If you are a citizen, an immigrant or a visitor of the United Kingdom, look around you! Everywhere, you cannot avoid being told that 2012 is the year of the 'Great British Summer': a celebration of Britishness, of identity, of 'us', as the hand of celebration is placed on your shoulder.
International readers will excuse our looking inwards but as we here in the UK are called upon to pay tribute to the monarchy and 'welcome the world' to London's Olympic Games, it's time for us to ask what is 'great', what is British, and what is ours about these celebrations.
For the union is in crisis. In the same week that Union Jacks appeared along the capital's thoroughfares in preparation for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the Yes to Independence campaign was launched in Scotland. While we are blinded by the pomp and dazzle of the 'Great British Summer', a question is being asked whose answer will profoundly affect not only the Scots but the people of all the nations. The UK political class may bury their heads in the sand of the Thames and the spectacle of London as an unchallenged centre of power, but OurKingdom will use these coming months to ask who we are and what we mean by Britishness.
And what is ours. The ongoing assault on Britain's public sphere and transfer of power to the private sector has received a huge boost from the Olympics. Who will benefit? This momentous global event, bringing sporting eminence, team endeavour, fun and magnificence to our shores, should be a shared good, and a unifier. But towns and hamlets across the UK are banned from flying the official London 2012 banners and bunting, because they belong to the multinational sponsors who have long run UK plc behind the scenes, but have never come so close to branding our identity. And while Kate'n'Wills complete the transition into 'royal celebs', can the magic of the monarchy as the soul of these islands be sustained?
OurKingdom invites contributors to join us and reclaim the Great British Summer. This Summer does not belong to LOCOG or Lord Coe or the Queen. We welcome submissions interrogating these months of celebration, exploring the traditions, identity, culture, politics and society of the people of the British Isles, in a way that speaks to and belongs to us the people. Let the summer begin!
Join the 'Great British Summer?' debate.
Email [email protected] with submissions and suggestions.