-year-old financial adviser told a joint research study by five European countries, "Whilst away representing my country, England, [at the 1988 European championships] I had one of the biggest 'buzzes' of my life. The adrenalin that was pumping through my body, aching with pride from the moment we landed was something I have never experienced in my life before." According to the same study, the typical British hooligan travelling to the European football championships was a single man, aged seventeen to thirty-three, and living in the south east, probably a skilled worker or badly paid clerk.
Football matches provide the potential enemy and the environment in which people can organise themselves to express their frustration or alienation violently. Violence, one should note, is not confined to hooligans. Violent methods have been increasingly used by the police to maintain order since the 1980s. Furthermore, government has been less tolerant of those who do not conform to social norms.
That’s why it is important to describe some urban sub-cultures. Rebellion and dissent belong on city streets. Among those who rejected the English cottage culture in favour of a popular urban culture, some remained deeply dissatisfied with their place in society. Teds, Mods, Rockers, Bikers, Skinheads, Punks and Rastafarians, the sub-cultures of the politically or economically weaker segments of society, all have their roots in the poorer parts of towns. They reflect a refusal to conform in post-1945 society. Like the rural dream of the majority, some of these sub-cultures are based on nostalgia for a lost world, for example, an imagined traditional working-class culture for the Skinheads, or an idealised Africa for Rastafarians.
The single greatest influence for all these rebel sub-cultures has been Afro-Caribbean. Afro-Caribbean immigrants, and more particularly their children, have felt excluded from mainstream British society. Many feel they have exchanged one colonial situation for another, as a cheap and "> and Liverpool were to a considerable extent an expression of Afro-Caribbean frustration with their lot. One of the most colourful of their celebrations is the annual Notting Hill Carnival. The rich and lively expression of Afro-Caribbean identity is what the Carnival is really about, yet the media tend to
record the event in terms of the violence or good humour of the occasion.
At a spiritual level many Afro-Caribbeans, like those still in the Caribbean, dreamed of a golden age in Africa before the slave traders came. Their text was the Bible, which had traditionally been used by a dominant white culture to tame them. They reinterpreted it according to their own experience of racial suffering, viewing Britain as part of the Biblical 'Babylon" the land of slavery, and Africa, especially Ethiopia, as the 'Promised Land'. These Rastafarians began to wear distinctive clothes, camouflage jackets, large hats in the red, gold and green colours of Ethiopia, and put their long, uncut hair in 'dreadlocks'. They took to speaking in a special 'patois', or dialect. This was defiance and revolt, until Rastafarians became a recognised and legitimate minority group at the end of the 1980s. Most important, however, for its cultural impact, has been the black music which came into Britain mainly through the Rastafarian movement. Two particular types, ska and reggae, evolved in the Caribbean and United States but were developed in Britain during the 1970s. 'Break-dance' music came direct from the United States as did 'Hip-hop'. "Nowhere in the world," according to the style writer Peter York, "is black American dancing music more cherished than in England." At first the music spread through informal channels, and home-made tapes. By the mid 1980s there were over 100 different independent reggae 'labels', or companies making tapes and records of reggae music. These types of music were powerful expressions of dissidence.
The Skinheads who developed in the 1970s out of an older cult, the Mods, copied black mannerisms and fashions and danced to reggae. According to Ronnie Am, a retired black disc-jockey, "White teenagers loved the music and copied the clothes. This was the biggest adoption of black fashion by white people." Yet Skinheads were closely identified with extreme right wing views of Afro-Asian immigrants. In general they have tolerated Afro-Caribbeans more willingly than they have the Asian minority. Such a number of Skinheads have been violent to blacks and homosexuals, or gays, that they are widely considered to be virtually fascist. They wear heavy boots, jeans and braces, and shave their hair or cut it very short. They aggressively seek to recover a crude working-class identity which their parents' generation has largely abandoned. As a movement the Skinheads are now in decline.
The sub-culture rapidly ceases to express serious dissent, let alone being a threat to society. In the end, of course, it becomes another accepted and colourful part of urban culture.
While many might agree that the characteristics and behaviour mentioned above are recognisably British there are, of course, many cultures reflecting age, class, gender, ethnicity and social outlook. Broadly speaking there is a divide between the cultures of the controlling majority and those of the protesting minority, people who feel comparatively weak.
One of the most striking aspects of popular mainstream culture in Britain is the love of the countryside. Many people, whether they live in a suburban house or in a flat in a high-rise block, would say their dream home was a country cottage with roses growing over the door. In 1977 a collection of Edwardian amateur watercolours and sketches of wild flowers and simple rural scenes were published under the title The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. To the surprise of the publishers this proved to be the best selling book of the next ten years, selling over 2.6 million copies in thirteen languages, and £75 million worth of associated merchandise. It appealed to romantic (and upper-class) nostalgia for the countryside. The Archers, radio's longest running serial soap opera (over thirty-five years so far), Laura Ashley's highly successful decor and fashion shops, and the fashion for unpainted pine furniture, all tap deeply into the British rural imagination.
As a nation, the British have made a mental retreat from the urban environment. They have a deep nostalgia for an idealised world of neat hedgerows, cottages and great country houses, surrounded by parkland, that clever eighteenth-century style of gardening that looked 'natural'. The nostalgia stems partly from a sense of loss which has lingered since the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago, and from a romantic love of nature which has been such a powerful theme in English literature. The National Trust, which owns or manages hundreds of country estates, stretches of countryside and great country houses, was founded a century ago on the rising nostalgia for a lost rural paradise.
A basic reason so many town dwellers wish to live in the suburbs is to have a garden in which to grow flowers. Indeed, many suburban houses imitate a cottage style. Even in the heart of London, its great parks, such as St James', Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, are informal, recreating a rural ideal, and city-dwelling children often know the names of wild flowers and birds. In an urbanised Britain that still dreams of the countryside it touched the heart of the nation14.
Being so traditionally minded, the British are less fashion-conscious than other Europeans. The majority dress conservatively rather than fashionably. For example, the upper and upper middle classes tend to dress 'safely' in the well-tried styles of the past fifty years or so. During the 1980s this style appealed to a wider clientele which, inspired by the romance of the upper classes, particularly by the Royal Wedding (Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer) in 1981, began to imitate them. For all its simplicity, this old-fashioned style of the upper and upper middle class is distinctively exclusive. As one fashion writer, speaking of the disappearance in 1989 of the European 'powersuit', observes:
"Meanwhile, the pin-striped men of London do not care what is happening to the suit in Paris.... It is from the sober tailoring of the Victorian power-lord and from mediaeval heraldry that the British suit takes its imagery of power and control. It is not an ostentatious display of wealth and privilege but a discreet system of signals ... [through which] the subtle working of the establishment is revealed. At official functions throughout the land, the tie, the suit's colours, signal to the assembled company the allegiance of the wearer - which school or university he attended, which club or company he belongs to.... And those who imagine that the code has become redundant in the modern world do not understand the strength of the patriarchal system in this country."
It is a question of breeding not wealth. The suit is the uniform of traditional Conservative MPs, while Labour MPs wear the clothes of the ordinary middle middle classes, the suburban look of off-the-peg suits from a major retailer like Marks and Spencer. There is, of course, an equivalent dress for women. For those who want to understand the mystique of the upper class, all is revealed in Peter York's book which popularised the style of the 1980s:
Most people, of course, do not imitate top society. Nevertheless, the 1980s was a decade when wealth and power were strongly expressed, for example in 'power dressing', an echo of the dominant political ideas of the Thatcher decade, as Peter York noted:
"To grow into her role as a leader of men, she [Margaret Thatcher] had ... to turn to a power symbol - the warrior queen.... She wears career lady suits with lapels and those bows and cravats which are a kind of pretend tie. Her hair is lacquered into Britannia's golden helmet, her voice is stronger, slower, deeper.... I think Margaret Thatcher mastered the nation by style, by projecting strength and certainty when people wanted it."
The old upper class will continue to dress as it always has, but there may be a swing in the 1990s back to a more classless informal look more in keeping with Britain's greater integration into Europe. This is what the leading fashion writer, Charlotte Du Cann, had to say in 1989: "Eurostyle does not come from a reactionary mould. Eurostyle comes out of the sixties, it is both optimistic and modernist. It does not serve the greedy individual but the free citizen. It believes in the citizen's right, for example, to equal education, new architecture and culture."
That does not mean that the British are merely going to adopt 'Eurostyle'. As noted, Britain has a strongly individualistic culture. The British may be among the least smartly dressed people in Europe, but they wear what they want when they want. There is as great a tolerance of personal appearance as anywhere in Europe. As Charlotte Du Cann baldly states, "They frankly don't give a damn when it comes to the rule book." She explains, "In the years of high-spirited street style [the 1960s and 1970s] the British were heralded as the saviours of fashion. In the subsequent era of serious work dressing [the 1980s], they were denounced as 'embarrassing' and 'amateur'." But with the change in mood at the end of the 1980s, British fashion designers like Vivienne Westwood, jasper Conran, John Galliano and Rifat Ozbek, made a comeback. They emphasise individuality because the British hate the idea of appearing the same.
However, there is an important and sometimes destructive tension between nostalgia and individualism. Tradition and creativity are in conflict. Much of Britain, its creeping Neo-classical revival, its love of the country-cottage look, the old-fashioned dress style of the upper class, says much about the way the British perceive themselves. Because the past is glorious for the British, they prefer its reassurance to the uncertainty of the future. Speaking of fashion in its wider sense, Charlotte Du Cann notes the price the British pay for their nostalgia: "Those who come to Britain want to buy what we sell with utter conviction: our cosy comforting past. The handcrafted nostalgia that we market so desperately robs contemporary design of its rebellious energy."
Anti-Modernism has been a prevalent theme in British culture. The popular culture of the urban working class, expressed for example, in cinemas, dance-halls and football stadiums, has been a poor relation. Britain has a far weaker modernist culture than exists in France or Germany, because the British feel less certain about the relationship between architecture, art, design, craft and manufacture. It is safer to live with the quiet authority of a rural past, than the uncertainties of the urban present.
Nowhere was this tension more fiercely debated at the end of the 1980s, than in the field of architecture. There was a strong revolt against the use of bare concrete, and against the high rise buildings which had been so popular in the 1960s and early 1970s. But it was also a protest against the unfamiliarity and apparent brutality of Modernist architecture, as it is called. This was popularly associated with cheap public housing and office blocks. In the late 1980s Prince Charles openly championed a return to traditional architecture and building materials. For example, he intervened to prevent a Modernist addition to the National Gallery, an early nineteenth-century building, and to prevent the construction of what he called a 'Glass Stump', designed by the great Modernist architect, Mies van der Rohe, in the City of London. Prince Charles' interventions and his book on the subject, A Vision of Britain, created a major debate, in which the popular mood was clearly in sympathy with his views.
These styles, Post-Modem and Neo-Classical, were associated in people's minds with private development in the way that high-rise cheap concrete buildings were thought of as the architecture of the welfare state. Thus, Post-Modem and Classical (which are too expensive for low-income families) were associated with the Thatcher decade.
However nostalgic the British may be, foreign modem influences have been immensely important in shaping popular culture since 1945. As a result of the US presence during and after the war, Britain was invaded by American culture -symbolised by chewing gum, jazz, flashy cars and mass production. It spoke of material wealth and social equality, and seemed highly subversive to adults, who accepted the existing social order, but highly attractive to the young. By 1959 almost 90 per cent of all teenage spending was conditioned by a rapidly Americanising working-class taste. It was not destined to last. In the 1960s Britain was more influenced by the apparent sophistication of the Continent - Italian, French and Spanish cuisine, espresso bars, Scandinavian design, Modernist architecture, and even holidays in the sun. This, too, implied a more egalitarian country than Britain traditionally had been.
In the 1960s this mixture of influences that made up a new popular culture exploded in a distinctly English type of pop music - exemplified by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and many others - and a revolution in dress and style, expressed most strikingly in the mini-skirt and the exotic range of clothes that expressed social liberation, on sale in London's Carnaby Street. The revolution became permanent as this popular culture seeped into even the upper-class reaches of Britain's youth. Nevertheless, the tension between the popular modernism of rebellious young people and the traditionalism of a staid, silent majority persists15.
Chapter 3. Culture for the community
As has been seen, there is much in Britain's culture to cause unease. But curiously enough, like the discussion of Britain's intellectual life, the British find discussion of their national artistic life faintly embarrassing. As the great British art historian, Nikolaus Pevsner, himself a refugee immigrant, remarked over thirty years ago, "None of the other nations of Europe has so abject an inferiority complex about its own aesthetic capabilities as England." This inferiority complex owed much to the rise of the Modern Movement which was so strongly rooted in continental Europe, particularly in France and Germany.
The United Kingdom also has a vibrant tradition of theatre. Theatre was introduced from Europe to what is now the United Kingdom by the Romans and auditoriums were constructed across the country for this purpose.
Annual festivals of music and drama are very popular in Britain. Some of them are famous not only in Britain, but all over the world.
Burns' night. January 25 is the birthday of Scotland's greatest poet Robert Burns. There are hundreds of Burns clubs not only in Britain, but also throughout the world, and on the 25th of January they all hold Burns Night celebrations. In banquet halls of Edinburgh, in workers' clubs of Glasgow, in cottages of Scottish villages, thousands of people drink a toast to the immortal memory of Robert Burns. To the sounds of bagpipes there appear on the tables the traditional dishes of the festival dinner: chicken broth, boiled salt herring, and haggi— a typical Scottish dish made from the heart and other organs of a sheep. It is eaten with boiled turnip and potatoes. The dinner is followed by dancing, pipe music, and reciting selections from Burns' lyrics. The celebration concludes with singing the poet's famous Auld Lang Syne.
Shakespeare's Birthday. Every year the anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare is celebrated in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he was born on April 23, 1564. Flags are hung in the main street, people wear sprigs of rosemary (for remembrance) in their buttonholes. A long procession goes along the streets to the church where everyone in the procession puts a wreath or a bouquet, or just one flower at the poet's grave. In the evening there is a performance of the chosen Birth day Play in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
In London, the Aldwych Theatre which has close ties with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, holds international Shakespeare festivals, during which famous companies from abroad, including the Comedie Francaise from Paris, the Moscow Art Theatre, the Schiller Theatre of Berlin', the Abbey Theatre from Dublin, and others, perform Shakespeare's plays.
The Edinburgh International Festival. The Edinburgh International Festival is held annually during three weeks in late August and early September. The Festival is quite international in its character, as it gives a varied representation of artistic production from many countries. Leading musicians of the world and world-famous theatre companies always take part in it.
The idea of the Festival originated in the first postwar year. All over Europe rationing and restrictions were the order of the day, and hundreds of towns lay in ruins, and it seemed a good idea to shift people's attention from everyday needs to eternal values.
The first Festival was held in 1947. And since that time the Edinburgh International Festival has firmly established its reputation as one of the important events of its kind in the world.
Yet Britain today has much to be proud of, though its artistic achievements are frequently better appreciated, and known, abroad than at home. In 1976 the American artist Ron Kitaj (now resident in Britain) argued that there were "artistic personalities in this small island more unique and strong and, I think, more numerous than anywhere in the world outside America's jolting artistic vigour". Examples easily come to mind. Henry Moore exhibited more widely than any previous artist. Until his death in 1992, Francis Bacon was frequently described as the greatest living artist. Lucien Freud has been described as "the greatest living realist painter". David Hockney has been described by one critic as "one of the most original and versatile artists of his generation anywhere in the world". Howard Hodgkin and Corel Weight, too, are possibly as well-known abroad as at home16.
As in fashion, so also in art, the British seem to enjoy breaking the rules of the current Modernist style, and this perhaps is what gives it such originality. As one art critic wrote in 1988, "British artists, who are currently enjoying the highest international standing, have been singularly unaffected by the much vaunted internationalism of the Modern Movement. English art is perhaps beginning to escape from insularity and provincialism through a rediscovery of its Englishness."
So, too, there is much fine architectural work, in spite of the controversy between Modernists and Post-Modernists at the end of the 1980s. Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and James Stirling are much in demand, abroad perhaps more than at home. In Glasgow the fame of Sir William Burrell's amazing art collection owes much to Barry Gasson's architecture in which it is housed.
However, there are areas of the arts in which Britain more confidently excels. British theatre is among the liveliest and most innovative in the world. Some would argue that the quality of theatre is a good register of a country's democratic values. For it is on the stage that some of the most painful questions can be asked about the way we live, both as individuals and as a community.
Over 300 commercial theatres operate, 100 of these in London, and about 40 of them in London's famous West End. However, the real vitality of British theatre is to be found less in the West End than in the regional, 'fringe' and pub theatres all over the country. West End theatres are essentially commercial. They stage what will fill the house, which means there is an emphasis on musicals, comedy and other forms of light entertainment. They depend on foreign tourists to fill up to 40 per cent of seats.
Much of the liveliest theatre, however, has grown out of 'rep', the repertory movement, which experienced a major revival from 1958 when the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry was built, the first new regional theatre for over twenty years. During the next twenty years forty theatres were built, rebuilt or extensively renovated. These theatres, however, did not follow the classical tradition of repertoire, a much repeated cycle of well rehearsed plays. Nor did they offer a menu of uncontroversial light entertainment, like dramatised versions of Agatha Christie thrillers.
Instead they presented seasons of plays, each running for about four to six weeks after which they would not be re-staged. Certain theatres have become particularly famous for their presentation of new plays and powerful, sometimes controversial productions of classic ones. Among the better known of these energetic centres of dramatic talent are the Glasgow Citizen's, the Sheffield Crucible, the Bristol Old Vic, the Manchester Royal Exchange, in London the Royal Court and the Lyric Hammersmith, and others, too, in Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham and elsewhere. It is these theatres, rather than those in the West End, which stage most of the best innovative British drama today.
Theatre is a powerful instrument of education as well as art and culture. Another significant feature of British theatre is the way in which actors have taken drama to young people, even into primary schools. This has broken down some of the traditional barriers between formal stage drama and the community.
Much of the excellence of these theatres is a result of the intensive preparation and speed with which productions are staged, and their short performance lifespan, usually four to six weeks. Their intensity and freshness is not allowed to grow stale. Another important feature, however, is the youthfulness of many of the best productions. Length of experience in Britain is not allowed to stand in the way of talent, and as a result young people, some recently from drama school, perform many leading roles. The most obvious young star at the end of the 1980s was Kenneth Branagh who, while still in his twenties, was hailed -perhaps unfairly - as a new Lawrence Olivier, Britain's most celebrated twentieth-century actor.
In 1988 Branagh illustrated a growing development in British theatre, by forming his own company for small-cast productions of Shakespeare, in which he both directed and performed. By 1990 there were three touring companies staging Shakespeare, with small casts but great vigour. Thus, alongside the formal and talented presentation of Shakespeare by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican in London, and in Stratford-on-Avon, other companies provide highly stimulating and sometimes controversial alternative productions.
The theatres already discussed almost all receive some government subsidy, but significantly less than most theatres in continental Europe. Some theatres have been unable to continue, and have closed. Most are forced to mix their more adventurous productions with safer, more commercial productions. Nevertheless, even though British theatre laments the lack of support, inadequate financing creates a permanent sense of tension and hardship in which some of Britain's best drama is staged. Fringe and pub theatre doubled in size during the 1980s, becoming a popular form of less conventional theatre. These theatres, like the Gate in Notting Hill Gate and the Bush in Shepherd's Bush (both in west London) operate entirely without subsidy. Many operate in the informality of a room above a pub, seating an audience of only 50 or 70 people, and with the actors often receiving little more than their travelling expenses. Why do actors work for so little or no money? One reason is that actors like to keep in practice in the sometimes long periods between other engagements, but a more serious reason is that many actors can only earn a living in film or television, performing meaningless and unrewarding roles in thrillers and so forth. Many became actors to perform serious drama. If they cannot do it for a living, they do it when they are free for little or no money. This is a measure of the very high level of artistic commitment in British theatre. What is worth seeing and what is not? Many people rely on the critics in the press, or buy Time Out, a magazine devoted to listing and recommending current drama, music and other arts in Britain each week.
Since the 1960s Britain has achieved a special position in music. While Britain's operatic, dance and classical music performances compare well with top international standards, it is in the field of popular music that Britain has achieved a particular pre-eminence. Britain remains at the forefront of pop music. In 1985 alone twelve out of twenty-seven top single records in the US were British, making Britain "the undisputed leader of youth culture" as The Economist put it.
At the start of the 1990s, British pop music seemed to be rediscovering the spirit of the 1960s. Liverpool and London had been the musical power-houses of the 1960s, but in 1990 the new pop generation took root in Manchester's clubland, the birthplace of Acid House music, and young people started wearing trousers flared not from the knee, but the waist, dayglo colours and ethnic styles. Why Manchester? According to one commentator, "Large enough to support a cultural infrastructure, yet small enough to form a community, the city has fused the styles of Ibiza, Chicago, Detroit and London into something recognisably, tantalisingly, new."
The new music marks a departure from the unrelaxed mood of the 1980s, and a declaration of freedom. For an older generation, however, which enjoyed giant flared trousers and clogs in the 1960s, the music of groups like the Stone Roses may not appeal. Such people are conscious of the generation gap.
On the South Bank of the Thames, opposite Whitehall, stands the capital of Britain's cultural life, with three concert halls, the National Theatre (containing three theatres), the National Film Theatre and the Hayward Art gallery. A fairly recent addition is the lively Museum of the Moving Image. The South Bank receives two and a half million paying visitors each year, while many others come to see free exhibitions and use its restaurant facilities.
The South Bank enjoys both the strengths and weaknesses of its position as a national cultural centre. The buildings, by leading architects of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, are in the bare and uncompromising concrete so favoured in the period. It is planned to hide their brutalism behind glass and soft stone textures in the early 1990s. This is an interference with the intentions of the architects which says much about the way officialdom can often treat artists. Officialdom likes life to be bland and uncontroversial, "Do not upset the populace", it seems to say.
On the South Bank one can hear the greatest sounds of classical music, and some of the finest acting in the world. But for artistic vitality one may be more successful in a fringe theatre or pub. For it is the level of popular participation which makes British artistic life so distinctive. All over the country there are millions of people engaged in amateur music, art and theatre. For example, for more than two hundred years the Royal Academy in London has held an annual Summer Exhibition, for which any painter or sculptor may enter their work. In 1988, for example, 12,500 works were submitted, of which only 1,261 were actually exhibited. Virtually every town and suburb has some form of amateur music group, a choir, an orchestra or even neighbours who form a string quartet. All over the country there are amateur choral groups, ranging from the local village church choir through to highly selective and internationally known choirs, like the Bach Choir. Then there are all the amateur dramatic groups across the country. There are an estimated 6,500 separate amateur companies, involving roughly 75,000 aspiring actors. Such local activities take place everywhere.
Take Stranraer, as an example, a town of 15,000, on the south-west tip of Scotland. Its amateur drama and opera groups put on a major opera and a play each year, plus a pantomime and one or two minor productions. It has youth choirs based in local schools, a youth brass band and two pipe bands, one for entertainment and one for bagpipe competitions. It also has an annual dance festival. Stranraer may be geographically far from the mainstream of national life, but such activities suggest real community participation.
In many market towns and cities all over Britain, roughly 200 cultural festivals are held each year. The choice of what music or drama to perform may not always be very adventurous, nor the quality very high, but these festivals provide a lively form in which local people can celebrate not only their own local arts and culture, but also invite visiting performers of national standing. Ludlow in Shropshire, for example, started having an annual festival in 1960. It is entirely the result of local initiative and effort. The main event each year is a Shakespearian play staged against the castle walls. But local singers perform in the parish church, and there are cricket matches, jazz bands, string quartets and a fair. Fundamentally, such festivals are really celebrations of community.
People do these things for fun. But there are more serious conclusions to draw. In the words of the Director of the National Theatre, "The arts help us to make sense of the world, they help us to fit the disparate pieces together; to try to make form out of chaos."17
Community and the individual: List eight examples of the type of voluntary activities in which many ordinary British people engage.
Can you think of possible reasons why people came to Britain?
What did people in Britain think of the new 'ethnic minorities'? ("Ethnic minority' means people who came to Britain from abroad.) Do you think they tried to stop people coming to Britain?
Do you think there were any problems between native British people and immigrants?
What proportion of the British population is now of 'ethnic' origin? Do you think it's about: 6%, 12% or 24%?
The fine distinctions of speech: Some people want to encourage different dialects of English because they admire their richness. Other people think they are socially divisive and should be abandoned. What is your opinion?
The culture of violence: Has Britain got a violent culture? Give arguments for and against.
The rural ideal: Is Britain's nostalgia for life in the countryside harmless, or damaging? State your opinion and support it with evidence from the text.
Dress codes: The British are perhaps less fashion-conscious than other Europeans. Why?
Nostalgia and modernity: "Tradition and creativity are in conflict [in Britain]." Give examples from the text to support this view.
Urban sub-cultures: Why do young British people join sub-cultures? What sub-cultures exist in your own country?
The culture of sport: In what ways has the character of football as a national sport changed in the last thirty years?
The arts: Why are many of the best British theatrical productions to be found in the smallest theatres?
What entertainment is very popular in Britain?
When is the birthday of Robert Burns? What celebrations do the Burns clubs hold on this day? How are the celebrations held? What is the traditional Scottish dish that is served at these celebrations?
How is Shakespeare's birthday celebrated in Stratford-upon-Avon? How is his birthday marked by the Aldwych Theatre in London?
When is the Edinburgh International Festival held? When did the idea of the Festival originate? Who takes part in the Festival?
Culture for the community: What is distinctive about artistic life in Britain?
Chapter analysis and discussion
1. William Beveridge remarked that the vigour and abundance of voluntary action "are the distinguishing marks of a free society". Do you agree? Is it true of Britain? Is it true of your country? Give reasons for your opinions.
2. British society is strongly individualistic. Find examples of the ways in which this individualism is expressed in the following areas: violent behaviour; dress; urban sub-cultures; the theatre.
3. In the last fifty years, many people have come to live in Britain. Do you know where some of these people came from? List a few countries.
4. Britain is a country in transition, with relationships between its four nations evolving rapidly. What about Russia? Is it evolving or relatively stable?
1. Consider the following two quotations. Do you think there is a connection between them? Can you find evidence from the chapter to support your view?
"The English football warrior is more than a 'mindless' lawbreaker for whom simple disobedience is a goal in itself. Rather, his anti-social fury is fuelled by a conception of self-worth based firmly on long-established notions of national pride. The thug thinks of himself as a super patriot, and his fanaticism is contagious."
"The point of the British is that they do not behave. They neither dress nor act according to the rules, though they know them perfectly well." [taken from a fashion page]
2. There are sometimes cultural conflicts. Here are two examples.
Choose one of these examples and decide how you would settle the argument.
List reasons both for and against your decision, and compare with others in the class.
Find an example of a recent cultural conflict in your country and describe the arguments on each side. You can do this in the form of a newspaper report, a poster, a mini-drama, or a TV documentary.
In the early 1980s, a considerable controversy developed between the Italians in Bedford and the Town Council. According to the Council, the Italians were turning the graves of their relatives into 'gardens', which is against cemetery policy. The tradition of the Italians in Britain is to delimit the grave, perhaps with a little fence, and to 'grow' rather than 'place' flowers. In 1982 the Bedfordshire Times carried a front-page article with the title 'Relatives Fight to Honour Dead'... Many of the Italians in question were indeed prepared to 'fight' and go to prison over the issue. (Terri Colpi, The Italian Factor)
The private Islamia School in London campaigned for 10 years to become the first state-aided Muslim school in Britain. In August 1993 the application was refused by the Government because there were 'too many surplus places' in schools nearby. Yet only two weeks earlier the Government had given state aid to another primary school in the area. The school's leading supporter, Yusuf Islam (formerly the singer Cat Stevens), described the decision as 'an outrage'. He pointed out that there were 4,100 state-aided Christian schools, 21 for Jews, but none for Britain's 1 million Muslims. In 1998 the Islamia School's application for state aid was accepted. (Based on reports in The Times Educational Supplement)
It is by no means an easy task to define what British culture is. Some people tend to see British culture mainly in terms of traditions and symbols : they might, for instance, use ‘Big Ben’ and the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace to define ‘Britishness’; others may simply describe British culture in terms of its component institutions, such as the ‘British education system’, the parliamentary system, food and drink, etc.
In recent decades, the Royal Family has served as a strong focal point for the nation, able to bring together a diverse group of people from different faiths, religions and traditions. In many ways, the British monarchy has been very successful in galvanising a diverse population within Britain and providing a common focus at special times. Yet there are signs that while the monarchy continues to be much admired across Britain, regardless of age, class and even ethnicity, its function is a changing one, and it cannot be used straightforwardly to connote British culture either.
Hence, the main issues to bear in mind, when defining British culture, are as follows :
National culture is not an ‘objective reality: rather, a nation’s identity is filtered through the perspective of its many diverse inhabitants. So in theory, there are as many definitions of ‘Britishness’ as there are people who are seeking to define it.
British culture, like other national cultures, cannot readily be reduced to a collection of established ‘artefacts’ or texts that have been arbitrarily designated as being valuable or important. It is, in reality, much more personal than this, and can be shaped by individuals and groups.
British culture is strongly affected by Britain’s specific history as a former colonial power and its passage through a post-colonial epoch.
Within Britain, the English language has many varieties, each of which is instrumental in shaping a slightly different view of British culture.
In Britain, as in other countries, definitions of national identity differ widely according to one’s age, faith and ethnicity, as well as the exact geography of where one lives.
The term ‘Culture’ is itself open to debate and interpretation: for example, does one mean ‘high culture’ or ‘popular culture’? What kinds of artefacts and activities are included within the term?
Affiliations in Britain are strongly regional and local, as well as national. This is particularly so for people within England. For example, someone who was born in a particularly city, town or rural area will feel a particular affinity with other people from the same geographical location – this often overrides any strong loyalty to ‘Britain’ as a homogeneous unit.
In conclusion of our research we want to emphasize that the UK has an extraordinarily rich and diverse artistic heritage, with British poets, playwrights, musicians, sculptors, painters and filmmakers enjoyed and admired all over the world.
The UK's contribution to the visual arts is immense and there are treats to be found around the country, from striking architecture to paintings, ceramics and sculptures which can be found in many art galleries and museums.
The performing arts are also thriving. Music, theatre, filmmaking, dance and opera are all performed enthusiastically in theatres, concert halls and studios all over the country every night of the year.
The richness of cultural life is largely down to diverse history. For many 100s of years different races and cultures have had an influence on the UK and consequently played a role in creating the society the British live in today18.
There is much to see and enjoy, from the history of the Royal Family to the striking skyscrapers of the City of London, from Guy Fawkes night celebrations to Hadrian's Wall on England's northern borders.
Undoubtedly culture of Great Britain has made huge impact on world culture.
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Oxford guide to British and American culture. Oxford university press, 2005
The Cambridge Companion to Modern British Culture. Cambridge University Press, 2010, 344p.
British language & culture. Lonely planet, 2007, 256p.
Christopher D. British culture: an introduction. Routledge, 2006, 292p.
Collie J., Martin A. What’s it like? Life and culture in Britain today. Cambridge University press, 2000, 96p.
Heath A., Taylor B., Brook L. and Park A. British national sentiment // British Journal of Political Science, 1999
Heath A., Rothon C. and Andersen R. Who feels British? // The Diversity of Devolution. Manchester University Press
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Hunt, M. Ideas and issues: Advanced. Chancerel International, 2000, 67p.
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Journal of International Relations and Development. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, 348p.
3 Storry M., Childs P. British Cultural Identities. London and New York: Routledge, 2002
4 British language & culture. Lonely planet, 2007, 256p.
5 Collie J., Martin A. What’s it like? Life and culture in Britain today. Cambridge University press, 2000, 96p.
6 McDowall, D. Britain in close-up. Longman, 1995, 209p.
9 McDowall, D. Britain in close-up. Longman, 1995, p. 10-12.
10 Collie J., Martin A. What’s it like? Life and culture in Britain today. Cambridge University press, 2000, p.20.
11 Collie J., Martin A. What’s it like? Life and culture in Britain today. Cambridge University press, 2000, p.16.
12 McDowall, D. Britain in close-up. Longman, 1995, p. 101-104.
13 Heath A., Taylor B., Brook L. and Park A. British national sentiment // British Journal of Political Science, 1999, p.54.
14 Storry M., Childs P. British Cultural Identities. London and New York: Routledge, 2002, p.81.
15 McDowall, D. Britain in close-up. Longman, 1995, p. 106-107.
17 McDowall, D. Britain in close-up. Longman, 1995, p.120.
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