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If you are a citizen or a visitor to 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!  

The end of the 'Great British Summer'

'The Great British Summer' of 2012 is well and truly over. OurKingdom takes a rollercoaster journey back through the season to close its series.

‘What was the true Legacy of the Olympics?’: join in the debate online

From its immediate impact on the host-city to the global reverberations, listen to the full audio recording of openDemocracy’s debate ‘Culture, Liberty and London after the Olympics’. Join the debate and help shape the Legacy of the 2012 Games. 

Who will win the Olympic legacy?

Today OurKingdom is concluding 'The Great British Summer' series with a debate at London's Cafe Oto. Anthony Barnett introduces this conversation, reflecting on the political significance of the Olympic celebrations. Who will be empowered in the aftermath? 

Feeling British after the Olympics

The Olympics have revealed once again that the British are fascinated with themselves and how they feel about who they are, now that they are a multicultural country that is no longer the centre of an Empire. Here we see some of the shifting responses detailed in polling responses run by the new think tank, British Future. 

Welsh poetry competes with the Olympics for a place in the sun

As the Great British Summer reaches its twilight, John Osmond reflects on the continuing resurgence of Welshness marked by last week’s Eisteddfod.

Towards a good enough Legacy: the long term impact of London 2012

As London 2012 draws to a close the questions of Legacy and how to measure the Games' impact emerge as present tense issues. In this week's Friday essay Phil Cohen challenges the starting point of these discussions: the assumption that the population who use and will come to use the space all share the same vision as the narrowly selected development committee. 

Beyond the pitch, track and ring: a guide to Olympian reading

With London 2012 drawing to a close, Mark Perryman rounds up the books which can help us to understand the long term significance of the Games.

Olympian worship - can't we give up the gigantism of it?

"Bread and circuses" really was the formula the Roman emperors used to buy the social peace needed to exercise their own power. And not just the Romans - every ruler in all time has always sought to bask in the divine glories of communal spectacle. Can't we grow up and reject these ostentatious vehicles of pomp and power?

Olympic Britishness and the crisis of identity

London 2012's opening ceremony offered an epic history of the British worker, but with no acknowledgement of what contemporary work is like. Its celebration of modern Britain was a trans-historical mash-up, flattening all history as repackaged and 'inevitable' British national identity. In fact, the 'national character' is a totem from another century, as is the idea of the 'epic' worker subject. By reverting to these, the ceremony illustrated our present crisis of identity.

A day at the London Olympics: positives and negatives

Mark Perryman spent a day at the Olympic Park in East London and concludes that the Games are a good thing - but could be so much better. 

An island story: Boyle's Olympic opening was irresistibly British

London 2012's opening ceremony evoked a 'gently fierce' national pride that was uniquely British in character. 

Mass arrests outside London's Olympic opening ceremony: an eye-witness account

London 2012's opening ceremony paid tribute to Britain's rich history of political dissent. But outside the Olympic village, a group of peaceful cyclists on their monthly ride around the city were being kettled by police. One of the 182 arrested gives her personal account

The Fire and the Games: how London’s Olympic opening confronted corporate values

London 2012's opening ceremony had a lot to say about the British and their homeland. Behind the eccentricity and humour lay a radical challenge to neoliberalism and the corporate control that the City of London thrives upon, and the Games have embraced. It showed that a different form of popular politics for Britain is possible, where freedom and equality are celebrated.

The Games have begun, an opportunity missed

It was an amazing opening ceremony. Danny Boyle and his team had the opportunity at the outset, to challenge some of the more dominant, ugly trends that have taken over the Olympics. Acknowledgement of the injustice of colonisation would have gone a long way to set the right tone for the games. They failed. But perhaps I expected too much, says Amal de Chickera .

The Olympic security fence is a modern day form of enclosure

Spanning an area of 500 acres and endowed with over 900 surveillance cameras, the Olympic security fence is an aggressive demarcation of a 'post-political non-place'. Born from a conscious manipulation of UK planning legislation, what does this ‘exceptional example’ tell us about historical and future threats to public space in Britain? 

Festivals, nu-folk and the allure of the 'temporary community'

Intimate 'boutique' festivals are mushrooming across the English countryside. Their biggest selling point: a sense of belonging. Is this a rejection of individualistic hedonism? Or the return of the pastoral, manufactured by the urban elite? One thing is certain - they are a sign of things to come.

'Whose Games? Whose city?' - why I'm marching with the Counter Olympics Network

David Renton, steward at Saturday's Counter Olympics Network demonstration, explains the problems he has with the way the London 2012 organisers have constructed this year's Games - from the forced seizure of land, to the morality of the sponsors. 

Beyond the chinless wonders: the radical face of the BBC Proms

The last night of the Proms is one of the UK's most flagrant displays of imperialist nationalism, steeped as it is in red-faced nostalgic veneration of Britannia. But this vulgar finale stands in stark contrast to the Proms programme itself: a nuanced and daring selection of music sensitive to historical circumstance and charged with emancipatory potential.

Olympics 2012: this could be the best Games ever for women

As the London Olympics welcome more women competitors than ever before in a wider range of events,  Sue Tibballs of the UK’s Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, asks why feminists allowed sport to become a safe male haven for chauvinists of every class and nation?

How much did the BBC spend on the Hackney Weekend - and why won’t they tell us?

Should the BBC's mission to inform, educate and entertain incorporate hosting free music festivals for 100,000 people? Last month's Hackney Weekend was generally deemed a big success, but why aren't we allowed to know how much it cost, when we paid for it?

Is the army invading British civil society?

UK schoolchildren could soon be trained in army 'values', the London Olympics will take place under military occupation, the armed forces are set for further integration with the police. As Britain's foreign policy shifts, the meaning of militarisation within our own borders is undergoing a quiet revolution.

G4S Olympic fiasco: British soldiers are the ‘people pipeline’ now

Multimillionaire government ministers, close to G4S chief executive Nick Buckles, are a world away from weary soldiers drafted in to rescue the Olympics.

G4S's Buckles is no bungler. Analysis of an interview

Nick Buckles, CEO of G4S, was not the speech-and-thought-challenged buffoon he appeared to be on his mea-not-so-culpa interview on the BBC's flagship Today program. Indeed, the story seems much more interesting than that

A Games of two halves

With his book offering a blueprint for a better Olympics, published this week, author Mark Perryman explains his Five New Rings.

All England tennis snub

Is Wimbledon too constrained by tradition and pomposity to allow world-class tennis a proper stage? The ambivalent public support towards a first-class Andy Murray illustrates the pressing need to direct attention away from ostentatious spectacle and back towards the game itself. 

Empire for the entrepreneurs: London’s Shard is officially ‘open to the world’

The forces of spectacle were effervescent at last week’s Shard opening. In an immoderate display of vogue technology the arcane powers of London revealed their despotic claim to our future. 

Five New Rings: A Review of Mark Perryman's 'Why the Olympics Aren't Good For Us, and How They Can Be'

Mark Perryman's latest book provides a pointed critique of the way in which corporate sponsorship at London 2012 has overshadowed the Games' purpoted values. In this review, Jules Boykoff explores Perryman's alternative vision of "five new rings", finding in them a pioneering and nuanced model for the future of the Olympics. 

Britain from above: blue sky topography in the second age of synergy

Over 16,000 aerial photographs capturing history dating from near the beginning of the last century were made freely available last week as part of the project 'Britain from Above'. Jamie Mackay explains how these images of our collective past can inspire discussions on the long-term fate of our shared spaces.

A memorial in exile in London’s Olympics: orbits of responsibility

Two sets of extraordinary statistics attached to contemporary events are not connected to each other in a relationship of cause and effect but through a chain of associations and a series of responsibilities not faced and thus acted upon. 

Keeping the flags flying

With England out of Euro 2012 on penalties, the flag-waving build up for the Olympics begins in earnest. Mark Perryman explores the changing shape of sports nationalism, and internationalism. 

'Isles of Wonder'? - some thoughts on the 'Little World' of the London Olympics

Danny Boyle's recently unveiled prototype for the London 2012 Opening Ceremony is centred around a nostalgic image of British countryside. But what do this model's myriad influences suggest about power, history and national identities across the UK? 

Britain's green and pleasant lands

Danny Boyle, best-known for his work directing and producing down-to-earth, gritty films (such as Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire), has created a 'uniquely British' opening ceremony for this summer's Olympics in his role as Artistic Director. Rachael Jolley explores the significance of Boyle's playful vision. 

London's Calling: 'fan zones' and corporate space at Euro 2012

Euro 2012, Le Tour and the London Olympics. Each reveal differing ways in which sport is controlled and consumed. Mark Perryman reports from the Ukraine on how vested interests are threatening the authentic participation of athletes and supporters alike. 

'Protest is dangerous again': the space hijackers take on London 2012

An inside report from London 2012's 'official protest' group, the Space Hijackers, on the terrifying powers of LOCOG - the shadowy organisation whose influence led to the banning of their twitter account. 

Connecting cultures or putting up barriers? Migration and the Commonwealth

In the wake of Jubilee Commonwealth events, Migrants’ Rights Network is hosting a debate at London’s SOAS tonight about Commonwealth migration and its role in building ‘Britishness’.

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