Being British

Earlier this week I was inspired to think about the meaning of being British after watching this and listening to this on the BBC.  

The V&A interpretation by Tristram Hunt struck me as being a particularly colonial and Victorian one. Perhaps not a huge surprise as this is the Victoria & Albert Museum after all. 

However, I don’t believe that my own modern Britishness particularly fits this mould. I suspect that as I am Welsh and our collective cultural Britishness predates colonialism and the Victorian era by a millennium or two. This is evident from our own Museum of Celtic Art where we trace the continuity of artistic culture within our artistic heritage all the way from around 200 B.C. 

We very consciously perceive our own art and design work as part of this living Celtic British tradition. At once both contemporary and traditional.  

We are certainly not greedy or possessive about this heritage – I am all for sharing this with everyone within Great Britain and the broader United Kingdom as a communal, deep rooted cultural heritage. Something to enrich all of our lives and our perception of self. 

Indeed this is very much in keeping with that Celtic cultural tradition of fusing cultural influences into a new whole. Even the iconic Celtic knotwork so often associated with our art was an Asian import into the Celtic world. In truth, it is rather the flowing, curving lines which are most integral to the Celtic artistic interpretation of the world, its animals, people and landscapes. Knotwork lent itself beautifully to adding complexity and depth to Celtic visual culture. Our art certainly suggests that we Celts have always been culturally open and eager to integrate the best of other worlds into our own. We have enriched our own lives by welcoming those of others.  

I would contend that we have the right to claim for ourselves the title of being the original Brits, the first of the true Prydeinwyr. We should do this. But we should open our arms and welcome one and all into that world and that culture. With over two thousand years of cultural heritage, artistic and literary, we can gift a shared, binding, cultural core to our superbly cosmopolitan country. Already made up of multiple nations and historically a rolling melting pot of race, colour and creed what better to root our diversity in a common base. 

 Time for all us of to be people of Prydain.
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