The One Day a Year When the St George's Cross is Fine

The One Day a Year When the St George's Cross is Fine

We walked around central London talking to people about what it means to be English, and why they were out on St George's Day.
April 24, 2016, 11:00am

Let's face it, waving around the St George's cross flag still makes people assume you're a bit of a racist – unless it's St George's Day. Despite Nigel Farage's best efforts, the 23rd of April isn't yet a bank holiday in England, though our neighbours in Scotland and Ireland both have days off in honour of their blokes who died hundreds of years ago. Wales, not so much.

But this year the patron saint's feast day fell on a Saturday, so people in London headed out to parks, cathedrals and the eternal tourist spectre that is Trafalgar Square to pay tribute to a guy who may or may not have slain a dragon. We chatted to some of them about nationalism and what they think it means to be English in 2016.

Melissa Lee

Being English is a great many things. We have the cultural aspect. There's also the wonderful things like fish and chips by the seaside, Brighton rock – and I don't mean the film. There's just so much. Where do you start? My parents were Irish, one of my grandparents was Scottish, so I'm a mix of the Celts. But when it comes to celebrating our English culture, it's nice to come back to who we are, where we are and why we are.

Michael Moore

St George's Day brings people together of all ages all creeds all colours. I mean, it doesn't matter where you originally came from – if you're born in England, to me, you're English. Whether you choose to celebrate is your choice. But I think it's just great looking around at all ages here, it's lovely.

Sharon Richards, on the right, with her friend Jerri Balzanelli

We're from Birmingham and up there it's different, which is a shame. We don't get anything like this. There might be a little gathering but we want it to be an annual day off, which is a shame because I don't think that will ever happen. My father was Irish, so we sing at all of the St Patrick's Day parades – the Irish always know how to celebrate and they get the day off. But you can't have the same thing for St George's day… because this is England.

Robert Pinches

I'm proud to be English. I guess that comes from the people you live with and work with. You know everybody from back home, and everyone's friendly.. I used to live in Austria and you just don't get that kind of community where I used to be there – it's just not the same. I mean, everyone's nice but I certainly get a better feeling here. I can't speak for the rest of the country but where I'm from, in Bolton, being British is about community, big time.

Arthur Demowbray

By and large I'm proud to be English. How can you not be proud of something like the NHS? And how can you not be distressed at how it's under attack? Being English, to me, is about being … slightly anarchic. Being very open, an eclectic mix of things. Liking a laugh and a beer down the pub [laughs]. And you can't forget a cup of tea, that's always good. Actually I could do with a cup of tea now.

@CBethell_Photo / @TheoMcInnes