By Jonathan Lee
Content warning: minor instances of crude language and a mention of blackface (all used for satirical effect)
Oyez! Oyez! It has been announced by our most beneficent leader, Theresa Mary May, that on this two hundred and twenty second year of our Lord, a fayre of Britannic proportions shall be held, on every pleasant village green and suburban cul-de-sac, throughout this land of the South East of England.
The Tories have pulled another joker from the pack, this time with months to go until B-Day, and announced with much bravado a post-Brexit ‘Festival of Britain’. Or to everyone north of Grantham and west of Bristol: Festival of the Home Counties. The glorified Sunday fête will aim to replicate the Labour Party’s event of 1951, which celebrated the successes of the post-war consensus, growing internationalism, and an era of rebuilding and growth through social democracy.
Expectations for the reboot have been set depressingly low, with the event unlikely to top even the “Millennium Experience” – an egotistical corporate circle-jerk, held in a big upturned plastic tub plonked on the bank of the Thames. Built at the apogee of Blairite Britain, the Millennium Dome was a monument to waste, constructed using a £628 million National Lottery cheque taken from working class people, and standing empty at a cost of £1 million per month within a year of its grand opening. Though comparatively the Brexit Britain Carnival only weighs in at a paltry £120 million (so far), it will undoubtedly come to represent the colossal waste in opportunity, money, trade, and unity that Brexit will likely deliver.
Theresa proclaimed at the Conservative Party Conference that the Festival of Brexit will represent a “moment of national renewal”, evoking the heady days of the 1851 Great Exhibition, when we paraded all the shit we’d stolen from the rest of the world in a massive greenhouse in Hyde Park. This time around, however, the Empire is no more. Finding a balance that celebrates the diverse heritage of the United Kingdom – whilst critically reflecting on the inherited boons of imperialism, without glorifying the cruelty, atrocities, and cultural theft that made it possible – is no easy task. But it is one which I have the utmost confidence in the Conservative Party to pull off effortlessly with great care and sensitivity.
Especially as the British Bonanza of 2022 will also mark the hundred year anniversary of the partition of Ireland, and the creation of Northern Ireland, something the Tories have been conspicuously silent on. But who knows, maybe another bright spark will decide we need a side event, a “Festival of the Loyalist Union” – perhaps in which bonfire night effigies of Guy Fawkes are replaced with Michael Collins, Theresa May shows off her pipe and drum marching skills, and Ian Paisley sermons are played on repeat on BBC One.
A cynic might raise an eyebrow at the timing of the Brexity Bash – only a few months before the general election of 2022. But maybe by then Supreme Chancellor Mogg will already have declared lifelong terms for elected officials and it won’t be an issue. It may even be a welcome distraction from the daily 9-5 grind of crossing the DMZ to get to the foodbank.
Can you imagine what a post-Brexit festival of all things “British” dreamed up by a clique of Tory school chums would look like?
Picture the scene:
8 o’clock in the morning BBT (Britain’s British Time): a Purge-like siren wails out across the land, marking the opening of Brit-un Fest, followed shortly after by a speech from Margaret Thatcher (pre-recorded should the occasion ever arise).
Ten years after London wowed the world at the 2012 Olympic Games, revellers are once again journeying to the South East of England from all over the Isles. The motorways are full of jubilant festival goers, pushing their trolleys of tinned foods and worldly possessions before them.
With round-the-clock BBC coverage, those unable to make the perilous journey can watch from the comfort of their tent as little Englanders madly Morris dance to exhaustion, furiously stamping and kicking away until their feet bleed, whilst Jeremy Corbyn is whipped to death on a May Pole by Arlene Foster.
The Minister for Social Correction, Liam Fox, announces the privatisation of the workhouse in the form of Toby Carveries, which he notes, “Already do a fine job in feeding the work-shy as part of the phasing out of social welfare.” In the background, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage blow raspberries, running around with arms outstretched pretending to be Spitfire aeroplanes.
Morrissey smugly croons away on the main stage as the festival of baked beans, fish fingers, and Ian fucking Beale gets into full swing. It’s like Glastonbury, if Glastonbury was held in a Wetherspoon’s and the only music they were allowed to play was “Sweet Caroline” or “Copacabana”. Piers Morgan’s “Good Morning Britain” show does a special raffle for a hospital bed space, and Piers himself judges the jam making contest dressed head-to-toe as a black-faced minstrel.
The finale takes place in Royal Burywhit Wells-upon-Nowhere in Surrey – in a scene straight out of The Wicker Man. Only, Nick Clegg replaces Nick Cage, and the wicker man is instead just a giant wicker cock pointing in the direction of Brussels, circled by skipping Tory backbenchers singing the theme from “The Archers”.
Featured image via The British Library (no known copyright restrictions).
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