Holly Whitbread is an Epping Forest District councillor and currently works as a Parliamentary Researcher.
The Prime Minister’s recent announcement of a Festival of Britain, to be held in 2022, won a lukewarm reception. The UK-wide events will seek to showcase the creative and innovative strengths of the nation. Others say that the proposal is reminiscent of the legendary Great Exhibition of 1851, and comparisons have been drawn to the post-war festival of Britain in 1951.
At the time these events were seen to be pioneering, shining a light on Britain’s great entrepreneurialism and ingenuity. The idea was to demonstrate Britain as a competitive and innovative nation open to business at an opportune moment of change. Millions of Britons celebrated their nation’s achievements in 1951, igniting a sense of national unity.
The British spirit is unrivalled – whether that be to celebrate our sporting success or our historic institutions and customs. There are no better examples than from this summer. England’s World Cup success brought us together in a beer-soaked, patriotic display, whilst the Royal Wedding provided an opportunity for communities to come together in celebration.
From flag-waving to tea parties, such events allow for neighbourhoods to unite. It is also worth noting that these occasions help boost local cohesion. If handled correctly, this can help address wider issues of social isolation and loneliness.
The Festival of Britain in 2022 will provide us with an occasion to celebrate our past, present and future – showcasing our technology, culture, sport and arts expertise to the rest of the world. It will coincide with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and the BBC will mark its 100th birthday that year. It is right that we celebrate our wonderful institutions and our rich heritage, how far they have come and what they still have ahead of them. 2022 will also be the year that Birmingham will host the Commonwealth Games, welcoming 54 Heads of State. This will be a true showcase of our talent and achievements. It will also serve to strengthen our vital relationship with those Common Wealth countries.
Looking forward, in 2022 Britain will be fresh out of the EU. We will be embarking on a new phase in our national history. ‘Post Brexit Britain’ – a moment of ‘national renewal.’ Ready for our future as a modern, progressive nation. Capitalising on the opportunities which our global economy, rich culture, diversity and talents afford us. Cementing our shining role on the world stage.
Certainly, the Festival of Britain will not offer any solutions to the big issues of the day. However, it will offer an occasion for some much- needed perspective. A good dose of pomp and circumstance will serve as a reminder of what a great county the UK is to live in, and what good prospects we have looking ahead.
We are constantly bombarded with doom and gloom. The press currently have a tendency to paint a picture of political dystopia – from doomsday predictions about Brexit to tales of Machiavellian occurrences in our corridors of power. In the face of our challenges, we often forget about our many opportunities, our potential and indeed what we already have to celebrate.
Prima facie, this is a great time to be alive and to be British. We live in a meritocratic society. On the most basic level, health care and living standards are better than ever before. Technology opens the door to brand new practices. Our economy is strong and through our ingenuity looks set to get stronger, when we are ambitious and creative. Under this Conservative Government, unemployment is at an all-time low, whilst this country is renowned for our universities, other institutions, culture, sporting ability and heritage.
Through vision and ambition our future is bright. We should offer a true and competitive alternative to the idealistic and unrealistic Corbynista vision. As Conservatives, we should be pressing the narrative that if people work hard, they can be successful – encouraging enterprise and aspiration. Britain will continue to facilitate opportunity and such individual prospects should continue to grow. Meanwhile, Brexit will open new possibilities, with new and reformed trading relationships and new freedom in terms of our ability to make laws. Our country is and will continue to be a great place to live and the ‘Festival of Britain’ seeks to acknowledge this.
Whilst I have some sympathy with suggestions that a potential £120 million bill is too high for such an event, I believe that this once in a generation celebration has the capacity to bring people together in recognition of our great country, its achievements and its great potential. We must not let the pessimists get us down, and instead demonstrate what we can do outside the shackles of the EU, in a free and renewed Britain. Furthermore, the festival will have an economic return. Money should pour back into the economy through tourism and subsequent foreign investment.
So let’s get out the bunting, get into the spirit and welcome the Festival of Britain in 2022. This is not a nostalgic call to the past but, rather, a positive and ambitious look to our future. The festival will give us a chance to celebrate the great days and prospects ahead of us. We could all do with a dose of optimism and together we should raise a glass to Great Britain.