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Flicking through a ‘what’s on’ guide relating to events celebrating St George’s Day, we came across a quote which resonated very strongly.
An organiser of a parade in Solihull was quoted as saying: “Only St George flags to be flown on the parade. This is a patriotic event, not a racist one.”
The fact they felt the need to even equate a celebration of the patron saint of England with racism speaks volumes about the climate we’re currently living in. Would St Patrick’s Day, for example, ever be mentioned in the same sentence with racism? We all know the answer – and, rightly so, the Irish should celebrate being Irish just as the English should celebrate being English. Being proud of your national identity is a good thing, no matter what the ‘citizens of the world’ cosmopolitan types try to tell you.
So, putting words into action, we travelled to West Bromwich yesterday (SUN) to take part in the Stone Cross St George’s Day parade and fete which is now in its 21st consecutive year and is dubbed the “biggest St George’s Day parade in the world”.
The parade started in a very working class community and every other house was decked out in banners, flags and bunting in a scene usually reserved for the latter stages of World Cup competitions. Ever since I visited the United States as a small child, I had always been perplexed at why Americans are far more willing to put their pride in their nation on display and so the sight of hundreds of England flags flying in the spring sunshine was a moment to savour.
“Good morning, England. Good morning, West Bromwich. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. And good morning to any cosmopolitan friends joining us today,” bellowed the speaker system as people gathered.
Famous fundraiser blind Dave Heeley acted as an ambassador for the event and following a brief introduction and a quick rendition of the national anthem, the parade got underway.
The event, which costs £10,000-a-year to stage and which has attracted up to 25,000 people in previous years, made its way from Stone Cross to Dartmouth Park almost two miles away. A British Legion flag bearer and marching band led the throngs of people which included men, women, children, teenagers and even a number of patriotic pets decked out in red and white for the occasion.
Homes and businesses were draped in the flag as the parade sauntered past in the glorious sun. On reaching the park, a short service was held at the Cenotaph in memory of the fallen from two World Wars as a number of scooter and motorbike clubs formed a guard of honour after leading the Black Country procession. The family fun day then got into full swing with craft stalls, dancers, bouncy castles and fairground rides adding to the family vibe which had surrounded the whole event.
Perhaps the most refreshing thing about the whole day was the complete disassociation from politics and the fact these were just normal, everyday families, expressing pride in their country. Nothing more, nothing less – and sadly something that we don’t do nearly enough of in England.
Carrying on the theme of the day, it would do the organisers a disservice to finish on a political point. With so many local authorities of all political persuasions axing grants for St George’s Day festivals in recent years, it would be great to see even more people supporting parades such as this one which are paid for by dedicated fundraising events and generous public donations over the course of the year.
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Standing up for those without a voice in Britain